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This album absolutely owns! While I do enjoy Strapping’s other work, “Alien” completely obliterates them all!
Once you listen to track one, Imperial, it really sets the mood for what the rest of the album holds. It’s dark, it’s scary, and it’s goddamn brilliant. Each track is different in it’s own way, but they all retain the same heaviness and darkness and that unique SYL quality.
The guitars really set the atmosphere of the album. They’re not overpowering the other instruments like on their self-titled, yet they’re not in the background either. They’re at the right volume to be forceful but not dominant. With the playing, it’s impeccable. Both Devin and Jed mostly use the lower strings, but occasionally come out with something that could sound like a solo, but never eventuates (Shitstorm, Shine). We Ride is the only song with solo’s, and while they’re good, it’s better that they limited it to one song, as the album really didn’t need solo’s and endless wankery everywhere. The drumming is also tightly played. Some of the beats he does are awesome, not to mention that in some parts of the album, you’ll find that the beats are more complex than originally thought (for example, at 2:08 in Shine, he adds ¾ hi-hats in a 4/4 beat. I never noticed that until much later, and it was a very interesting find!). It just makes the music that much more technical and interesting.
The best part of the album has to be the vocals. Not many albums can state that the vocals are the best quality of the music, but I think here it is. It’s unlike Devin’s other work. He does his usual clean singing (Love?) and regular harsh vocals, but then occasionally he’ll come out with a very long scream (Love?, Thalamus) that would surely render my lungs unusable.
One of the most stand-out songs is definitely Shitstorm. One of the most negative, hate-filled songs to be ever produced, it really shows Devin Townsend’s state of mind at the time. The song climbs and climbs until it reaches a peak where Devin screams “I fucking hate myself! Everything about this is fucked!”, and then descends back down to normality again. Brilliant.
After the seventh track, your mind needs time to recover from what hit it, so track eight’s Two Weeks is a slower, acoustic piece to bring you back to the real world again. It works as an intermission, and oddly enough, it does its job perfectly. Somehow, it fits with the rest of the album, which by any metal album’s standards, shouldn’t. It’s very…classy. That’s the only way to describe it.
Skeksis is another excellent track, easily my favourite. It’s a long one, which takes over two minutes to get started, but the whole thing is quality. At 4:14, Gene become a human drum machine, essentially playing the same thing over and over until 5:31, yet it never gets boring. Also, at 4:14, a guitar riff comes in from the rhythm guitar that will have you automatically headbanging. Awesome stuff.
It wouldn’t be feasible for me to explain the highlights of every song, because I think I’ve made my point. Basically, this album is the heaviest, and probably will be the heaviest, album of Strapping Young Lad’s discography. If you love heavy death metal, this album has to be in your collection. Let the insanity begin.
Best tracks: Skeksis, Shitstorm, Thalamus