Strapping Young Lad

The New Black

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As metal practitioners go, unless you start invoking names like GWAR, it doesn't get much more over the top than Strapping Young Lad. On The New Black, chief skull-denter Devin Townsend and company keep up the craziness, doing their best to bust through metal stereotypes while doling out vicious, frenzied slabs of sonic extremism: once you've heard "U Suck," a straight-up assault complete with demon screams and instrumental chaos on someone who sucks, and royally, there can be no mistaking SYL's commitment to rage as an art form. But as it proved on 2005's Alien, this is a quartet capable of heaving its heaviness in fresh directions. Though the bulk of the vocals are given over to predictably menacing growls and banshee screams, snippets of actual singing -- some of it positively Bon Jovi-like -- surface on "Decimator," "Far Beyond Metal," and "Almost Again," and the hypnotic, disc-stealing "Fucker" features a moment of female screech-singing that's as well-timed as it is surprising. It's the genre-weaving that makes the strongest case for SYL's excellence within its frenzied field, though. "Antiproduct," a message song that keeps the curve balls coming, threads a jazzy passage through the punishing stuff, and "Wrong Side"'s stops and starts jerk loyal listeners around with System of a Down-like fits of melodicism. All this, and a classic edge, too: while SYL continue to spread their wings and explore metal's creaking, shrieking boundaries, there are times when The New Black's sound seems not new at all but filched from the '70s -- Bruce Dickinson might be proud.

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