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Strapping Young Lad

Strapping Young Lad was a Canadian extreme metal band formed by Devin Townsend in Vancouver in 1994. The band started as a one-man studio project; Townsend played most of the instruments on the 1995 debut album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing. By 1997, he had recruited permanent members; this line-up, which consisted of Townsend on vocals and guitar, Jed Simon on guitar, Byron Stroud on bass, and Gene Hoglan on drums, lasted until the band's dissolution.

Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad at the Tribute to Flame Fest 2006
Background information
OriginVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Genres
Years active1994–1998, 2002–2007
LabelsCentury Media
Associated acts
Past members

Strapping Young Lad's music was characterized by the use of polyrhythmic guitar riffing and drumming, blast beats and wall of sound production. The band's musical direction was mainly determined by Townsend, whose battle with bipolar disorder and dark sense of humour were major influences on his songwriting. Townsend was also noted for his eccentric appearance and on-stage behaviour, which greatly contributed to the band's intense live performances.

The band gained critical success and a growing underground fan base from their 1997 album City. After a hiatus between 1999 and 2002, the band released three more albums, reaching their commercial peak with the 2006 effort, The New Black. Townsend disbanded Strapping Young Lad in May 2007, announcing his decision to retreat from public view while continuing to record solo albums.

Contents

Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing and City (1994–1998)

Strapping Young Lad began in 1994 as a solo project of Canadian musician Devin Townsend. Following his work as vocalist on Steve Vai's 1993 album Sex & Religion and its 1994 tour, Townsend believed he had been a "musical whore", spending "the first five years of [his] career working at the behest of other people". During a brief stint as touring guitarist for The Wildhearts, Townsend received a phone call from an A&R representative for Roadrunner Records, expressing an interest in his demos and an intention to sign him. The offer was ultimately rescinded by the head of Roadrunner, who regarded Townsend's recordings as "just noise". He faced further rejection by Relativity Records, the label behind Vai's Sex & Religion, who saw no commercial appeal in his music. Century Media Records subsequently contacted the musician, offering him a contract to "make us some extreme albums". Townsend agreed to a five-album deal with the record label.

Following his tour with The Wildhearts, Townsend began recording and producing his debut album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, under the moniker Strapping Young Lad. According to Townsend, the recording process took "about a week". Embracing The Wildhearts' anarchist approach, "while focusing on dissonance and just being as over-the-top as [he] could", Townsend sang on the record and performed the majority of its instrumental tracks (with the assistance of a drum machine). A few songs, however, featured local session musicians, including guitarist Jed Simon, Townsend's future bandmate.

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"S.Y.L.", the opening track on Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, demonstrates Townsend's musical approach at the time: "Songs didn't really matter; it was just the intensity and the vibe plus lots of humor".

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Released on April 4, 1995, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing was not widely recognized in the metal community. The album sold 143 copies in its first six months, but received favorable reviews from the heavy metal press. Its unusual musical ideas—a synthesis of death, thrash, and industrial metal influences—prompted Andy Stout from Metal Hammer to call it "one of the most disturbing albums you'll hear for a very long time". Nevertheless, Townsend has repeatedly expressed his distaste for the recording. He dismissed the album in the liner notes of the record's 2006 reissue, contending it contained only two great songs. He also deemed its production poor in interviews, referring to the album as "basically a collection of demos that were remixed". When Century Media advertised the reissue of Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing as the "rebirth of a genre-defying classic", Townsend called it "record company bullshit".

Townsend recruited a permanent line-up for the second album: Jed Simon on guitar, Byron Stroud on bass, and Gene Hoglan on drums. City was released on February 11, 1997, and received highly favorable critical reception. Kerrang! praised the album for its heaviness, claiming it sounded like "sticking your head into the jet nozzle of a Stealth Bomber", while Metal Hammer ranked it No. 13 on its "Top 20 Albums of 1997" list. The album soon gained a cult following and a loyal fan base for the band. City is considered to be the band's best effort by a large number of fans and critics alike. In 2002, the album was No. 45 on Revolver magazine's "69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time" list, and also appeared on their "Must Have Metal Albums" list in 2005. It also appeared on the "100 Most Important Albums of the Nineties" list conducted by Terrorizer. Townsend himself stated City "is the real Strapping record. That's the ultimate one out of all of them".

The band embarked on a world tour in 1997 to promote the album, which included dates in Europe, the US and Australia. On May 30, 1998, they performed at the Dynamo Open Air festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands, then continued touring the next month in Europe. In June 1998, the group released No Sleep 'till Bedtime, a live album containing songs performed at a 1997 performance at the HiFi Bar and Ballroom in Melbourne, Australia. Century Media was not initially interested in releasing a live record, but impressed with Townsend's production, the label agreed to release it. The band closed the year playing a few more dates in Japan and Australia.

On hiatus (1999–2002)

At the end of 1998, Townsend placed Strapping Young Lad on hiatus to concentrate on his solo career and on his work as a record producer. He had already released two solo albums, Ocean Machine: Biomech in 1997 and Infinity in 1998 and produced several other artists' albums. Townsend explained numerous conflicts with Century Media, and his struggle with bipolar disorder (for which he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in early 1998), contributed to the curtailment of Strapping Young Lad's activities:

What happened? I signed a shitty deal, but luckily it was non-exclusive. I got tired of doing Strapping so I said, 'I can't do it anymore.' Then I freaked out and went into a hospital. My lawyer said that I was under mental duress when I signed the contract so the contract is void. At that point it was like, 'I just won't do another Strapping record.' Yeah, I went down saying 'CM was the shittiest label ever.' And they went down as saying that I was 'a complete, arrogant psychopath.'

