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After making his musical debut as the vocalist on Steve Vai's Sex & Religion album Devin Townsend felt he needed to quench his thirst for music of a slightly heavier variety and inspired by Fear Factory's successful cross-breeding of death and industrial metal on their Soul Of A New Machine debut Devin went out and created his own similar styled project under the moniker Strapping Young Lad. Unfortunatley however for Devin it would fail to have the same effect on the world of metal as Fear Factory's seminal debut and would fall far short of his future efforts both with SYL and as a solo artist.
Even for a debut this is considerably uneven and also lacks many of the characteristics that would later elevate SYL to the upper echelon of metal. The drumming (from a couple of unknown session musicians) is incredibly pale in comparison to the godliness that Gene Hoglan would bring to the band following this album and since it was basically the first album by a then unknown musician the production is light years away from what Devin fans would later become accustomed to and as a result the epic 'wall of sound' effect commonly associated with SYL is notably lacking.
The only track on here that is really arouses any response is the opening track S.Y.L. which sounds something like what we would be getting on the exceptional follow up album City. Frenetic heavy as fuck riffage and a huge sledgehammer to the face chorus, this track really displays the potential of Devin Townsend as a metal craftsman. There are some complaints about the somewhat lameness of the 'fucking hate you' lyrics but it's catchier than SARS and the pissed off-ness of the delivery confirms it's sincerity and it's all but guarenteed to cause immediate headbanging. However the rest of the album isn't quite so good and despite the angstiness of some of those lyrics the rest of the album is still a mallcore free zone and is not quite awful, just a little bland and boring. After S.Y.L. the tracks all seem to blend together and the only song that really grabs your attention is Skin Me and that probably has a lot more to do with it's striking similarities to Fear Factory's track Martyr rather than the quality of the track itself.
Devin definatley sounds pissed off and the album is certainly as heavy as a really heavy thing but there is just way too much noise and not nearly enough direction to warrant repeated listens. This is without a doubt the work of a musician really discovering his own style and sound which he would later go on to perfect though here it sounds muddled and even frustrating at times. I really hate to do this as I am a big fan both of Devin Townsend and SYL but realistically I have no choice. Give this a miss and get City instead.