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Weird. - 50%

TheMeh, July 17th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Century Media Records (Reissue)

I have a bit of a weird history with Strapping Young Lad. I've known about Devin Townsend for plenty of years now, and I've grown to love pretty much everything he's made up to this point, but I never really got around to listening to some of the really old and classic stuff... like Strapping Young Lad. In the present day, having gotten around to it, I have rather varied opinions on each SYL record, and none have more than this one.

I think the best way to rationalize this album is to start by touching upon the things I liked about it. First things first, most of it gives off a more... "industrial" sound. Something like this takes more precedence in albums down the line, like "City", but it's crucial we note that the sound started here, in songs like "S.Y.L" and "Goat". The best I can compare to it is a factory... on fire. Simply chaotic, but still the noises of bangs on metal, the conveyors. I do quite enjoy that the album takes its time trying to understand its sound, and its a unique part of what makes Strapping Young Lad enjoyable for me. Among that, there is some more varied similarities I've found to other genres and bands in other areas. If I didn't know any better, some of these songs would sound more like thrash to me, or areas of vocals within songs like "Goat" could be easily mistaken for some Pantera-inspired licks. Honestly, it's cool to look at and make those connections for songs that have absolutely nothing to do with those kinds of details, and I do adore that about this album.

Somewhere between all these strokes of good, if not ingenious areas of the album, it gets... strange. From the beginning, it is easy to admit that this album is pure cheese, and the music won't always take itself seriously from these facts. "SYL", on its own, is a song talking about how bullshit everything is, and straight up says at the end "strapping young lad, cheesy metalhead" as lyrics. It isn't the first time the lyrics of songs will do this, nor is this the only time that the album will break into these areas of straight-up strange lyricism. Moving forward from that particular point... I would feel wrong if I didn't infer about the production quality of this album. Given, it's the first Strapping Young Lad album, and I'm willing to accept the fact that all bands start out humbly and with crap production, but it's a weird thing for me to experience coming off of other Devin Townsend albums. I'm conditioned to think most of his stuff has at least a decent realm of production quality. That being said, Devin tends to use that to his advantage in some albums, and I would be wrong not to say that this album does benefit from it in some areas. It's probably one of the little details that makes me enjoy songs like "Skin Me" more.

Don't get me wrong with all of these things, though - there is a lot of bad in this album, too. I stated the lyricism before, and I would be wrong if I told you any of it resembled quality. It gets annoying when every other song says the word "fuck" 27 times in 3 different variations, or how many times the album wishes to denounce the industry or the posers within metal. "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)" might just be my least favorite songs that does this... and it gets to a shit low extent where the worst thing Devin thinks he can say is "you're a fuckin' dink! how's that for punk? dink!!!". It's simply idiotic, and I don't look to Devin for completely idiotic songs. Even his future releases have dumb tracks, but at least they've got a good amount of balance within their realm of stupidity. Songs like "Happy Camper" simply just turn me off from the experience, and it just... disappoints me.

Overall, though? I don't believe this is the worst thing Devin's ever made. There's worse things out there, and I feel as if, in a way, the good and the bad here do seem to find a form of balance between themselves. It's not bad, and it certainly isn't good. But I do believe that this is an important album. Devin took this album and went forward, learning... something from all this, and that would pave his path forward, coming to the releases of both the next SYL release, "City", and the next release as his own entity, "Punky Bruster - Cooked on Phonics".

NOTABLE SONGS: "SYL", "In The Rainy Season", "Goat", "Satan's Ice Cream Truck".

The stilton cheese of metal - 14%

EzraBlumenfeld, January 24th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Century Media Records (Reissue)

Strapping Young Lad: You either love 'em or you hate 'em. Their debut album, Heavy As a Really Heavy Thing, is a good reason to hate 'em despite its clever title. It's filled with repetition and unoriginality as well as poor sound quality, making it the musical equivalent of gorgonzola cheese.

Everyone loves to worship Devin Townsend for the SYL albums that followed and for his solo work. However, this album is such an atrocity that it deserves almost no respect. Using excessive electronic drums and a poorly executed wall-of-sound approach on guitar, the overall quality of this album is immediately put in question as soon as the first track kicks in.

Most bad metal albums have at least one song on them that is at least decent all the way through. Every infamously awful album by classic and well-known bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Pantera has an upside hidden somewhere in the course of the otherwise-excruciating listening experience. But here, on his first legitimate full-length release for one of his own projects, Devin Townsend proves that this does not have to be true. Not only is it a total failure, but Heavy As a Really Heavy Thing could very well be considered the worst debut album by a well-respected metal band in history.

Each of the ten songs (plus three bonus tracks on the reissue) is a cliche of riffs and generic angst-filled lyrics. From the metalcore-ish whining of "S.Y.L." ("I fucking hate you" sixteen times, plus Townsend references himself in third person) to literally every single line in "Happy Camper," this album is a wasteland of immaturity, especially considering that Townsend was almost 23 years old at the time of release. I haven't even mentioned the slightly ridiculous, slightly horrifying slide whistle-ridden album closer "Satan's Ice Cream Truck" yet, which contains unmistakable references to pedophilia. Again, I wouldn't put such lyrics past a band like Blood On The Dance Floor, considering that they're actually pedophiles. But c'mon, this is metal we're talking about here! Yes, I'm open to metal bands having a sense of humor, but this is just plain idiotic.