Townsend remained productive between 1999 and 2002, recording two more solo albums, Physicist in 2000 and Terria in 2001, and producing albums for Zimmers Hole, Stuck Mojo and Soilwork, among others. Although Strapping Young Lad was officially on hiatus, they gave occasional live performances, including an appearance on the Foot In Mouth Tour in 2001 with Fear Factory. During this period, Townsend's bandmates were active musically; both Stroud and Hoglan recorded with other bands, and all three were involved in Townsend's solo efforts as studio musicians and as part of his live band as well. Hoglan and Simon also formed a side project called Tenet with Grip Inc. bassist Stuart Carruthers and Interzone frontman Rob Urbinati in early 2002.

In December 2001 Townsend announced, contrary to his earlier public statements, a new Strapping Young Lad album would be released in 2002. He emphasized he was not "forcing" his product upon fans to generate record sales, arguing his band—and its contract with Century—was never a lucrative endeavor. Instead, Townsend's motivation was the "creative anger" sparked by the September 11, 2001 attacks and further cultivated during their 2001 tour. For the first time, the album would be a product of collaborative writing; the band wrote "about half" of the material on the 2001 Foot In Mouth Tour, and the rest at home, starting January 2002. After playing a small number of festivals in 2002, Strapping Young Lad entered the studio in September of that year, to record their third album.

Strapping Young Lad and Alien (2003–2005)

The self-titled Strapping Young Lad was released on February 11, 2003, and became the band's first charting album, entering Billboard's Top Heatseekers at No. 97. The album received moderate critical success, Nate Smith from Rockzone.com called it a "solid addition to the Townsend catalog", but "not an instant classic", Xander Hoose from Chronicles of Chaos called it "a good album", but also pointed out it is inferior to City. Strapping Young Lad differed from City because it was less industrial and more reminiscent of death metal; the humor pervading the previous two albums became more subdued. The song Devour would later appear on the soundtrack for the 2005 film Alone in the Dark.

The band toured heavily throughout 2003 and 2004, making stops in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. Although Townsend stated Strapping Young Lad might be the last album, the band re-signed with Century Media Worldwide in March 2004 and announced plans for a new album. On November 2, 2004, Strapping Young Lad released a DVD entitled For Those Aboot to Rock: Live at the Commodore, which documented the band's January 16, 2004, performance at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. Bonus features included two music videos, "Relentless" and "Detox", and interviews with band members.

Alien was released on March 22, 2005, selling 3,697 copies in its first week. It reached No. 32 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, and No. 35 on the Top Independent Albums chart. Critics praised Townsend's inventiveness and the dynamism of the songs in which "melody and discord meet midway"; Adrien Begrand of PopMatters wrote that "Strapping Young Lad have raised the bar yet again", while Blabbermouth.net's Krista G. called it one of the best albums of the year. Townsend and Hoglan were the primary writers of the album, since Simon and Stroud were busy with other commitments. Townsend explained the experimental noise track "Info Dump" is a reflection on the panicked state of mind that ensued after he stopped taking his medication. The making of Alien was documented and made viewable online on Century Media's official site in February 2005. It was also available as a bonus DVD of the limited first edition of the album.

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"Love?" became one of the band's most well-known songs among heavy metal fans. Allmusic described its chorused harmonies as "King's X from hell".

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"Love?" was chosen as the sole single from the album. Its accompanying music video, inspired by the cult horror film, The Evil Dead, was directed by Joe Lynch. The video garnered the band wider attention, and helped "Love?" become one of their most recognizable songs. Jed Simon admitted to having produced a video for this particular song because it had "the most commercial potential". "Love?" was originally one of two confirmed songs for an EP that was supposed to contain four new songs and four covers. Although planned for release in 2003, the EP was eventually canceled. A music video was also filmed for Zen; the video itself would also appear in the 2007 film Shoot 'Em Up.

The band embarked on a headlining tour in the United States in April and May 2005, then went on to tour in Europe. Starting at the end of June, they toured North America as part of the Sounds of the Underground tour, then joined Fear Factory on the Transgression Tour in the U.S. Throughout the tour, Fear Factory bassist Stroud performed with both bands at every concert. Strapping Young Lad concluded the year with a tour in the UK. While on tour, the band started writing the next album, then continued the work in January 2006, and finished the album by May. In the same month, Townsend announced his intention to "take a hiatus from making records for a while" after the end of touring due to exhaustion from continuous recording and producing for the past ten years.

The New Black (2006)

Stroud and Townsend in concert in 2006

The New Black, Strapping Young Lad's fifth and final studio album, was released on July 11, 2006. Century Media imposed a strict deadline on the release date of the album; it was to be ready before the 2006 Ozzfest. Despite this, Townsend stated the recording was not rushed, and The New Black became a critical, as well as a commercial, success. It was more melodic than any of the band's previous albums and brought back the debut album's tongue-in-cheek humor. Having sold more than 4,000 copies during its first week, The New Black reached No. 200 on the Billboard 200 chart, No. 15 on the Top Independent Albums, and No. 8 on the Top Heatseekers charts. Stylus Magazine's Cosmo Lee described it as "heavy, catchy, and with no filler", and About.com's Chad Bowar was also positive, stating that "this is a CD that's dense and heavy, but also has some memorable hooks".

A music video was shot in late May to accompany the sole single from the album, "Wrong Side". In June 2006 Strapping Young Lad embarked on a short festival tour of Europe, including performances at the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals in Germany and the Download Festival in England, which was followed by a second stage appearance at Ozzfest in July and August, where they played to some of their largest audiences in their career.

