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That Weird Middle Zone Most Bands Go Through - 75%

eletrikk, February 8th, 2019

So far, Strapping has released a really weird first album, being a mishmash of many different genres and having a diminished listening value, and an excellent sophomore record that has an excellent listening value, but could they keep it up? Well, yes and no. SYL is a very good record, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't hold up to City as much as I would like it to. Parts of this record are really great at best, and horribly repetitive at worst.

The comedy in Devin's voice is found nowhere on this record, and it is a very nice path that he doesn't go down too often. For more modern fans of Devin Townsend, especially those who got into his music around the release of Ziltoid The Omniscient, it might be very off putting for listeners going back, but I implore you to try to keep an open mind. A plus for this album that City didn't have is CLEAN VOCALS!! Force Fed, in my honest opinion, has the best examples of what Devin can do on this record. That being said, Devin's vocals gives SYL a very "doomey" feel that is sustained over the record, but it definitely does not carry the record, despite the praise I just gave them. Sometimes, like on "Rape Song," they sound hamfisted, almost ironic, but not to the comedic level of Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing. They are consistent, following in City's footsteps.

Songwriting is, meh, for the most part. It really isn't all to creative, and the album suffers heavily from it. A lot of the songs suffer from repetition, but they all have decent song structuring, unlike the utter insanity of Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing. Some songs, as stated earlier, are quite repetitive, some being "Relentless," "Devour," and "Aftermath." Jesus almighty is "Aftermath" a hard song to listen to. Four riffs. Four. Fucking. Riffs. Intro, verse, bridge, and chorus. It's really hard to think that Devin, Jed, Byron, and Gene could have been burned out from making City, but I guess it happens. Other than that, a song that I have high praises for is "Force Fed," it being my favorite song on the album. It is a really good track, having some of Devin's more melodic parts from the record, superb drumming by Gene, and excellent riffage by Devin, Jed, and Byron. Another song I like is the into, "Dire." "Dire" is one of those songs that could be used as an opener for a show, and from my knowledge, it was.

Production on SYL is definitely in Devin's signature style, being middy and backed by a large wall of sound. This record is, warmer, than City. By warmer, it doesn't have the industrial feel that the last record provided, kind of giving me a metalcore feel, but it sits well, actually enhancing the record, and in turn, the listening value. Devin's and Jed's guitars are mixed with a lot of mid-range, as always, but with more treble, giving them that warm feeling I harped on. Byron's bass is mixed creatively too, going mostly for that mid-range. Gene's kit is a little disappointing for me, as it does not have the volume it had last time, but it is forgivable and it goes well with the atmosphere that the record is going for. Speaking of which, this record really goes in a step in the opposite direction that City set, having more of a mid-2000's startup metalcore band, but instead of it making me want to rip out my eardrums, it is actually a really nice plus.

Lyricism this time is actually lacking, and I'm somewhat disappointed. Normally Devin is able to take something insane from that head of his, but most of his library must have been checked out or something. They are somewhat par for the course, however, just lacking in volume.

This album is a definite disappointment, especially for the precedent set by City, but overall not a bad listen. SYL suffers heavily from repetitive riffs, going to the extent that it hurts to listen to. The worst offender, being "Aftermath," is overly repetitive, consisting of four riffs. Clean vocals and good production really bump this up, but doesn't keep this ship from taking on some water. It's a decent listen, but one to many times you'll find yourselves hating this.