Strapping Young Lad - City
City has consistently been seen as the first true testament to Devin Townsend's musical ingenuity, the point where what he'd done, and what he would do, would inevitably intersect. It went unheard by many, and absolutely demanded to be heard by anyone who so much as caught wind of it. This is where I started my eventual fanboy bromance with the Dev, and it's been one where, no matter what he does, City is an inevitable backdrop to it. Knowing that somewhere in his sound lies dormant a beast of this size is a viewpoint that City does not let you escape from.
The sound is undeniably metal, and it comes off as having been strained through the mind of someone who is injecting 200% of who he is (or was, at the time). It does not posture at the altar of self-reflection, it stands defiant before it and glares into a mirror, reflecting a myriad of emotional inflections that run the gamut from extreme frustration, extreme inspiration, extreme hatred...mostly just the polarizing extremes most of us experience at some point in our lives. "Velvet Kevorkian" is a call to arms with a disturbing name, the first glimpse at a middle finger that seldom goes down the rest of the way. "All Hail The New Flesh" is the first glimpse of the towering wall of sound that serves as a focal point for the entire album. It may shift in tempo or tone, but that wall was constructed to parlay a sense of imprisonment, a feel that the entire record swirls around. You'll come for the metal and stay for the melody, however, as Devin stretches his songwriting chops into a fantastic chorus and vocal harmonies that both act in accordance to, and in staunch opposition of, the music surrounding them. "Oh My Fucking God" was my first experience with Devin, the first song I'd ever heard of his and...the name expresses my feelings, then and now, entirely. Between this and "Home Nucleonics", I was sold on Devin Townsend being at the forefront of metal vocalists. Calling what he does "vocal gymnastics" only scratches the surface. "Detox" has become a sort of cult classic amongst SYL fans, and it has an awesomely catchy drive to it with some inlain hooks and chant-along bits that stick under your skin. I love "AAA", the lyrics especially, which seem to reflect upon some sinister and dark aspect of Dev's personality. "Underneath The Waves" is still most likely the best thing Devin ever did with SYL, an epic, full-speed-ahead riff-monster of a track with a chorus that just soars over the massive wall of hellish noise it opposes upon itself. This is the single track I'd refer anyone to as an introduction to what Strapping Young Lad are all about.
Not a single bit of filler to be found, and not a moment goes by when I don't think City is losing it's effectiveness. In my mind, this album is a metal classic for reasons beyond my own unquestionable love for it. I think it represents the do-it-yourself attitude in a way that isn't afraid to turn the whole concept on it's head; it's an independent release that sounds anything but. The production value, regardless of how chaotic and user-unfriendly the music is to those not accustomed to extreme metal, is so crystal clear that the gigantic walls of sound are actually easy to digest and dissect. Overanalyzing isn't exactly the point, but it helps in discerning why City is such a remarkable statement. It remains, to many a fan, the pinnacle of a band's career that would stretch on for another 3 records. To me, it remains as it's always been, the introduction to a legend far too few people will ever recognize as such.
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on 2007-07-26 SolitaryMan Said:
There is no title to be given to Strapping Young Lad's brand of blackened thrash/death/industrial/lunatic metal. You can call it many things, but the only thing that fits is "holy shit!" City is, basically, Townsend and co. screaming "HOLY SHIT!" as loud as humanely possible for 45 minutes or so, with the proper accompaniment of music that screams...you got it! Holy fuckin' shit. SolitaryMan, you're source for quality opinions on all music, has gone out on a limb many times in the past by claiming this to be the heaviest album of all time...and I still stand by myself there. Trying to explain why would be a fruitless journey into my fanboy leanings towards anything Townsend does, but needless to say if you're a fan of heavy music, and you haven't heard "City" yet, you should damn well be ashamed. Get off your ass and get this album, then listen to it in a darkened room in the dead of night for the full effect. If you make it to "Underneath The Waves" without becoming overwhelmed, there you'll find the perfect break-up song with balls. You'll no doubt be headbanging up a storm from the opening tolls of intro "Velvet Kevorkian", and you should be feeling cramps up the neck before "All Hail The New Flesh" is finished. This record is the reason why Strapping were able to push forward into more popular directions with their last two albums, and it still remains the heaviest fucking thing on the planet. It's heavier than "Heavy As A Real Heavy Thing", and that should say it all.