Strapping Young Lad – SYL

Strapping Young Lad’s third album is their weakest, and does sort of stick out among the rest of the band’s catalog as being kind of weirdly shallow.  It’s not that the band does anything substantially different from what they ordinarily do on this LP, but what is done just sounds stale, like they were really back burner ideas that they threw together for the release.  There are worse examples of this sort of thing in metal, but this release really doesn’t stack up at all against the rest of Strapping Young Lad’s catalog.

‘SYL’ somehow manages to have massive amounts of variation at the same time that it has no variation at all.  Each track, in and of itself, possesses little to no variation.  There are two or three main musical ideas in each track that just alternate over and over again until some predefined length is reached; it’s a lot like rock music in that way.  That in and of itself isn’t so bad; Darkthrone made one of the best metal albums ever in that way with ‘Transilvanian Hunger’.  But additionally, those parts aren’t very GOOD.  They’re just a series of constant double bass and simple tremolo riffing or bombastically held chords, with Townsend’s wailing vocals, but unlike other albums, where those sections are well-written and gripping, it seems that the objective with the writing here was ‘we have to make a bunch of Strapping Young Lad riffs’ instead of ‘we have to make a bunch of great riffs’ which just happen to be in the Strapping Young Lad mold.

At the same time, there’s massive variation from one track to another; too much, in fact.  The tracks are all in the same general style, but they have no connection to each other; the album doesn’t tell a greater story, nor do the tracks individually, really.  The best tracks are the ones like ‘Relentless’, and even then the best it can do is be merely catchy and have good melodies.  Other than that, everything’s just so… insignificant.  Material on other albums like ‘City’ was really emotionally engrossing, and felt like a look into the mind of Townsend.  The stuff here is just a collection of songs.

Your whole enjoyment of this album really hinges on the reasons why you enjoyed other Strapping Young Lad albums.  If you like it simply due to its musical aesthetic, then yes, there’s really nothing wrong with this (though I might argue that some of the songs are poorly written).  The production is good and clear, and there’s catchy riffs and vocal patterns sometimes.  If you liked other albums because of how they worked AS ALBUMS, with each song being an important part of a whole experience, I really feel that you’ll be disappointed by this.  Even if you view it from the perspective of songwriting, this is the weakest link in Strapping Young Lad’s catalog, and the inability of it to communicate a greater meaning just brings it down further.  I don’t particularly like it.


~ by noktorn on February 2, 2008.

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