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I've been a SYL fan for a relatively short amount of time, but in the last couple of months I've really gotten into their sound and style. That said, I still didn't consider any of their albums to come even close to the greatness of frontman Devin Townsend's solo work.
When Alien leaked, my friend sent me Imperial, Skeksis and Shitstorm, and after listening to each song once through ( I admit, I wasn't paying much attention) , while surfing the net, I concluded that the new Strapping album was about on par with the others, and that was that for a few days. When I was sent the rest of the songs, I decided to roll them all again, burned a CD with all the songs on it, and set out for a long walk.
I returned to my house, ABSOLUTELY FLOORED! BEST SYL album YET!
I can't find a single song on this album which I don't enjoy thoroughly ('cept maybe 'Info Dump', but that's an aquired taste). 'Imperial' is the best SYL opener yet. 'We Ride', unquestionably the fastest song on the album, sits in the middle of the tracklist, and IMO the album hits its climax right there. Some say that the unplugged ballad, 'Two Weeks', breaks up the flow of the album, but I didn't find that to be so. It was a wonderful surprise that I totally didn't expect. 'Skeksis' and 'Shitstorm' took me a couple more listens to really appreciate, but I'm now glad I devoted that time. Zen, which is pretty much the final real song on the album, blows out a driving rhythm right to the end.
Instrumentally, the Lads are all in top form. Gene Hoglan's drumming, which, for me, has always been one of Strapping's biggest trademarks, has only gotten more technical since the s/t album. Devin's vocals hit home as well, but then again, I have yet to hear him sing something that didn't sound cool. The band's typical "wall of sound" style has been noticeably beefed up. This album definitely has some points ( such as the 1:00 mark in 'Thalamus' ) where the sound gets bigger than Strapping has ever done before. The difference is that these explosions of sound now seem so much more complete, as though the sound is surrounding you, not just hitting you hard in the face. Part of this may be attributed to a higher production quality, which this CD does have, or to the added keyboard backing of Dave Young (from the DTB) which permeates most of the album, but there's also just something different about the Strapping sound. In an industry where a lot of used-to-be-great bands are progressing in a really crappy direction, an album like this is a welcome breath of fresh air.
To conclude; awesome album! Buy it! Can't wait for the tour!