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

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