Dissolution (2006)

Townsend recalls that after Alien, he already knew that he wouldn't want to continue SYL as a project, and that he already wished to abandon SYL after the release of City already, considering the project's purpose fulfilled. In an interview conducted by Terrorizer in August 2006, Townsend explained why he decided to put the band on hold:

At the end of the day, man, I'm just tired, and old, and bald, and fat, and grouchy, and bored. You know? So I was just like, I'm going to make this record, and do this stupid Ozzfest thing, and tell a bunch of stupid jokes in front of a lot of people at Download, then I'm just going to fuck off for a while. The bigger this gets, the less I care, to the point where I just need to go spend some time with my family. I don't wanna bastardise Strapping and all these other projects by doing it for the money. Strapping was about the big middle finger, and it still is, but I don't think it needs to go any further than this.

Although Hoglan initially denied the definitive break-up of the band, saying they would go on tour in March 2007, he later stated Strapping Young Lad is on "extended hiatus", and might never reunite again. In May 2007, during a press conference held to promote his new solo album, Ziltoid the Omniscient, Townsend announced his plans to retreat from public view, including giving interviews and touring, to concentrate on his family, and producing solo albums, as well as other people's music. As a result, Strapping Young Lad were effectively disbanded. Townsend discussed his future projects in a May 2007 Metal Hammer interview, where he stated "there may be some stuff I do in the future that is as brutal and heavy as Strapping, it's just not going to be Strapping". At the time, Townsend's decision to dissolve the band caused a rift between himself and the remainder of the band, who considered SYL to be at the peak of their popularity and potential at the time; according to Simon, the rest of the band remained estranged from Townsend as a result for a time.

Re-releases and occasional performances

The remastered 10th anniversary edition of City was released on June 7, 2007, in similar vein to the 2006 remaster of Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, with bonus tracks and extended liner notes by Townsend. A career spanning best of album, entitled 1994–2006 Chaos Years, was released on March 31, 2008, with a bonus DVD of live performances and all of the band's music videos.

During his career-retrospective concert The Retinal Circus in October 2012, Townsend introduced Jed Simon on stage and performed two SYL songs, "Love?" and "Detox". Townsend has since stated that this was a one off performance and that he is not interested getting SYL back together or playing songs at future shows. He posted to Twitter that he no longer feels the same connection to SYL's music and that this performance was closure for him and Strapping. In an interview on the Metal Hammer podcast, Townsend said that while he still connects to the music, SYL required him to go to extremes that took a toll on him. On his own website, he reiterates that SYL was a project that he eventually perceived to be harmful to his mental and physical health. In 2013, he played Love? at concerts in Mexico and Chile as a "cover song", but later expressed regretting the decision saying it "confuses people".

Townsend would occasionally perform an acoustic version of Love? during his "An Evening with Devin Townsend" shows through the UK in 2015 and 2019. In 2016, on tour with the Devin Townsend project, he would sometimes play a humorous acoustic version of Detox. In 2019 he announced that during his touring cycle for Empath, he would also perform SYL songs, saying that "It's a big part of what I do and it's a big part of who I am, and I think I've denied that for a certain amount of time."

Townsend played several SYL songs during the 70,000 Tons of Metal festival, including "Aftermath", "Love?", "Detox", "All Hail the New Flesh" and a live debut of "Almost Again" from the 2006 album, The New Black.

Strapping Young Lad is known for their industrial thrash metal sound while also blending it with elements of black metal, death metal, groove metal, and noise. Many of the band's songs showcased Townsend's versatile vocal style, often changing from screaming and growling to clean vocals or even falsetto within the course of a single song. According to Townsend, the band functioned as his "outlet to freak out", and his two main projects, the more melodic The Devin Townsend Band and the aggressive Strapping Young Lad were "supposed to be the positive and the negative". To achieve a chaotic and cacophonic sound the band utilized complex time signatures, polyrhythmic composition, blast beats, sampling, keyboard effects and intricately layered production. Townsend used the newest technology available, such as Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase and Logic Pro, when recording, mixing and producing the band's songs. As a self-proclaimed "fan of multitracking", he created an atmospheric, layered "wall of sound", which became a hallmark of the band's production style (with the exception of their self-titled album which featured no samples, or vocal layering). Townsend's musical ideas and production style have drawn comparisons to Phil Spector and Frank Zappa. Strapping Young Lad mostly eschewed guitar solos until The New Black, which featured a more heightened emphasis on melody than their previous albums.

Influences

Strapping Young Lad drew influence from a wide range of music genres, most prominently, but not exclusively, heavy metal. Townsend cited, amongst others, Judas Priest, Jane's Addiction, Zoviet France, Grotus, and Frank Zappa as his influences, and also expressed his admiration for Meshuggah on several occasions, calling them "the best metal band on the planet". Simon and Stroud listed classic hard rock bands, like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Kiss, and old school thrash and death metal bands, like Exodus, Slayer and Morbid Angel among their influences, while Hoglan's influences range wildly in style from Stevie Wonder to progressive rock drummers like Neil Peart, Terry Bozzio and Nick Mason. Townsend stated his main influences for Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing were Napalm Death and Fear Factory, City was influenced by bands such as Foetus and White Noise, and The New Black's influences were Meshuggah, and "more traditional metal" like Metallica.

Lyrical themes

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"Far Beyond Metal" from The New Black is a parody of traditional heavy metal. The song had been in the band's live repertoire since 1997, with lyrics changing practically every performance.

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Townsend was the band's primary songwriter. While the first two albums were solely his work, subsequent albums featured a minority of "riffs, lyrical ideas, and song titles" by his bandmates.

