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Why do people like this so much? Most of the riffs on here are complete duds, and the few good ones are repeated beyond comprehention, I mean, everyone likes the Love? riff right, I admit, it's catchy and heavy, but they do it for 3 minutes straight... non-stop. There's samples everywhere, stupid ammounts of random swearing, not to mention the vocals are average when screamed, and horrible when sung. This is complete shit.
Things start off with Imperial, a song which after a few average riffs, degreades itself into a pile of keyboards and other pointless shit, and then ends. "Skeksis" starts off with a pretty cool industrial riff, but instead of developing the riff, they just add samples and beeps all over it, and pretend like there's been a change in the last 2 minutes. We get a little bit of mechanical slow crushing, before the song colapses into another pile of samples and multi tracked vocals, it's not even 'chaotic' it's just a random bunch of noises, not heavy or aggressive, just filling up time on the CD. About 4 minutes in we get some faster riffing, which actually sounds pretty cool, and interacts with the various multi-trackings going on everywhere, actually pretty catchy, heavy and good for the last half or so.
"Shitstorm" lets us wallow in some average highspeed riffing, with some strange time tempo's going on, but there's too much random noise going on around them to be enjoyed properly. Townsends vocals sit in between the realms of noise and being proper vocals. They are distinguishable, and they're are lyrics, they may suck, and consist of random sentances, but they are real lyrics, and they are being said. But they are also completly independant of the music, and are just there, adding to the ball of noise that this song creates. Once everything's in the song, making it's noise, the only traditional metal instrument you'll be making out will be the drums, which are luckily on the great-to-godly level for this album. The song isn't music, it's just a bunch of noise.
The album hits a high point with the oddly musical, and instrument based "Love?", It's got a hell of main riff, it's not the greatest riff ever written, but it's in the higher part of the list, it's catchy, and addictive, it's also played non stop (Well, ok the chorus does have a little gothic riff spaced between sections of the riff)for the first 3 minutes or so of this song. The clean vocal sections are a little below what it could be due to Townsends voice, but other than that, it's not too bad. The second half, retains the instrument based, approach, and gives us a few average riffs, before giving us our verse riff again, with samples. But nothing excessive. Seriously, there's about 45 seconds on non-main riff in this 5:40 song. This song is still pretty good, but it gets old, due to the whole "We-only-wrote-one-riff" thing.
The groove approach continues with "Shine", which basically uses a crappier riff, more samples, an other than that does the same thing. Townsend changes his voice around, for no reason, other than it's easier than writing different music. There is some basic enjoyment to be found here, but it's in the most simple of grooves, and doesn't really provide any serious fun. Add in some child choir voices, and this song is ready to suck.
"We Ride" has some energy, and features some pretty standard riffing of a thrashy nature, along with a nice break from straight out double bass drumming. But again, Please write more than one riff per song. Townsend does tend to think that everyone is stupid, and that by singing differently, he's writing new music. The solo is a nice feature, as there's not any others around, but it's still kind of average. The riff finally changes, but unfortunately, the vocals are completly independent, and stupid sounding. So that stops me from giving them a bonus for writing multiple riffs in the last minute or so.
The second OK song, is another groover, "Possesions" it's vocals are pretty over the place, and there are more childrens choir vocals put in a heap of places, but it's catchy-ish, not overly good, but when you compare it to it's competition on this album, it's a goddamn classic. This one has more vocal samples than anything else, which is annoying, but less engulfing on the rest of the music than the other samples.
Then, as a complete insult, the group felt it'd be funny to put in the most stupid ballad song imaginable in there. "Two weeks" is pretty much a accoustic ballad, which reminds me of Anal Cunt's Picnic of Love title track more than anything else, with the whole "What do you want to do now baby/Should we take a day/Maybe go to the beach". Terrible, shitty, crap. Made cheesier through the use of shitty samples all the time, but I guess it does give it a little touch of Pink Floyd. I generally like ballad type tracks, but this is too gay for anyone to stand.
