Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Ghost (2011)

Another ambient album made by Devin Townsend? Oh, lord Jesus. Well, even if I did not get the very least excited about "Ghost", I was not surprised that Devin would release this album since the Devin Townsend Project was created to show Devin's diverse musical influences. And since he already gone through progressive metal ("Ki"), pop metal ("Addicted") and bone crushing death metal ("Deconstruction"), ambient music was the only thing that Devin had not shown in his new project.

Luckily this album is miles better than his previous ambient efforts ("Devlab" and "The Hummer"), mostly because "Ghost" actually sounds like a music record. There is some singing, some soothing flutes and an overall soft and cosy sound that just makes you wanting to go back to bed and fall asleep. So for those of you who wanted screaming vocals and blistering solos, tough luck.

There is no track that really stands out in this album because "Ghost" feels like a unity. The bonds between the tracks are so strong that it is difficult to tell when the next song starts and ends. I see it as an advantage since these kinds of albums should be experienced in its entirety and not in individual tracks. Of course there are some tracks, like "Heart Baby", "Feather" and "Texada", that are more enjoyable than others, but it is still not an valid excuse of skipping the rest of the songs.

Even if it is Devin's best ambient effort so far, I still cannot help but squirming around while listening to this album. I am not made for listening to this type of music, I am a sucker for metal. It does not mean that I do not enjoy listening to "Ghost", it just means that I would pick "Deconstruction" (who got released the same day as "Ghost") before "Ghost" 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No matter what, I like this album, and if I was more into this kind of music, I would probably love it.

This album is a mellow effort that may not be for all fans of Devin, but I still think that everyone should give this record a try since it shows Devin's wide range in musical styles. "Ghost" is a beautiful record that would ease the worst of head aches without any problems. It is not my musical style of choice, but if I can learn to enjoy "Ghost", then so can you.

Songs worthy of recognition: Texada, Heart Baby, Feather

Rating: 6/10 Monsoons

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction (2011)

So after going progressive in the first record and going pop metal in the second, what awaited us on the third album by Devin Townsend Project? This time, the crazy Canadian gives us a comedic concept album named "Deconstruction". The album follows a man that wants to find out the true nature of reality. He ends up in hell where he meets the Devil and finds out that the secrets of the universe lies within a cheeseburger. But since our protagonist is vegetarian, he refuses the cheeseburger and admits that his journey was completely pointless.

So yeah, it is another great and hilarious concept made by Devin. But the comedy is not as much apparent as it was on "Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics" and "Ziltoid The Omniscient". There are no dialogues between the tracks that explains the story, so you have to go deeper into the lyrics to find the humour and the plot. It is the little things that makes you laugh, like hearing that all bands rip off Meshuggah, Oderus Urungus shouting shit a brick, or even the mentioning of Ziltoid the omniscient. I also get a laugh of the fact that when Devin screams sorrow man in "Planet of The Apes" it sounds like he is screaming Saruman (the evil wizard in The Lord of The Rings for those of you who do not get the joke).

This album is packed with a lot of personnel and guest artists from more or lesser known bands. For instance, we have Oderus Urungus (Gwar), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Floor Jansen (ReVamp, Nightwish), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between The Buried And Me), and many more. Hell, we even have an entire orchestra that has helped out with this album. So it comes as no surprise that even with this many guest artists, the quality of the music is at its top. It sounds chaotic from start to finish, but it is still holding up well thanks to the concept and the well constructed structure.

The complete chaos that this album brings makes it the heaviest album Devin has done outside of Strapping Young Lad. Just listen to the chugging blast beats in "Juular" or the incredible speed in "Pandemic". If that does not remind you of SYL, then I do not know what will. But this album also impress us with the big and epic songs. From the slow and technical "Stand", to the diverse "Planet of The Apes", this album brings some of the best epics Devin has ever created. Even "The Mighty Masturbator" sounds good despite the carnival scene around the end of this 16 minute epic. I also have to mention the title track, since it is the main track for the overall concept (and also for its goofiness).

