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!

This post was last modified on July 9, 2009, 12:57 pm

Categories: 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century... So Far
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