Despite the brutality of Strapping Young Lad's music, their songs contain hints of tongue-in-cheek humor and self-parody. Frequently, Townsend's lyrics approached serious personal or political issues with a morbid sense of humor. He has likened the band's sense of silliness to that of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Townsend's lyrical influences covered a wide range of themes, including warfare, mathematical theorems, and movies. He also used the technique of cross-referencing, repeating lines from his own works, such as older Strapping Young Lad, or solo material.

Townsend's unique "Skullet" hairstyle and aggressive stage persona have made him "one of the more memorable faces" in the metal community.

Strapping Young Lad was known for its energetic live performances, mostly owing to the eccentric appearance and persona of Devin Townsend. Adrian Begrand of PopMatters wrote "Nobody in metal today has the same kind of commanding stage presence as the self-professed Bald Bastard, Devin Townsend", and called Strapping Young Lad "one of the best live bands around". Townsend was famous for his on-stage antics; he integrated his ironic and tongue-in-cheek humor into live shows and interacted heavily with the audience. He would deliver comical, and often insulting remarks to them, organize circle pits, and parody heavy metal clichés as well as the genre itself.

The band's humorous approach was also evidenced by a song frequently performed live from 1997, entitled "Far Beyond Metal", a parody of classic heavy metal. It became a live staple and a fan favorite, with lyrics changing practically every performance. Although it was recorded live on No Sleep 'till Bedtime, and on the For Those Aboot to Rock DVD, a studio version was not recorded until 2006 during The New Black sessions. The band was also sarcastic about their own Canadian heritage, they used "Blame Canada", a comedic anti-Canada song from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut as intro music at many concerts in 2003 and 2004.

For a period of time, Strapping Young Lad also played Townsend's solo material live. In 1998, after the release of Infinity, they began performing both Strapping Young Lad and Townsend's solo songs, as two separate sets. It was not until the 2003 release of Accelerated Evolution that Townsend formed a separate band, called The Devin Townsend Band, to act as his full-fledged solo band.

Further information: Devin Townsend discography
Studio albums

Final line-up

Former members

  • Adrian White – drums (1994–1995)
  • Ashley Scribner – bass (1994–1995)
  • Mike Sudar – guitars (1994–1995)

Session members

  • Chris Bayes – drums (1994)
  • Smokin' Lord Toot – drums (1994)
  • Chris Meyers – keyboards (1994)

Note: The pre-City touring line-up consisted of Townsend, Simon, White, Scribner, Sudar and Meyers.

  • Dave Young – keyboards (2005) (played on Alien)
  • Will Campagna – keyboards, samples,backing vocals (2002,2006) (played on Strapping Young Lad and The New Black)

Touring members

  • John Morgan – keyboards (1997)
  • Dave Genn – keyboards (1997)
  • Matteo Caratozzolo – keyboards (1997–1998)
  • Jamie Meyer – keyboards (1998–1999)
  • Jason Filipchuk – keyboards (1999)
  • Chris Valagao – keyboards (2002)
  • Will Campagna – keyboards (2002, 2004–2007)
  • Munesh Sami – keyboards (2003)
  • Jon Miller – bass (substituting Byron Stroud, July 14–31, 2005)
  • James MacDonough – bass (substituting Byron Stroud, August 1–13, 2006)