"Deconstruction" is just another proof of why I like to call Devin the Jim Carrey of metal. This is a weird and funny concept, and together with some heavy and progressive music, this album goes down as one of Devin's finest albums. This is the perfect album for those of you who wants to take out your aggressions on, oh I do not know, an ignorant vegetarian hipster who refuses to eat a cheeseburger. I do not know about you guys, but this album gives me a big boner and it is making me hungry. I WANT A CHEESEBURGER!!!

Songs worthy of recognition: Planet of The Apes, Stand, Juular, Pandemic

Rating: 9/10 Poltergeists

Persuader - The Fiction Maze (2014)

It has been almost 8 years since it last happened, but the Swedish power metal band Persuader has now finally released their long awaited fourth album entitled "The Fiction Maze". I may not be very familiar with this band, but I know that they gained quick recognition with their heavy power metal sound and is one of the leading power metal bands in Sweden.

My first thought after hearing "The Fiction Maze" for the first time is that this band is very similar to Blind Guardian, especially in the vocals since Jens Carlsson sounds like a Hansi Kürsch clone. It is determined and heavy power metal that lays the ground for "The Fiction Maze", but it also shows some depth in the lyrics, like saying that finding the real truth in life can be like finding a way out of a maze. So that these guys has the quality and the experience to make a stunning album is no question about it.

Most of the material on "The Fiction Maze" is very much the same. It is powerful heavy metal that easily gets you pumped up. Nothing wrong with that kind of music, but I wished that they would have put in more variety in this record so it does not wears out as fast as it does. There are a couple of slightly slower songs in this album, but they still act like they are bigger than what they are, which makes the record more monotonic than what it could have been. Besides, the only great song out of the slower songs is "Heathen", and together with "InSect" and "One Lifetime", it is the only song that really stands out from this album.

Other from the overall monotonous sound, there really is no weaknesses with this album. It is a hard hitting album that will definitely please every power metal fan. And yes, it sounds a lot like Blind Guardian, but it is original enough for me to see it as a own piece and not a complete rip off. But the big question is if it was worth the 8 year long wait. Since I have heard very little from Persuader's previous works, I cannot compare if "The Fiction Maze" is on the same level as the band's three other records. What I do know is that "The Fiction Maze" contains a very high quality of music, so give it a try.

Songs worthy of recognition: InSect, One Lifetime, Heathen

Rating: 8,5/10 Wars

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Addicted (2009)

Part two of the Devin Townsend Project is called "Addicted", a album that is the complete opposite to its predecessor "Ki". Instead of progressive ambient metal, we get to experience more uplifting and happy metal that reminds you of the excellent album "Infinity". It also has a slightly different personnel than what "Ki" had. Out with Savoie, Maxwell and Ché, and in with Van Poederooyen, Waddell, Cimino and also the former The Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen. A much needed change since I think the former line-up would not be fitting in this musical style.

This album deserves its name since most of the songs in this album are very catchy and very easily likable. The music itself sounds like a really heavy pop album with a nice mix of both male and female vocals since Anneke does the leads in a couple of songs. It is really hard to frown when you are listening to this album since everything in this album comes from the bright side of life. Not even the heavy and doom like "Numbered!" seems dark.

One of the most famous songs in this album is "Bend It Like Bender!", since it is often played by Devin in concerts. It is a nice groovy song with an interesting chorus, but it is far from my favourite in this album. It is clearly beaten by songs like "Addicted!", "Supercrush!", "Ih-Ah!", "The Way Home!", "Numbered!" and "Awake!!". This is a good example of that "Addicted" is a well diverse album that has a high and even quality all the way through the album

It is very easy to get happy while listening to "Addicted, but there is one song that gets my blood boiling with rage. The song "Hyperdrive!" is a re-recording of the same song from "Ziltoid The Omniscient", and it is really not a bad song, until you compare it with the original. The original was one of my favourite tracks from "Ziltoid The Omniscient" since it simulated the feeling of traveling through space, millions of miles from your loved ones, while the re-recording instead simulates the feeling of going 200 km/h on the highway without any worries in your mind at all. That is not right, it just feels fake and impersonal, and it does not help the fact that Anneke sings the song (which she still does good, but not as emotional as Devin did). So skip this song and listen to the original instead.

