“Alien” or “not from this planet” are fitting descriptions for the musical genius that is Devin Townsend. Although I can appreciate most of his musical endeavours, my favourite Heavydevy related band/project still is Strapping Young Lad. Although the last S.Y.L. album was nothing to write home about, the Alien album still stands in al its splendour to this very day.
Okay, giving away the conclusion of my review spoils the fun a bit, but it does justify the question of what makes this specific S.Y.L. so memorable. That’s quite simple. First of all, all the compositions on this album have their own specific identity, but they work very well in the overall framework of Alien. Secondly, Devy spent a lot of time and attention to all sorts of little details, like the use of children/girly voices (Shine, Possessions) and crazy guitar leads (We Ride, Shitstorm). Thirdly, this is the most over the top S.Y.L. release in terms of aggression, diversity and weirdness.
Alien also has a lot of offer when it comes to dynamics. There are frenzied fast paced songs like Shitstorm, We Ride and Zen. There are also mid tempo scorchers like Skeksis, Shine and Possessions. And this album has the catchiest S.Y.L. song to date in the form of Love?.
There’s a clear split on Alien. The first halve is clearly about aggression, craziness and every emotion in between. From Two Weeks on the overall mood suddenly swings to a more relaxed state of mind, almost spiritual at times. It often reminded me of the Terria and Accelerated Evolution records. The last song of the album, entitled Info Dump, isn’t really a song. It’s basically 10 minutes worth of ambient noise. Not my cup of tea and it’s a very unfitting end to such a great album.
For me Alien is the ultimate statement of aggression, insanity and other assorted madness. It’s certainly the finest Strapping Young Lad offering to date. Sadly this band/project has been laid to rest, but I got a feeling we haven’t seen the last of The Lad yet.
written by Raymond Westland