Released: 2005, Century Media
Anyone who has spoken to me about metal for any length of time knows how I feel about Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad. In my opinion, they have always been an overrated act, and one whose popularity I simply couldn’t understand. With ALIEN, however, I am beginning to see a little of what everyone else has been yelling at me about for so long.
Don’t get me wrong, I still feel this is some seriously overrated material that sounded better when Fear Factory recorded it 10 years ago, but with ALIEN there is a cohesiveness which I haven’t heard in SYL’s music before. While there were always tracks which stood out to me as real stellar compositions (“Detox”, “SYL”, “Oh My Fucking God”), the overall “wall of noise” factor just led to a headache for yours truly.
On ALIEN, however, it sounds like all of the elements which make Strapping Young Lad interesting and enjoyable are present in every song, rather than only in points on the record. This is definitely a headphone record, and one whose impact is swift, strong, and unapologetic. Drum god Gene Hoglan of course is responsible for a lot of this; absolutely PUNISHING the kit with what could be one of the performances of his career.
What really struck me was how well the inclusion of guitar solos work within the SYL framework: they really add a lot to the overall sound and song dynamic. Mainman Devin Townsend is in fine form here vocally, quite literally screaming his head off on tracks like “Shitstorm” and “We Ride” (my personal favorite), as well as serving up some innovative guitar work.
Wait, did I just say “innovative”? Why, yes…I did! I can’t even believe it myself, but the honest truth is that ALIEN is one hell of a record, even for non-believers like myself. While I’d venture to say that the band’s best songs lie on their CITY lp, the truth is that ALIEN proves to be by far their best cohesive effort as a whole, both technically and dynamically. It flows like a waterfall going upwards, and will fuck you up just as quickly.
Color me impressed.