Before the utter masterpieces City and SYL, there was this rampaging slab of industrial-metal madness from the great Devin Townsend. It was here that Devin began to establish himself as metal's answer to Mike Patton, in terms of both vocal prowess and musical diversity. This may be a metal album, but it also shows the early signs of Devin's genre-bending tendencies. Like most great albums, it not only exemplifies its genre but also busts conventions to create something truly unique.
The sound of Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing can best be described as a sort of barely controlled insanity, with equal parts aggression and catchiness combined to form one of the most potent sounds in recent history. The opening one-two punch of S.Y.L. and In The Rainy Season is a perfect summation of Strapping Young Lad's musical mission. Both songs reach a grindcore-esque level of speed and intensity, but if you listen closely enough you can hear melodies emerging from the sonic carnage, making things go down just a bit easier.
From there, the album branches out in some surprising directions, but it manages to remain firmly rooted in metal at the same time. Devin's voice is all over the map here, ranging from ear-piercing shrieks to fearsome death howls to something that actually bears some resemblance to singing. And in the grand tradition of Fear Factory and Ministry, samples and industrial beats are used often enough to make the album interesting, but not so much that they become tiresome or distracting.
Perhaps most importantly, Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing provides convincing evidence of the demented songwriting genius that would only become more apparent on SYL's subsequent albums. Goat slows things way down from the first two songs, but doesn't soften the album up one bit; the slower tempo merely serves to drive the steamrolling heaviness into you even harder.
The Ministry-style Cod Metal King actually shows an admirable grasp of dynamics, moving from mid-tempo and subdued (by Devin's standards, anyway) to all-out headbanging fury without warning. The Filler-Sweet City Jesus has one of the most addictive guitar riffs in history, hands down. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.) and Drizzlehell are quite possibly the most manical compositions in Devin's catalog, propelled by harsh vocals and vicious grooves that make the mirrors in my car vibrate (or maybe I just need new tires).
Metal lovers everywhere definitely owe a debt to Devin Townsend. Along with Meshuggah, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Soilent Green, and a few other bands, Strapping Young Lad are ensuring that the genre stays intriguing as it moves into the new millenium. If you consider yourself any kind of metal fan, you need this album. And if you don't like it, you're lame.
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - S.Y.L. (highly recommended!)
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - Happy camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - Satan's ice cream truck
Buy Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing @ Amazon.com.