Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" (1995)

At the time it was musical genius Devin Townsend first solo release under the Strapping Young Lad moniker that would go on to become a fully functioning band by their sophomore album City. I'm astonished as to how far Strapping Young Lad has slipped from my mind, its been over a decade ago since I last binged on them. Its understandable how this embryonic sounding debut has drifted the furthest but Ive had a fantastic time rediscovering these oldies and the calamity of good and bad it is.

Reading into its backstory as the first Dev album, I discovered that it was born out of frustration with working for the likes of other musicians, Steve Vai and The Wildhearts. Devin wanted to write his own music and only Century Media would offer him a five album deal on the condition of making extreme music. The result is this mesmerizing, botched brew of angular ideas that would fail to capture anyone's attention, barely selling any units before future releases would bring retroactive attention to it.

Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing has all the hallmarks of an SYL record. An over the top wall of sound aesthetic. Stomping, slamming, brutal chugging guitars. Fierce and frantic screams, coupled manic roars and the occasional soaring of Devs clean range. Frequently synths wail in to further the thickness. Its a fusion of Death, Thrash and Industrial that has got all the right ingredients but its preparation and cooking is a botched brew. Its hard to praise at its surface but given a few spins there is plenty that's enjoyable and many familiar riffs, lyrics and moments reworked for later songs.

The production is sloppy and chaotic at best, the wall of sound comes together not through craft or design. Its slapped together with deliberate volume wars that more often that not find some haphazard cohesion. Distortion guitars often falter into choppy thuds of sound that loose sense of notation and become like a percussive instrument. Its mostly the ideas that lay themselves bare. When the guitars, drums or screams are being extremified its all to obvious. A majority of these moments tend to not lead anywhere but further into a sprawl of chaotic ideas. It even extending to a cheesy 80s synth beat on Cod Metal King but most his ideas will be heard with far greater execution on following projects.

These criticisms were more apparent at first glance but if you try to love something you often find reasons. Given how much I adore Devin's music it was all to easy to hear the links with whats to come. For a first timer tuning in it will be a much harder task. I'm a sucker for these songs, there is objective criticism all over yet through it I always hear something worthy of charm. Perhaps Drizzlehell is an exception. I really don't get along with that one. Otherwise its all fun, it has a mood, persona and strange vibrations that occasionally descend one into maniacal listening.

Favorite Tracks: SYL, In The Rainy Season, Happy Camper, Critic, Filler
Rating: 7/10