Timeline

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Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad Language Watch Edit Strapping Young Lad was a Canadian extreme metal band formed by Devin Townsend in Vancouver in 1994 The band started as a one man studio project Townsend played most of the instruments on the 1995 debut album Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing By 1997 he had recruited permanent members this line up which consisted of Townsend on vocals and guitar Jed Simon on guitar Byron Stroud on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums lasted until the band s dissolution Strapping Young LadStrapping Young Lad at the Tribute to Flame Fest 2006Background informationOriginVancouver British Columbia CanadaGenresIndustrial metal extreme metal thrash metalYears active1994 1998 2002 2007LabelsCentury MediaAssociated actsThe WildheartsThe Devin Townsend BandPunky BrusterSteve VaiZimmers HoleTenetFear FactoryDethklokPitch Black ForecastDark AngelDevin Townsend ProjectPast membersDevin Townsend Jed Simon Byron Stroud Gene Hoglan Adrian White Chris Bayes Chris Meyers Ashley Scribner Mike Sudar Strapping Young Lad s music was characterized by the use of polyrhythmic guitar riffing and drumming blast beats and wall of sound production The band s musical direction was mainly determined by Townsend whose battle with bipolar disorder and dark sense of humour were major influences on his songwriting Townsend was also noted for his eccentric appearance and on stage behaviour which greatly contributed to the band s intense live performances The band gained critical success and a growing underground fan base from their 1997 album City After a hiatus between 1999 and 2002 the band released three more albums reaching their commercial peak with the 2006 effort The New Black Townsend disbanded Strapping Young Lad in May 2007 announcing his decision to retreat from public view while continuing to record solo albums Contents 1 History 1 1 Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing and City 1994 1998 1 2 On hiatus 1999 2002 1 3 Strapping Young Lad and Alien 2003 2005 1 4 The New Black 2006 1 5 Dissolution 2006 1 6 Re releases and occasional performances 2 Musical style influences and lyrical themes 2 1 Influences 2 2 Lyrical themes 3 Live performances 4 Discography 5 Band members 5 1 Final line up 5 2 Former members 5 3 Session members 5 4 Touring members 5 5 Timeline 6 References 7 External linksHistory EditHeavy as a Really Heavy Thing and City 1994 1998 Edit Strapping Young Lad began in 1994 as a solo project of Canadian musician Devin Townsend Following his work as vocalist on Steve Vai s 1993 album Sex amp Religion and its 1994 tour Townsend believed he had been a musical whore spending the first five years of his career working at the behest of other people 1 During a brief stint as touring guitarist for The Wildhearts Townsend received a phone call from an A amp R representative for Roadrunner Records expressing an interest in his demos and an intention to sign him The offer was ultimately rescinded by the head of Roadrunner who regarded Townsend s recordings as just noise 2 He faced further rejection by Relativity Records the label behind Vai s Sex amp Religion who saw no commercial appeal in his music 3 Century Media Records subsequently contacted the musician offering him a contract to make us some extreme albums 2 Townsend agreed to a five album deal with the record label 4 Following his tour with The Wildhearts Townsend began recording and producing his debut album Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing under the moniker Strapping Young Lad According to Townsend the recording process took about a week 3 Embracing The Wildhearts anarchist approach while focusing on dissonance and just being as over the top as he could 5 Townsend sang on the record and performed the majority of its instrumental tracks with the assistance of a drum machine A few songs however featured local session musicians including guitarist Jed Simon Townsend s future bandmate S Y L 1995 0 23 source source S Y L the opening track on Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing demonstrates Townsend s musical approach at the time Songs didn t really matter it was just the intensity and the vibe plus lots of humor 5 Problems playing this file See media help Released on April 4 1995 Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing was not widely recognized in the metal community The album sold 143 copies in its first six months 6 but received favorable reviews from the heavy metal press Its unusual musical ideas a synthesis of death 7 thrash and industrial metal influences prompted Andy Stout from Metal Hammer to call it one of the most disturbing albums you ll hear for a very long time 8 Nevertheless Townsend has repeatedly expressed his distaste for the recording He dismissed the album in the liner notes of the record s 2006 reissue contending it contained only two great songs 6 He also deemed its production poor in interviews 9 referring to the album as basically a collection of demos that were remixed 2 When Century Media advertised the reissue of Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing as the rebirth of a genre defying classic Townsend called it record company bullshit 9 Townsend recruited a permanent line up for the second album Jed Simon on guitar Byron Stroud on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums 10 City was released on February 11 1997 and received highly favorable critical reception Kerrang praised the album for its heaviness claiming it sounded like sticking your head into the jet nozzle of a Stealth Bomber 11 while Metal Hammer ranked it No 13 on its Top 20 Albums of 1997 list 12 The album soon gained a cult following and a loyal fan base for the band 13 City is considered to be the band s best effort by a large number of fans 14 and critics alike 15 16 In 2002 the album was No 45 on Revolver magazine s 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time list 17 and also appeared on their Must Have Metal Albums list in 2005 13 It also appeared on the 100 Most Important Albums of the Nineties list conducted by Terrorizer 18 Townsend himself stated City is the real Strapping record That s the ultimate one out of all of them 19 The band embarked on a world tour in 1997 to promote the album which included dates in Europe the US and Australia On May 30 1998 they performed at the Dynamo Open Air festival in Eindhoven Netherlands then continued touring the next month in Europe In June 1998 the group released No Sleep till Bedtime a live album containing songs performed at a 1997 performance at the HiFi Bar and Ballroom in Melbourne Australia Century Media was not initially interested in releasing a live record but impressed with Townsend s production the label agreed to release it 20 The band closed the year playing a few more dates in Japan and Australia On hiatus 1999 2002 Edit At the end of 1998 Townsend placed Strapping Young Lad on hiatus to concentrate on his solo career and on his work as a record producer He had already released two solo albums Ocean Machine Biomech in 1997 and Infinity in 1998 and produced several other artists albums 21 Townsend explained numerous conflicts with Century Media and his struggle with bipolar disorder for which he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in early 