Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The 6th Best Album of the 90s: Strapping Young Lad - "City" (1997)

Ah yes, now we're finally getting to the really brutal shit.

After singing on the only listenable Steve Vai record (Sex And Religion, 1993), playing guitar with The Wildhearts, and releasing the promising but ultimately kinda dull Strapping Young Lad debut Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, Devin Townsend rallied up his forces (guitarist Jed Simon, bassist Byron Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan) and released City, still to this day the finest moment of his career.

The soundtrack to the futuristic loonie bin of your choice, City is an unstoppable force few bands can compete with. An album consisting of the cold machine-like brutality of industrial metal, the surgical precision riffing of thrash metal and the intensity of grindcore, all buried under layers of the most glorious of white noise and swathes of keyboards providing a savage soundscape worthy of H.R. Giger's most frantic nightmares.

All of which is topped off with Devin Townsend screaming out his distaste for humanity with a sarcastic grin stretching from ear to ear.

That last one is one of the most important ingredients on here: Townsend's sense of humor. Strapping Young Lad's whole career has been one long exercise in taking the piss of the absurdity known as metal music. Every cliche is embraced and taken to the limit. And as a result they are one of the best metal bands in world. Fancy that. After being a SYL fan for too long, it's nearly impossible to listen to metal bands who take themselves too seriously.

The sheer ferocity, mayhem and madness exhibited in its nine tracks are enough to blow the pubes right off your manshaft, it's not until the album's sixth track AAA that the savage beating up lets for a moment. If you look up "Controlled chaos" in a dictonairy, you'll find a picture of this album.

At its finest moments, City feels like being kicked to death in an auto wrecking yard by a cyberpunk clown in a straitjacket while replicant midgets are doing cartwheels in the background and rabid sealions balance the chopped off heads of your loved ones on their noses.

Much of the album's success also lies (not unlike Slayer's Reign In Blood, another quickpaced mental case of a record) in its brevity. Where Townsend often has a tendency to fill each cd to the brim even though the album as a whole would have benefitted from trimming the fat a bit, City's nine tracks in 39 minutes is just right.

Alright, that'll do. Are you ready for the top 5?

You better be.
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - Oh my fucking god
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - Detox
(mp3) Strapping Young Lad - Underneath the waves (recommended!)

Buy City @

The video for Detox:

1 comment:

Anders said...

I don't know how I managed to stumble onto this blog yesterday, but I just wanted to say thanks for this entertainig revisit to the 90s. And also thanks for giving some shine to the two albums that I always try to force on people in an effort to redeem their commercial and critical failure: "Red Sonic Underwear" and "Locust". Great list overall, except for the Sugar Ray entry of course.