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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.