1998 22 contributed to the curtailment of Strapping Young Lad s activities 23 What happened I signed a shitty deal but luckily it was non exclusive I got tired of doing Strapping so I said I can t do it anymore Then I freaked out and went into a hospital My lawyer said that I was under mental duress when I signed the contract so the contract is void At that point it was like I just won t do another Strapping record Yeah I went down saying CM was the shittiest label ever And they went down as saying that I was a complete arrogant psychopath Townsend remained productive between 1999 and 2002 recording two more solo albums Physicist in 2000 and Terria in 2001 and producing albums for Zimmers Hole Stuck Mojo and Soilwork among others Although Strapping Young Lad was officially on hiatus they gave occasional live performances including an appearance on the Foot In Mouth Tour in 2001 with Fear Factory During this period Townsend s bandmates were active musically both Stroud and Hoglan recorded with other bands and all three were involved in Townsend s solo efforts as studio musicians and as part of his live band as well Hoglan and Simon also formed a side project called Tenet with Grip Inc bassist Stuart Carruthers and Interzone frontman Rob Urbinati in early 2002 24 In December 2001 Townsend announced contrary to his earlier public statements a new Strapping Young Lad album would be released in 2002 He emphasized he was not forcing his product upon fans to generate record sales arguing his band and its contract with Century was never a lucrative endeavor Instead Townsend s motivation was the creative anger sparked by the September 11 2001 attacks and further cultivated during their 2001 tour 25 For the first time the album would be a product of collaborative writing the band wrote about half of the material on the 2001 Foot In Mouth Tour and the rest at home starting January 2002 24 26 After playing a small number of festivals in 2002 Strapping Young Lad entered the studio in September of that year to record their third album 27 Strapping Young Lad and Alien 2003 2005 Edit The self titled Strapping Young Lad was released on February 11 2003 and became the band s first charting album entering Billboard s Top Heatseekers at No 97 28 The album received moderate critical success Nate Smith from Rockzone com called it a solid addition to the Townsend catalog but not an instant classic 29 Xander Hoose from Chronicles of Chaos called it a good album but also pointed out it is inferior to City 30 Strapping Young Lad differed from City because it was less industrial 31 and more reminiscent of death metal 32 the humor pervading the previous two albums became more subdued 33 The song Devour would later appear on the soundtrack for the 2005 film Alone in the Dark The band toured heavily throughout 2003 and 2004 making stops in the United States Europe Canada and Australia Although Townsend stated Strapping Young Lad might be the last album 34 the band re signed with Century Media Worldwide in March 2004 and announced plans for a new album 35 On November 2 2004 Strapping Young Lad released a DVD entitled For Those Aboot to Rock Live at the Commodore which documented the band s January 16 2004 performance at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver Bonus features included two music videos Relentless and Detox and interviews with band members Alien was released on March 22 2005 selling 3 697 copies in its first week 36 It reached No 32 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and No 35 on the Top Independent Albums chart 37 Critics praised Townsend s inventiveness and the dynamism of the songs in which melody and discord meet midway 38 39 Adrien Begrand of PopMatters wrote that Strapping Young Lad have raised the bar yet again 16 while Blabbermouth net s Krista G called it one of the best albums of the year 40 Townsend and Hoglan were the primary writers of the album since Simon and Stroud were busy with other commitments 41 Townsend explained the experimental noise track Info Dump is a reflection on the panicked state of mind that ensued after he stopped taking his medication 42 The making of Alien was documented and made viewable online on Century Media s official site in February 2005 It was also available as a bonus DVD of the limited first edition of the album Love 2005 0 21 source source Love became one of the band s most well known songs among heavy metal fans Allmusic described its chorused harmonies as King s X from hell 38 Problems playing this file See media help Love was chosen as the sole single from the album Its accompanying music video inspired by the cult horror film The Evil Dead was directed by Joe Lynch 43 The video garnered the band wider attention and helped Love become one of their most recognizable songs 44 Jed Simon admitted to having produced a video for this particular song because it had the most commercial potential 14 Love was originally one of two confirmed songs for an EP that was supposed to contain four new songs and four covers Although planned for release in 2003 the EP was eventually canceled 45 A music video was also filmed for Zen the video itself would also appear in the 2007 film Shoot Em Up The band embarked on a headlining tour in the United States in April and May 2005 then went on to tour in Europe Starting at the end of June they toured North America as part of the Sounds of the Underground tour then joined Fear Factory on the Transgression Tour in the U S Throughout the tour Fear Factory bassist Stroud performed with both bands at every concert Strapping Young Lad concluded the year with a tour in the UK While on tour the band started writing the next album 46 then continued the work in January 2006 47 and finished the album by May 48 In the same month Townsend announced his intention to take a hiatus from making records for a while after the end of touring due to exhaustion from continuous recording and producing for the past ten years 49 The New Black 2006 Edit Stroud and Townsend in concert in 2006 The New Black Strapping Young Lad s fifth and final studio album was released on July 11 2006 Century Media imposed a strict deadline on the release date of the album it was to be ready before the 2006 Ozzfest Despite this Townsend stated the recording was not rushed 50 and The New Black became a critical as well as a commercial success It was more melodic than any of the band s previous albums and brought back the debut album s tongue in cheek humor 50 Having sold more than 4 000 copies during its first week The New Black reached No 200 on the Billboard 200 chart 51 No 15 on the Top Independent Albums and No 8 on the Top Heatseekers charts 37 Stylus Magazine s Cosmo Lee described it as heavy catchy and with no filler 6 and About com s Chad Bowar was also positive stating that this is a CD that s dense and heavy but also has some memorable hooks 52 A music video was shot in late May to accompany the sole single from the album Wrong Side 53 In June 2006 Strapping Young Lad embarked on a short festival tour of Europe including performances at the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals in Germany and the Download Festival in England which was followed by a second stage appearance at Ozzfest in July and August where they played to some of their largest audiences in their career Dissolution 2006 Edit Townsend recalls that after Alien he already knew