I would not like to compare "Ki" and "Addicted" against each other since they are two very different albums, but I would like to point out that this is the ultimate proof of the vast and ever changing mind of Devin Townsend. "Addicted" is intoxicating and would work perfectly as a drug. Even if there is a disappointing re-recording of "Hyperdrive!" in this album, I still would consider "Addicted" as one of the highlights of Devin's career. It does not waste time on daylight and it certainly does not get knocked down.

Songs worthy of recognition: Supercrush!, Ih-Ah!, The Way Home!, Awake!

Rating: 9/10 Hyperdrives

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mustasch - Thank You For The Demon (2014)

Few rock bands in Sweden has gotten as much attention and appreciation as the Gothenburg band Mustasch. Since the release of their Swedish Grammy award winning album "Latest Version of The Truth" in 2007, the band's fan base has literally exploded and the front man Ralf Gyllenhammar has gotten appearances in shows like Fångarna På Fortet (Swedish Fort Boyard) and Körslaget (Swedish Battle of The Quires). Ralf has almost reached to the status where he is beloved by the people (or in Swedish, folkkär). But since 2007, the band has released a non-impressive self-titled album, a album filled with re-recorded hits, and a short and uneven album in "Sounds Like Hell, Looks Like Heaven". So it was pretty much now or never for this band if they wanted to keep evolving in their career.

"Thank You For The Demon" is Mustasch's 7th album, and just like its predecessor, it is a well diverse album with ballads, heavy hitters and even a rock/disco song. The only difference between this album and the last one is that the band is much more even now in their performance. That is better right? True, but I also miss a real super hit, something that the last album did not miss with songs like "Speed Metal" and "It's Never Too Late". The only real reason to why there is no such song here is that none of the songs have any real knockout riffs in them. Most of the riffs has to share the stage with violins, which gives a musical dimension, but also loses some heaviness along the way.

Luckily, there are no shortage of good songs in this record. We have the heavy stoner rock song "The Mauler", the heavy and catchy "Borderline", the more musically appealing title track and the nice rock ballad "All My Life". But one of the best song still has to be the intoxicating disco rock anthem "I Hate To Dance". Mustasch has always been at their best when they have to sing out their anger because you recognize yourself in that anger. Whenever I am out with my friends at a club or bar, I just wanna stand by the bar and drink. I don't want to dance, I want to head bang and drink beer until I collapse. The only time I dance is when I am so wasted that I don't know which year it is. But I guess I could dance to "I Hate To Dance" if I wanted to, which I don't.

This is certainly another good record by Mustasch, and it is a step forward from their last effort. However, I would like them to keep the string orchestra away from the next album so we get some more rock 'n' roll in their music. No matter what, I will still keep dancing... I mean bang my head to most of these tracks for some months forward.

Songs worthy of recognition: Borderline, Thank You For The Demon, All My Life, I Hate To Dance

Rating: 8/10 Maulers

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Ki (2009)

After over two years of intensive song writing and soul searching, Devin Townsend revealed his next step in his music career. A four album series with a band called Devin Townsend Project. This project was created with the goal of clarifying Devin's musical identity, and the first part of this four album series is "Ki" (Ki stands for the Japanese concept of life force), a very progressive album with some blues intentions and, of course, a little mix of Devin's characteristic metal style.

It is mostly a pretty quiet album, so I am forced to turn up my speakers higher than usual. What I eventually hear is some smooth music with very few tempo changes and no solos at all. It is music that I usually do not like, but it is something special with these songs. It could be Devin's perfect vocal performance, or maybe it is the fact that both heavy and light songs gets equally amount of space in this album. I do not know, and I do not care, I am still enjoying the music no matter what it is that is giving the music that extra edge.

