Strapping Young Lad, Alien (Century, 2005)
Devin Townsend– Vocals/Guitars/Keyboards
Jed Simon – Guitars
Byron Stroud – Drums
Gene Hoglan – Drums
Produced by Devin Townsend
By the time of 2005’s Alien, Strapping Young Lad frontman Devin Townsend had been keeping a frantic pace for a decade: He regularly produced three albums a year, he had solo albums leaking from his bum, and his once-abandoned SYL returned to active status.
That SYL returned with an unheard-of two albums in two years was great news, but it was unexpected that Alien would be SYL’s masterpiece, a cacophonous set of maelstrom metal with the occasional twinkle of Devy solo records. A few weeks before its release, Townsend told me that SYL (the album) came about cuz he was finally frustrated/freaked enough to make a SYL (the band) album. Like it or not, after six years had passed since their penultimate 1997 record City; lotsa shit had changed in the world at large since then, including some large-scale bloodshed.
That explains the teeth-shattering intensity, but again the shape of Alien more closely resembles the dudless brilliance of an outing like Townsend’s Infinity, not the uneven and emotionally single-minded SYL discography around it. And when you hear a crusty old wine-sipper call the latest Springsteen/Dylan vanity project a “journey album,” it supposedly means that the force behind the album is a single person, with a single trip, and each song on the album is a stop, or something.
Sounds like The Travel Channel if you ask me. Townsend harpoons this idea on Alien, where there are no “stops”; instead, Townsend is our tour guide at the end of a tether ball rope, and SYL, propelled by uber-drummer Gene Hoglan, pummels us in any direction around Townsend’s mental picnic grounds for 45 minutes before the ball detaches, landing with a thud in a pile of industrial waste.
Anso DF is a former music journalist who is pretty sure Lost Prophets isn’t metal on the daily metal news column Hipsters Out Of Metal!