that he wouldn t want to continue SYL as a project 54 and that he already wished to abandon SYL after the release of City already considering the project s purpose fulfilled 55 In an interview conducted by Terrorizer in August 2006 Townsend explained why he decided to put the band on hold 56 At the end of the day man I m just tired and old and bald and fat and grouchy and bored You know So I was just like I m going to make this record and do this stupid Ozzfest thing and tell a bunch of stupid jokes in front of a lot of people at Download then I m just going to fuck off for a while The bigger this gets the less I care to the point where I just need to go spend some time with my family I don t wanna bastardise Strapping and all these other projects by doing it for the money Strapping was about the big middle finger and it still is but I don t think it needs to go any further than this Although Hoglan initially denied the definitive break up of the band saying they would go on tour in March 2007 57 he later stated Strapping Young Lad is on extended hiatus and might never reunite again 58 In May 2007 during a press conference held to promote his new solo album Ziltoid the Omniscient Townsend announced his plans to retreat from public view including giving interviews and touring to concentrate on his family and producing solo albums as well as other people s music 59 As a result Strapping Young Lad were effectively disbanded Townsend discussed his future projects in a May 2007 Metal Hammer interview where he stated there may be some stuff I do in the future that is as brutal and heavy as Strapping it s just not going to be Strapping 60 At the time Townsend s decision to dissolve the band caused a rift between himself and the remainder of the band who considered SYL to be at the peak of their popularity and potential at the time according to Simon the rest of the band remained estranged from Townsend as a result for a time 61 Re releases and occasional performances Edit The remastered 10th anniversary edition of City was released on June 7 2007 in similar vein to the 2006 remaster of Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing with bonus tracks and extended liner notes by Townsend A career spanning best of album entitled 1994 2006 Chaos Years was released on March 31 2008 with a bonus DVD of live performances and all of the band s music videos During his career retrospective concert The Retinal Circus in October 2012 Townsend introduced Jed Simon on stage and performed two SYL songs Love and Detox Townsend has since stated that this was a one off performance and that he is not interested getting SYL back together or playing songs at future shows He posted to Twitter that he no longer feels the same connection to SYL s music and that this performance was closure for him and Strapping 62 63 In an interview on the Metal Hammer podcast Townsend said that while he still connects to the music SYL required him to go to extremes that took a toll on him 64 On his own website he reiterates that SYL was a project that he eventually perceived to be harmful to his mental and physical health 65 In 2013 he played Love at concerts in Mexico and Chile as a cover song but later expressed regretting the decision saying it confuses people 66 Townsend would occasionally perform an acoustic version of Love during his An Evening with Devin Townsend shows through the UK in 2015 and 2019 In 2016 on tour with the Devin Townsend project he would sometimes play a humorous acoustic version of Detox In 2019 he announced that during his touring cycle for Empath he would also perform SYL songs saying that It s a big part of what I do and it s a big part of who I am and I think I ve denied that for a certain amount of time 67 Townsend played several SYL songs during the 70 000 Tons of Metal festival including Aftermath Love Detox All Hail the New Flesh and a live debut of Almost Again from the 2006 album The New Black 68 Musical style influences and lyrical themes EditStrapping Young Lad is known for their industrial 69 70 thrash metal sound 70 while also blending it with elements of black metal 70 death metal groove metal and noise 71 72 Many of the band s songs showcased Townsend s versatile vocal style often changing from screaming and growling to clean vocals 73 or even falsetto 74 within the course of a single song According to Townsend the band functioned as his outlet to freak out 43 and his two main projects the more melodic The Devin Townsend Band and the aggressive Strapping Young Lad were supposed to be the positive and the negative 75 To achieve a chaotic and cacophonic sound the band utilized complex time signatures 76 polyrhythmic composition 77 blast beats 16 sampling keyboard effects and intricately layered production Townsend used the newest technology available such as Pro Tools Steinberg Cubase and Logic Pro when recording mixing and producing the band s songs 78 As a self proclaimed fan of multitracking he created an atmospheric layered wall of sound which became a hallmark of the band s production style 79 with the exception of their self titled album which featured no samples or vocal layering 80 Townsend s musical ideas and production style have drawn comparisons to Phil Spector 79 and Frank Zappa 38 Strapping Young Lad mostly eschewed guitar solos until The New Black which featured a more heightened emphasis on melody than their previous albums 81 Influences Edit Strapping Young Lad drew influence from a wide range of music genres most prominently but not exclusively heavy metal Townsend cited amongst others Judas Priest Jane s Addiction Zoviet France Grotus and Frank Zappa as his influences 41 and also expressed his admiration for Meshuggah on several occasions calling them the best metal band on the planet 77 Simon and Stroud listed classic hard rock bands like AC DC Led Zeppelin and Kiss and old school thrash and death metal bands like Exodus Slayer and Morbid Angel among their influences 82 83 while Hoglan s influences range wildly in style from Stevie Wonder to progressive rock drummers like Neil Peart Terry Bozzio and Nick Mason 84 Townsend stated his main influences for Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing were Napalm Death and Fear Factory 85 City was influenced by bands such as Foetus and White Noise 2 and The New Black s influences were Meshuggah and more traditional metal like Metallica 86 Lyrical themes Edit Far Beyond Metal 2006 0 25 source source Far Beyond Metal from The New Black is a parody of traditional heavy metal The song had been in the band s live repertoire since 1997 with lyrics changing practically every performance Problems playing this file See media help Townsend was the band s primary songwriter While the first two albums were solely his work subsequent albums featured a minority of riffs lyrical ideas and song titles by his bandmates 87 Despite the brutality of Strapping Young Lad s music their songs contain hints of tongue in cheek humor and self parody Frequently Townsend s lyrics approached serious personal or political issues with a morbid sense of humor He has likened the band s sense of silliness to that of Weird Al Yankovic 31 Townsend s lyrical influences covered a wide range of themes including warfare 22 mathematical theorems 88 and movies 89 He also used the technique of cross referencing repeating lines from his own works such as older Strapping Young Lad or