After thinking that the previous shitfest was merely an intro to some insanity, "Thalamus" kicks off very slowly, with accousitcs, and then changes into the song, which completely sucks, as the drums go ape shit, and everything else, really doesn't make any noticeable noise, basically, there's some samples and drums. followed by a pathetic slower sections, with some half-sing/scream thing going on. Somehow, with three major transitions in style on the song, they still only manage to write three differnet pieces of music, with the guitars barely being present.
Everything ends with Zen, It's basically got a quiet verson of the Imperial riff at the start. After that, we get some actual goo chaotic sounding shit, with just instruments, but for some reason, it only lasts for about 15 seconds, before changing into something which sounds nearly the same as "Imperial", with just as much listenability. However, the song surpised me by actually changing again, and again, and again. Now, nothing on this song is overly impressive, it's just that SYL actualy wrote song dynamics, and an actually piece of flowing music. Which obviously makes it an amazing SYL classic. It's actually probably my favourite song on here.
I'm not even going to bring up Info Dump, which I just did, but you know, just imagine it doesn't exist.
Now I don't usually write track by track reviews, but when the lowest other review is about 65%, from someone with the same "It's too vocal and sample driven" complaint as me, and I can't see a reason to give it higher than 35, I kind of have to give reasons. I mean, this feels like a 20% to me, I've basically searched deeply for all enjoyable parts, just trying to understand why this thing is loved so much.
I can agree with the first thing everyone says, that Hoglan is a brilliant drummer, and this is some very good stuff, although maybe a little bit too double bass orientated. This doesn't bother me too much, as I like the style, but this band doesn't seem to have the catchiness for it to work perfectly. But the second aspect of the band everyone ejaculates over I just don't get. Devin Townsend is a slightly above average screamer, he doesn't sound like anyone, so theres some originality there, but it's still not any better. He tends to write annoying vocal patterns, which are independant to the music. Yes, this is crazy, but it also sounds like shit. His singing is pretty poor. It's always got a little bit of scream in it, as the music doens't exactly leave sections for big singing breaks. It's just really average. It's not painful or whiny, just not very good.
There is some good playing by Townsend and Jed Symond on a few places, unfortunately, most of guitar work is generally uninspired. The guitars go from nicely placed when the band is playing their songs without all the pointless bells and whistles, but once those come in, the guitars get lost in the 'chaos' and become usless. this is infact probably a good thing, as most songs only have two or three riffs in them, and these riffs are simply tinkered with, in the slightest possible way, every 25 seconds, which to me at least, doesn't sound like a new riff, it sounds like the first one, and all the changes made are so insignificant you can barely notice them under all the beeps and random noise (I believe Skeksis has a xylophone track on it) tracks on here. This has the capability of getting very tiring, as the band tends to take a very narrative structure when writing it's songs.
In fact verse-chorus would be more enjoyable than the approach that the band often takes, because at least the mediocre riffs would be broken up by other mediocre riffs. Instead they keep one riff, and add noises to it. Now, I know that this is Industrial Metal, and for that reason, noises have to be accepted, but unfortunatly, this is basically JUST noises, the guitars have no importance in the scheme of things. Listen to The Amenta or something, that's Industrial, but still is heavy as fuck, and doesn't smother all it's riffs with random sound effects.
This smothering of samples and keyboards is just ridiculous, I have never heard a band with such talented musicians be so unwilling to let their music speak for itself. It's almost as if Devin realised he had a serious lack of quality riffs, and needed to cover this up, by finding as many random noises he could, and throwing them over the top. These are produced very strongly, so it's not like they needed 15 samples going at all times, because each one is easily audible.
On the end of the positives is the production, it's clear, but I don't see that it's too clear to start saying it's aimed at the mallcore crowd, it's just good production, from a guy who obviously knows how to turn knobs and playing with audio, who should have spent more time playing with his guitar.