As for the riffs... there might as well not be any. All attempts to pull of what may or may not have been musical ideas is masked but awful production and the hideously down-tuned guitars. The few audible riffs, such as in "Critic" and "Happy Camper," are all right, but are really nothing special. "Cod Metal King" could have easily been an industrial groove metal anthem if it weren't for the poor production, which the reissue did absolutely nothing to clean up.

All in all, this album is a showcase of mediocrity and is better left unpurchased. I would recommend pretty much any other Strapping Young Lad album in its place. This is a horrendous insult to music in general, and it's honestly a miracle that Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad ever recovered from it.

Bad, But Still Pretty Good - 60%

Deadwired, June 23rd, 2007

If you're confused, I'll explain. When Devin Townsend started Strapping Young Lad, he did so not only to vent his anger, but to throw playful jabs at the rather odd cliches of Metal. However, before SYL put out the landmark "City," they produced this album. It sounds... how can I put this?

If you could teach a piece of shit to play Paganini, that's what this album would sound like. At times, the music is almost completely unlistenable because of how weird and unbalanced the mix sounds sometimes. There's a hell of a lot of chug, but it's in the vein of Godflesh. The drums have an almost super-sonic approach which gives them relatively little weight, and instead the palm mute grooves are usually what carries the rhythm. As far as the music itself goes, some of the riffs on this album range from mediocre to downright boring.

It all sounds so bad, I know. So, why the 60% score? Some of the chorus' in this album are some of the most flavorful and melodic you will ever hear if you give the album a complete once-over. "S.Y.L." has a thrashy little riff that's rather standard, and switches off to groove every now and then with Devin Townsend screaming and growling his vocal chords out, and then BAM: at about 2:10, Devin drops an amazing melody with fantastic synth back-drops as he shouts his anthem, "I see the coming of a new time, past your shit by far." "In the Rainy Season" continues in the same manner. There's a riff that has several Meshuggah overtones, and shifts into a chorus melody much like "Zen" from "Alien" if you're familiar with it. While songs like "Critic" don't have a sweeping melody caught up in the chorus, the synth backdrop provides a nice palette for pseudo-melodic guitars to work with.

Not to mention, there are several songs on this album that have some extreme potential, like "Drizzlehell." While, on a modern-day production job it would probably be a metal anthem, all the distortion is drowned out by a completely mechanized and annoying, constant drum beats. "Happy Camper" would've also been another genius track if the production would've given it enough time to elevate from anything besides ultimate clutter.

There's one more redeeming aspect about this album as well: the sense of humor. The hidden track "Satan's Ice Cream Truck" might be worth the price of this album alone, or even the hilarious lyrics to "Happy Camper." The entire album, however, is filled to the brim with jocular jabs as cliches that infiltrate metal. In the right context, it can either change your perception of the album if you view the lyrics in a comical light, rather than: "Why the fuck is he swearing every fucking second? Fuck!"

While by no means a gem or an instant classic, there are quite a few redeeming aspects of this album. However, nearly the whole of SYL's discography is literally light years ahead of this album.

Ghey. - 20%

MutatisMutandis, August 19th, 2006

Seeing as my most trustworthy sources for metal have dropped plenty of hints towards the height of quality found throughout this band's discography, I decided it was about time I shook off my preconcieved notions and give it a listen. As I was browsing through their catalouge, I noticed the familiar cover art of their debut release, Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, which just happened to be re-released that past month. I picked up a copy, hurried to the counter and popped it in my stereo, and was floored instantly by the aural armaggedon earfucking me senseless.

To put it simply, this album fucking sucks. The worst part is, I vowed to review this on request, so, not wanting to be a pansy and back out, I sat through every soul draining second of it. I'm gonna be outright: if I was less of a man, I would have bawled. As it was, I simply sobbed. As soon as I pressed play and the industrial sampling of S.Y.L. reeled in, I felt my hope for these guys begin to waiver and my lips begin to glisten with the words "lame" and an elongated "gay". About three songs in, it dawned on me that I wasn't just failing to "get into" the band's sound, but it was pissing me the fuck off.

It's not the schematics that bother me, as nothing could be further from the truth. Really, the humor and approach was very appealing to me at first glance, and I still find Devin Townshend to be a likeable lyricist and a competent performer. Ultimately though, it's not the blueprints that matter, it's the execution.

Throughout the 50 agonizing minutes, I failed to hear anything remotely "death" or "thrash" about this release. What I do hear is directionless, chugging aggro-metal combined with the industrial distortion and quirks of early Fear Factory with cheesy, sweeping melodic choruses and a post-thrash songwriting style. Everything from the subpar drumming, teeth grating sound mix, pointless industrial interludes, and the wasted vocal prowess annoy to the bitter end. The only redeeming factors about this release are Devin Townshend's solid vocal patterns and his ridiculously over the top lyricism.