solo material 89 Live performances Edit Townsend s unique Skullet hairstyle and aggressive stage persona have made him one of the more memorable faces in the metal community 90 Strapping Young Lad was known for its energetic live performances mostly owing to the eccentric appearance and persona of Devin Townsend 91 92 Adrian Begrand of PopMatters wrote Nobody in metal today has the same kind of commanding stage presence as the self professed Bald Bastard Devin Townsend and called Strapping Young Lad one of the best live bands around 93 Townsend was famous for his on stage antics he integrated his ironic and tongue in cheek humor into live shows and interacted heavily with the audience He would deliver comical and often insulting remarks to them 94 organize circle pits 93 and parody heavy metal cliches as well as the genre itself 95 The band s humorous approach was also evidenced by a song frequently performed live from 1997 entitled Far Beyond Metal a parody of classic heavy metal It became a live staple and a fan favorite with lyrics changing practically every performance 50 Although it was recorded live on No Sleep till Bedtime and on the For Those Aboot to Rock DVD a studio version was not recorded until 2006 during The New Black sessions The band was also sarcastic about their own Canadian heritage they used Blame Canada a comedic anti Canada song from South Park Bigger Longer amp Uncut as intro music at many concerts in 2003 and 2004 96 97 For a period of time Strapping Young Lad also played Townsend s solo material live In 1998 after the release of Infinity they began performing both Strapping Young Lad and Townsend s solo songs as two separate sets It was not until the 2003 release of Accelerated Evolution that Townsend formed a separate band called The Devin Townsend Band to act as his full fledged solo band 98 Discography EditFurther information Devin Townsend discography Studio albumsHeavy as a Really Heavy Thing 1995 City 1997 Strapping Young Lad 2003 Alien 2005 The New Black 2006 Band members EditFinal line up Edit Devin Townsend lead vocals guitars keyboards 1994 2007 Jed Simon guitars backing vocals 1995 2007 Byron Stroud bass backing vocals 1996 2007 Gene Hoglan drums 1996 2007 Former members Edit Adrian White drums 1994 1995 Ashley Scribner bass 1994 1995 Mike Sudar guitars 1994 1995 Session members Edit Chris Bayes drums 1994 Smokin Lord Toot drums 1994 Chris Meyers keyboards 1994 Note The pre City touring line up consisted of Townsend Simon White Scribner Sudar and Meyers Dave Young keyboards 2005 played on Alien Will Campagna keyboards samples backing vocals 2002 2006 played on Strapping Young Lad and The New Black Touring members Edit John Morgan keyboards 1997 Dave Genn keyboards 1997 Matteo Caratozzolo keyboards 1997 1998 Jamie Meyer keyboards 1998 1999 Jason Filipchuk keyboards 1999 Chris Valagao keyboards 2002 Will Campagna keyboards 2002 2004 2007 Munesh Sami keyboards 2003 Jon Miller bass substituting Byron Stroud July 14 31 2005 99 James MacDonough bass substituting Byron Stroud August 1 13 2006 100 Timeline EditReferences Edit Rocca Jane Devin Townsend interview Loudmouth 1997 Iss 2 a b c d Devin Townsend interviewed by Tony on 3RRR FM Melbourne The Church of Devin Townsend April 1997 Archived from the original on December 13 2007 Retrieved January 31 2008 a b Bromley Adrian January 10 1995 Bracing for Success CoC interviews Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad Chronicles of Chaos Archived from the original on December 16 2007 Retrieved January 31 2008 Devin Townsend I Don t Have Anything To Say With Strapping Young Lad Anymore Blabbermouth net July 4 2006 Archived from the original on December 2 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 a b Townsend Devin 2006 Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing Reissue CD liner Strapping Young Lad Century Media 8259 a b c Lee Cosmo July 31 2006 Strapping Young Lad The New Black Review Stylus magazine Archived from the original on February 13 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Filcetti Gino January 10 1995 Strapping Young Lad Heavy As a Really Heavy Thing Review Chronicles of Chaos Archived from the original on February 16 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Stout Andy Strapping Young Lad Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing Metal Hammer April 1997 a b Vasilakos Konstantinos 2006 Strapping Young Lad Interview with Devin Townsend MetalEagle Online magazine Archived from the original on February 12 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Gene Hoglan Interview Music Legends Archived from the original on September 28 2013 Retrieved July 3 2013 Sheils Liam Strapping Young Lad City Kerrang February 1 1997 Iss 633 Top 20 Albums of 1997 Metal Hammer December 1997 a b Strapping Young Lad ALIEN CD Release Metal Rules com March 23 2005 Archived from the original on March 28 2005 Retrieved January 31 2008 a b Rademacher Brian August 11 2005 Interview with Jed Simon Rock Eyez Webzine Archived from the original on December 7 2007 Retrieved January 31 2008 Bergman Keith Strapping Young Lad The New Black review Blabbermouth net Archived from the original on February 14 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 a b c Begrand Adrien March 25 2005 Strapping Young Lad Alien review PopMatters Archived from the original on December 2 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 The 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time Revolver 2002 September October 100 Most Important Albums of the Nineties Terrorizer February 2000 Iss 75 Strapping Young Lad Are All Rocked Out Exclaim July 2006 Archived from the original on May 21 2017 Retrieved April 28 2008 Vance Neil The Tape Ran Out Buzz magazine October 1998 Strapping Young Lad Official Biography Century Media Archived from the original on January 1 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 a b Justin February 10 2003 Strapping Young Lad interview Metal Storm Archived from the original on March 8 2021 Retrieved January 31 2008 Gramlich Chris February 2003 The Reluctant Return of Strapping Young Lad Exclaim Archived from the original on December 2 2008 Retrieved April 28 2008 a b Strapping Young Lad Axeman Rocks Out On Three Fronts Blabbermouth net January 23 2002 Archived from the original on February 14 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Strapping Young Lad To Record New Album Blabbermouth net December 21 2001 Archived from the original on February 14 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 McKay Aaron June 12 2003 The World Makes Way CoC interviews Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad Chronicles of Chaos Archived from the original on February 16 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Strapping Young Lad Enter Studio To Record Third CD Blabbermouth net September 16 2002 Archived from the original on February 14 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Strapping Young Lad Enter Billboard Heatskeekers Chart Blabbermouth net February 20 2003 Archived from the original on February 14 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Smith Nate 2003 CD Reviews Strapping Young Lad SYL Rockzone com Archived from the original on January 5 2008 Retrieved January 31 2008 Hoose Xander April 16 2003 Strapping Young Lad SYL Review Chronicles of Chaos 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