I also think that this is an album for almost any fans of music, no matter what you are in too. For those of you who enjoys metal, then I would recommend "Disruptr", "Gato" and "Heaven's End" from this album since they are the two heaviest tracks in the album. They are pretty sluggish, but still keeps an slow, important momentum so the listener does not get completely bored out of its mind. If you are more into country, then I would suggest "Trainfire", a track that chugs on like a steady locomotive. And for you ambient freaks out there, I would believe that "Coast", "Terminal" and "Lady Hellen" should be towards your liking.

So there is plenty of nice songs to chose from, but no one really stands out from this all round even album. I also think that the overall quiet sound is killing it for me. Sure, it brings a fitting mood to the album, but I am a metal head, and I like it loud. As for the other musicians in the album, I do not think they did such big impressions. The female singer Ché Aimee Dorval has some decent moments here and there and the blues drummer Duris Maxwell's style fits well in the album, but "Ki" is overall not an album with blistering musical performances. Instead, it is the simplicity that speaks for itself.

This is without a doubt Devin's most progressive record up to date and it also works as a nice middle point between ambient music and progressive metal. So if you are a fan of either of the two musical styles, then I would recommend you to try out "Ki" since it is a nice, relaxing records with some heavy riffs. A decent start for this new project.

Songs worthy of recognition: Heaven's End, Disruptr, Terminal, Trainfire

Rating: 7/10 Quiet Riots

Monday, January 13, 2014

Skull Fist - Chasing The Dream (2014)

The Canadian quartet Skull Fist have been one of the more interesting new bands during the last couple of years. Formed in 2006, this heavy/speed metal band gained recognition very quickly with the releases of the EP "Heavier Than Metal" and the full-length debut "Head öf The Pack". So it is not surprising to me that it took three years to complete this sophomore album called "Chasing The Dream", since the band has already toured in Europe and Brazil.

The music is inspired by 80's speed metal, the same type of music that bands like White Wizzard and Enforcer exert, but I can also hint some early Hammerfall and Mötley Crüe in there as well. The band's music is not very unique, but the power and enthusiasm that they put behind it is very impressive, and it is very much needed so the listener also can enjoy the music.

Not surprisingly, the tracks that takes up the most space are the fast and catchy ones. Most of them are good and very captivating, but there are also some songs that just feels overall cheesy. For instance, the 80's called, they would like Skull Fist to return "Bad For Good" back to them. I also think that the instrumental song "Shred's Not Dead" is lacking some real punch.

But the overall standard is high on "Chasing The Dream". I especially like the powerful power metal beat in "Hour To Live", the tribute towards Mötley Crüe in the title track, and the intensity on "Sign of The Warrior" and "Don't Stop The Fight". It is just such a shame that this mere 36 minute short album goes by in a flash while you are listening to it. I would have loved to see the band squish in one or two more songs just to give this album some more meat on its bones. Also, I would have wanted the band to show a little more variety in this album since there is no slower song in it. Oh well, I guess they have to show that they can make that type as well in the next album.

There is no doubt that "Chasing The Dream" is a good album made by high quality musicians, but it is the little things in this album that keeps it from being an album of the ages, like the lack of variety and the short play time. But if you enjoy classic speed metal that was inspired by the 80's, then Skull Fist is a obvious choice.

Songs worthy of recognition: Sign of The Warrior, Hour To Live, Chasing The Dream

Rating: 8/10 Mean Street Riders

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Devin Townsend - Ziltoid The Omniscient (2007)

After the birth of his first son, Devin took some time off of the touring with Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band to take a break from music. I guess that break was not very long at all since he released this album in the spring of 2007 (a half year after the release of "The Hummer"). "Ziltoid The Omniscient" is one of the most legendary and well appreciated albums in the Devin Townsend discography, mostly thanks to the crazy concept about a 4th dimensional alien that travels to Earth in search for the ultimate cup of coffee.

This is the solo album with a capital S. Devin made the album all by himself (even the drums thanks to the Drumkit From Hell expansion on EZdrummer). This makes it even more impressing since the production is very good and the drums are sounding pretty real (although some parts are just a little too ridiculous). But his best work is not the production nor the work he put into this album. It is the amazingly hilarious concept. Everything with this concept is so well thought of into the finest details. From the dialogues in and between the tracks to the voice acting made by Devin, Dave Young and Brian Waddell.

