Strapping Young Lad - _The New Black_
(Century Media, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (8 out of 10)
Twenty albums, ten years -- the mere suggestion is enough to leave most musicians comatose. For heavy metal's mad scientist however, fatigue has clearly never been much of an issue; and what's perhaps most impressive about Devin Townsend's discography is the fact that among such a glut of music, one would be hard pressed to find a release that wasn't at the very least interesting on some level. Despite a track record that would virtually guarantee excellence however, there's no getting around the question marks that hang over _The New Black_. Never mind that it's been just a little over a year since the Canadians dropped their last full-length bombshell; there's also the matter of the band's inclusion on the Ozzfest line-up and reports revolving around the album being delivered to a deadline at the organizers' behest. Still not worried? Factor in talk of this being their most accessible material to date, and it becomes conspicuously obvious that if anything were to leave a proverbial skidmark on the Canadians' otherwise sterling legacy, then this disc would most certainly be a likely contender.

Mercifully, very little of these concerns end up entering the equation massively once "Decimator" has kicked off proceedings. Labelling the record as accessible will ring true only for those who thought that Townsend's own _Physicist_ opus belonged on MTV, and for all of the reigning in that has been done relative to its predecessor, _The New Black_ retains enough of the band's trademark schizophrenic aural bulldozing to keep long-time fans happy. Not everything on the group's fifth full-length screams quality, however. While it starts off promisingly, "Anti-Product" soon devolves into narcissistic self-indulgence that borders on Spinal Tap. Even more grating is "Fucker" and its frequent musical references to the cock rock of Motley Crue et al.

Yet these missteps prove minor in the face of _The New Black_'s many highlights, and ironically it's straight after the aforementioned number that "Almost Again" delivers perhaps some of Strapping Young Lad's most stunning tuneage to date, with Gene Hoglan launching into what comfortably qualifies as some of the most mind-bogglingly technical drum work of his career. "Hope" starts off subtly, building to an apogee of densely layered synths, blast beats and guitar abuse that borders on being oppressively heavy. There's also the band's full-throttle commentary on modern music, "You Suck" -- a song so mercilessly irreverent that it could ever have been pulled off by Strapping Young Lad.

Indeed it's the band's unceasing irreverence that turns out to be the glue that holds their fifth full-length together, and while for some it may prove forgettable in the face of a record as stunning as _City_, the fact remains that despite being included on Ozzfest this year, it's unlikely that legions of sexually-frustrated twelve year olds are going to be trading their skinny Trivium T-shirts to sing along to Strapping Young Lad. In other words, there's no need to break out the torches and the hayforks on them just yet.


(article published 27/6/2006)

7/13/2006 J Smit Strapping Young Lad: None More Black
6/12/2003 A McKay Strapping Young Lad: The World Makes Way
10/1/1995 A Bromley Strapping Young Lad: Bracing for Success
2/22/2005 J Smit 10 Strapping Young Lad - Alien
4/16/2003 X Hoose 8 Strapping Young Lad - SYL
7/8/1998 A Bromley 9.5 Strapping Young Lad - No Sleep Till Bedtime
2/4/1997 A Bromley 9 Strapping Young Lad - City
10/1/1995 G Filicetti 7 Strapping Young Lad - Heavy As a Really Heavy Thing
9/14/1997 S Hoeltzel Testament / Stuck Mojo / Strapping Young Lad Demonic Pigwalk
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