STRAPPING YOUNG LAD — City (review)

STRAPPING YOUNG LAD — City album cover Album · 1996 · Industrial Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
"City" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Canadian industrial extreme metal act Strapping Young Lad. The album was released through Century Media Records in February 1997. It´s the successor to "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing" from 1995. An album which was essentially a solo album by lead vocalist/guitarist Devin Townsend, featuring some contributions from session musicians. After the release of "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (1995)", Townsend temporarily moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote the material for "City". Before entering the studio Townsend assembled a permanent lineup, thus making Strapping Young Lad a band instead of a solo project. New in the lineup are guitarist Jed Simon and bassist Byron Stroud, who Townsend had worked with before, and to complete the lineup he recruited drummer Gene Hoglan, known at that point for his work with Dark Angel and Death.

"Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (1995)" was an erratic and experimental industrial metal album, which featured moments of absolute brilliance, but it was ultimately a bit too inconsistent in style and quality to reach the sky in terms of high ratings (my subjective opinion). "City" is in many ways a completely different beast. Townsend and Co. have created a more clearly defined extreme metal sound although the music retains some of the debut´s dark scizophrenic approach. The industrial elements are toned down a bit (which doesn´t mean they are gone) in favor of a more aggressive guitar driven sound, which takes its cues from both death- and thrash/groove metal. Townsend have in many interviews stated that he was strongly influenced by Fear Factory in those days, and while Strapping Young Lad has a very different (less accessible and generally more extreme) sound to that band, there are audible similarities and the influence is definitely heard more than once during the playing time.

"City" is the kind of album which opens by sending a jackhammer to the face of the listener. From the opening intro track "Velvet Kevorkian" until the sixth track "AAA", where things finally slow down and become a little more melodic and mid-paced, the listener is bombarded with a wall of sound and alien atmospheres. Sometimes the riffs and rhythms move at a frantic pace, while the vocals by Townsend are completely schizophrenic changing from ultra aggressive shouting/screaming, to melodic singing, to unintelligible almost cartoonish babbling. Everything of course delivered with ease and great skill by Townsend. "Oh My Fucking God" is probably the prime example of Strapping Young Lad, when they are most extreme. "All Hail the New Flesh" and "Detox" at least feature some handles to hold on to, while still being incredibly energetic and intense tracks.

As mentioned "AAA" is a heavier, mid-paced track, which is a breather after the album opens in such an intense fashion, and actually after "AAA", "City" changes character a little bit and becomes more varied. "Room 429" is another heavy and more melodic track, while album closer "Spirituality" features an almost dreamy ethereal atmosphere. It´s a track which wouldn´t have felt wrong on one of Townsend´s solo albums. So "City" is most definitely an eclectic size and its frontloaded aggression and craziness doesn´t continue throughout, which is a clever move from the band, as it would probably have lessened the impact of the high energy aggressive tracks on the album. Aggression and brutality are almost always most effective when delivered in doses.

"City" features a detailed, powerful, and futuristic sounding production job, which suits the material perfectly. It´s just one of the features of the album which have been improved upon since the debut album. The idea to assemble a permanent lineup of skilled musicians is another and "City" just reeks class and skill in every department. This is not only a unique sounding release, it´s also a very well crafted one. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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UMUR wrote:
7 days ago
Yeah it´s a real winner this one :-)
The Crow wrote:
7 days ago
It's great to see the masterpiece "City" recieving the love it deserves!

One of the best industrial metal albums of the 90's, if not the best.

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