After a short introduction to this green, lizard like alien who has the same hair style as Devin, the invasion begins with "By Your Command" and "Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!", two heavy songs that shows how Ziltoid got the title as the ultimate 4th dimensional guitar hero, but also two songs that shows the diversity of the album. "By Your Command" is a heavy and progressive piece with an ending that instantly brings out goose bumps and some frenetic headbanging, while "Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!" is more of a faster paced song that could easily have been in the "Mars Attacks" sound track (btw, that movie is so bad that it is sometimes good).

After that, we get to follow Captain Spectacular and his ride towards Nebulon 9, in search for Ziltoids true identity (how that will stop the invasion is beyond my knowledge). This part of the story is explained in "Solar Winds" and "Hyperdrive", two songs that are slower, but are still very much alike the two songs that was before them. "Solar Winds" have a great epic ending and "Hyperdrive" is a shorter song, more fast paced song. I also think "Hyperdrive" is the song on this album that defines the space theme best with its dark feel and laid back vocals. It is without a doubt one of my favourite tracks on this album.

So Ziltoid gets exposed as the nerd he is and the story skips forward to what seems like a crucial thinking process where he decides to attack Earth once again, but this time with the devastating 6th dimensional Planet Smasher. This is without a doubt the heaviest track on the album, and probably the closest we get to being a Strapping Young Lad song (the verse reminds me of the track "Hope" from "The New Black"). I only miss a smashing solo, but other than that, this is a fantastic song with great drum beats, awesome growling, and probably the grandest chorus that Devin has ever created. Makes me wonder why the Planet Smasher rejects Ziltoid after this magnificent effort.

The album ends with Ziltoid visiting the Omnidimensional Creator (or some pot head) to find out his true identity and a plot twist (which I will not reveal. Listen to the album yourself you lazy hippie). This leads us into the most progressive part of the album with the amazingly diverse "Color Your World" as the epic master piece. If it was not for "Color Your World", then I think that "Ziltoid The Omniscient" would be a slightly less awesome album. The technicality and the flow of the song lifts the album from being great to being a master piece. The last two songs of the album are fine pieces as well, but they are clearly behind quality wise against the other songs.

So is this the end of this coffee drinking alien? Devin never intended to continue the story of Ziltoid, but since this album was such a huge success, Ziltoid has been seen in many other medias, such as merchandise, having and own radio show and a coming web series. And yes, there is a follow up album called "Z²" coming hopefully around late 2014/early 2015. A decision I am not surprised of, since this is such a magnificent album with one of the funniest characters the metal community has ever seen. So when Ziltoid will once gain show up in the future, I will certainly give him my finest coffee bean that I have to offer. Hail Ziltoid.

Songs worthy of recognition: Color Your World, By Your Command, Solar Winds, Hyperdrive, Planet Smasher

Rating: 9/10 Tall Lattes

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mechina - Xenon (2014)

It seems like the industrial death metal band Mechina is trying to create a new years tradition. On the 1st of January in 2011, they released their second record "Conqueror". Last year, they released their third full length album "Empyrean" on the 1st of January. And now, they have released their fourth album "Xenon" on, you guessed it, the 1st of January. A tradition I hope more bands embrace. Cause what would be better than starting the new year with some fresh metal.

"Xenon" is at first glance very similar to its predecessor. It mixes heavy death metal beats with more spaced out melodies, and they also show a decent mix of harsh and clean vocals. But one thing that delights me very much is the huge improvement in the production area, which was my main complaint with "Empyrean". It is still not a perfect production, but it is as good as a self released title can make it.

There is no filler on "Xenon", but there are neither any songs on the album that really stands out from the others. Simply put, there are 10 high quality songs that makes an impressive piece of an album. But if I had a gun pointed at my head, then I would probably put "Xenon", "Zoticus", "Terrea" and "Thales" as the high points of this album. But it should also be pointed out that I think the overall music quality was slightly better in "Empyrean", even though the quality difference between these albums is more or less non existent.