I can't compare this to their other work, as I really have no interest in hearing it, but if it's even remotely like this... yuck. Just an underrated album by an overrated band. It's rare that I have trouble sitting through a release for a reason other than boredom or cheesiness, but this is simply the most annoying album I've listened to in a long time. Boy, do I have some reconstituting to do...

Ahh, what a poor, misunderstood little album - 90%

xanrastafari, August 20th, 2004

I really enjoyed reading some of the reviews of this CD, which seemed to have problems with this CD in three areas: 1. The lyrics, 2. The distortion, 3. the Chugga-chugga nature of some of the guitars. I'll address 1. and 3. If you don't like distortion, there's not much I can do to help you. That's a personal preference, and if you don't like the sound, you don't.

So here goes: The lyrics. Yes, Devin Townsend cusses a lot. No, this isn't mindless I hate the world nonsense, because, as with everything he does, there is at least some subtlety to it. I see essentially the bridge of the first song ("I Fucking Hate You" repeated) being quoted as an example of his lyrics being simple and immature. But how many of you knew that was an anti-capitalism song? Look a little closer next, time he's not screaming about nothing.

As to the Chuggga-Chugga nature of the riffs, what do you expect? This is Industrial with some grindcore elements. And grindcore was originally defined as sounding like a machine.... No, it's not Iron Maiden, no it's not melodic power metal, but that's not what it's meant to be. The riffs aren't simplistically nu-metallish either, if you listen carefully. Yes it's easy to loose this in the chaos of the music, but that's part of why it's heavy, no?

So enough with addressing other people's derisions of the CD. Why is it good? Devin Townsend has one of the best emotion transmitting voices I've ever heard. In other words, when he's angry the listener can feel the anger easily. To me, as a result of that, the CD is highly theraputic. Also, the lyrics, as I said, have a good bit of depth if you actually look at them. This CD's also got a good dose of kick you in the stomach heaviness. Not as much as it's musically superior follow up, City, but it's still there. The music also has some really interesting elements, for example the song "Cod Metal King" sounds like one of those cheesy metal vampire dance scene songs actually done right. "In the Rainy Season"'s end section with it's highly melodic and layered singning mixing with the loud chugging guitars creates a wonderful, spine tingling effect. The much harped on "Happy Camper" features Devy's most hyperkinetic vocal performance, perhaps ever.

My main criticisms of the CD is that it is relatively uneven, especially in the later parts. Some of the songs in that area are complete throwaways, though the wonder great song "The Filler" is a) hilarious and b) plays with some interesting vocal/guitar combos that turn out well. Also there are a few parts that are guilty of what others accuse, that they are too chuggachuggachugga, but almost every section plays with more rhytmic and melodic complexity than would be first apparent. Get some good headphones and listen closely.

A sign of great things to come - 80%

Xeper, May 23rd, 2003

Boris's review is understandable. If you're into thrash and the likes, lots of old school metal especially, this definitely won't be your thing. It is certainly a noisy record, very angry metal with industrial influences, kind of blind rage put on CD, and sometimes it works really well, but a few songs aren't as organized as later ones. It's a great album though, in my humble opinion. Opening song "S.Y.L." (simple enough, eh?) has almost manically sung verses, with sparse instrumentation until the chorus explodes in your face. This song is damn intense live. Devin's way of screaming is kind of unique, because it's not generic growling or shrieking, but he actually sounds like a pissed off person (on their first two albums, anyway), despite having the ability to sing quite well also. The chorus is sung quite nicely over the vaguely melodic riffing, until it goes into some headbanging breakdown-style material, with the by now well-known "I fucking hate you" chant. Don't look for insight in their lyrics, it's pretty much the soundtrack to the worst day of your life, and the lyrics reflect that quite accurately, as it's pure fury but generally with direction, not just typical "I'm a slacker and I hate the world" bullshit that you find on a mallcore CD. It's also funny to think about when this album came out, since it was after Devin sang on Steve Vai's debut album, 'Sex & Religion', and then pursued this pretty radical change of musical direction. (I can imagine Steve's face when he heard this...heh.) S.Y.L. has a great sense of climax too, the song builds up heavier & heavier until you're screaming against the pounding double bass at the end. Next song, "In the Rainy Season", is another testament to, you guessed it, anger, abandonment, and hatred toward fucking assholes (it's the general theme here, in case you haven't noticed). More singing on the chorus, but not some kind of formulaic clean vocal chorus *coughSoilworkcough*, just well-placed only when needed. Other songs like "Critic" sport some SAVAGE riffs that rock you to hell, and "Happy Camper" is practically industrial grindcore. Some tracks, like "Goat", are just silly and pretty useless, cause SYL never take themselves too seriously, which is admirable, but it's a bit excessive on here. All in all, a quality and angry album, and the following one, City, would perfect this style.