So are there any negative sides with "Xenon"? Well, besides from the fact that there is no song that really stands out, I do not see any real forward progress from the band. The music is the same as it was on "Empyrean", which brings up this question. Is the band out of new ideas or are they just over confident with their existing sound? No matter what, let me see some progress in the fifth album guys, okay?

Musically speaking, there is almost no difference from the last album to this, the difference is instead most noticeable in the production, which feels more well polished and professional this time around, thereby making "Xenon" the best album so far by Mechina. Their unique death metal style is very exciting and I think that this Chicago group has all the tools to make it in this business. Just a matter of screwing together the IKEA furniture for them.

Songs worthy of recognition: Thales, Xenon, Terrea

Rating: 8,5/10 Phedras

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Devin Townsend - The Hummer (2006)

So here we are again, another ambient record made by Devin Townsend. Oh why, oh why would you do this you silly Canadian? Now, for those of you who does not remember (or missed it), I gave Devin's previous ambient record "Devlab" my first ever 0/10. So I was dreading that "The Hummer" would be another super boring album that was as far away from music as it could get.

Luckily, those fears would disappear faster than a speeding bullet once I took the courage to actually listen. This album still consists mostly of low frequency sounds and some random audio cut ins (like a bit from the famous sitar player Ravi Shankar and some Morse code), but it is a lot more user friendly than what "Devlab" will ever be. Besides, Devin also cared to give the "songs" names on this record. Now I am not saying that it is particularly any good music in this album, but I can definitely see why some people would willingly listen to this kind of music.

There are only six songs on "The Hummer", and neither of the songs really appeal to me. There are three songs that are way too long (over 15 minutes) and the other three songs are just not strong enough for me to give a damn about them. I guess that the part that I enjoyed the most is the soothing waves from "Cosmic Surf", but Devin could have easily cut this 16 minute Snorlax to a 7 minute Slowbro. I also like that this album is more uplifting than "Devlab". Ambient music sounds so much better on the bright side of life and not with Darth Vader and the rest of the dark side.

I would not label "The Hummer" as a music album, but it is an okay album if you are searching for something to listen to while sleeping or dealing with a hangover. Just like "Devlab", this is not a album for everyone, and it is certainly not an album for us metal heads. And even though I find this album to be so much better than "Devlab", it is still an album that bores the crap out of me. Hopefully, this is the last ambient record I will listen to in my life. What's that? I still have to listen to "Ghost" by Devin Townsend Project? Well, we will take that another time.

Song barely worthy of recognition: Cosmic Surf

Rating: 2,5/10 Arcs

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon (2014)

I have always seen Iced Earth as one of the most inconsistent bands in heavy metal history. Not only does the line-up change more often than I am changing my underwear, the musical styles often variates from album to album, which have led to some great albums and some disappointing albums. The latest dealt hand, "Dystopia" from 2011, was a really nice album, so that made me slightly worried that this next album would fall into the disappointment category.

Anyhow, "Plagues of Babylon" is the name of this album, and as you probably can tell from the cover, it is a heavier and darker album than "Dystopia", but it still keeps the catchy choruses and some of the melodies from earlier mentioned album. But do not think that this is a continuation of "Dystopia". It is instead a album where half of the songs focuses on the well known "Something Wicked" concept that the band has developed during the past 16 years, and the other half are just stand alone songs (fillers?). I think it is weird that they only made half a concept album, but I guess that they could not come any further with the story line.

No matter what, it is a good bunch of steady material that the band has put out in this record. The only problem is that it is more or less the same material that is being recycled over and over again. There is very few changes between the choruses and most of the songs holds a similar tempo, making this album an overall unexciting experience. The music lacks of energy, which would have made the album more interesting. Too bad, since I really like the drums here and Stu Block is once again doing a solid work behind the microphone (even though he sounds like Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) in some sections).

There were not many songs that really blew me away, but I enjoyed the epic and doom like "Cthulu", the powerful ballad "If I Could See You", the dark "The Culling" and the title track is certainly a classic Iced Earth song that opens up the album in an excellent way. However, I cannot see how the 90's rock ballad "Peacemaker" would be fitting in this album, and the re-recorded version of "Spirit of The Times" from Jon Schaffer's solo project Sons of Liberty is just a waste of space.

Just as I suspected, "Plagues of Babylon" was not as good as its predecessor "Dystopia". It is a album that has some good intentions here and there, but it suffers pretty badly from the lack of power and the homogeneous sound. It is definitely a solid record, but it would not have hurt the band if they had mixed it up a little more on this album. So "Plagues of Babylon" is ultimately a decent album that is far from impressive and far from a disappointment. If you are a fan of the band, then you will much likely be very pleased.

Songs worthy of recognition: Cthulu, The Culling, If I Could See You

Rating: 6/10 Parasites

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Strapping Young Lad - The New Black (2006)

Even before this release, Devin Townsend stated that "The New Black" would be the last album made by Strapping Young Lad, mostly because Devin felt that he had to change his way of living and leave his past life behind him, which of course included Strapping Young Lad. A sad statement for all SYL fans indeed, but I am not fully surprised over this announcement since Devin have put in more effort in his solo project than on SYL. Besides, I rather enjoy a band that quits on a high note than a band that keeps going way past their expiration date.

So since this was going to be the band's last record, you probably thought that the band would unleash the craziest shit that mankind has ever witnessed. If you did, then you would be completely wrong. "The New Black" is instead the most melodic record in the career of Strapping Young Lad. It still has some hard punches and the band has brought back their humorous side that they showed in "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" and "City". Another notable thing is that Devin is using his clear vocals more often here than on any other SYL record. So it is a very confusing record for me because it sounds like SYL, but at the same time it does not feel like SYL. Devin has instead of making a super heavy record that would definitely be SYL's grand finale made a more commercially attractive record. I am not sure how good of an idea it was to make that decision, but it is the quality of the songs that ultimately counts.

So how high is the quality then? I would definitely say that most of the material in this album is really high, while some other tracks, like the boring "Fucker" and the sluggish "Hope", just drags the album down in the dirt. Luckily for us, there are also songs here that raises up the album towards the sky, like the steam roller "You Suck" (which includes a guest appearance by Cam Kroetsch from The Almighty Punchdrunk), the nice rocking and jazzy "Anti Product", the groovy and addicting "Monument" and the epic "Wrong Side".

But there are two songs that are marking them self out a little extra more than the others. The first one is "Almost Again" that at first sight almost seems like an interesting ballad from the band, but then it develops into a heavy hitting chorus with Devin's harshest of vocals and a drum playing that is going faster than the speed of sound. A surprisingly effective song. The other difference maker is actually an old song. "Far Beyond Metal" has only been played at live shows and it has shown up in the live albums "No Sleep Till Bedtime" and "For Those Aboot To Rock". It is certainly a heavy song that punches you with blow after blow in a four and a half minute period, and even if some of the brutality is lost in the studio version, it is made up for with funny lyrics and some great instrumental work. We also get a guest appearance here from "the maggot master" Oderus Urungus, who we all know from Gwar. These two songs may be my favourite songs from Strapping Young Lad together with "S.Y.L", "Force Fed" and "All Hail The New Flesh".

I am not sure how I should feel about this album. One side of me likes it for the catchy tunes and that the silliness from "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" was back, while the other half of me hates this album because of the exact same things. If this album was labeled as a solo record by Devin, then I would probably love it even more and give it an even higher rating, but at the end of the day, this is a Strapping Young Lad record without the Strapping Young Lad feeling. It feels like they sold out for their big final act. But in the end, I still cannot stop headbanging to some of the tracks, which ultimately means that I like the record.

So farewell Strapping Young Lad. I will fucking miss you, you fucker.

Songs worthy of recognition: Almost Again, Far Beyond Metal, You Suck, Wrong Side

Rating: 8,5/10 Monuments