Strapping Young Lad - Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing review


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Band: Strapping Young Lad
Album: Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing
Release date: April 1995

01. S.Y.L.
02. In The Rainy Season
03. Goat
04. Cod Metal King
05. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
06. Critic
07. The Filler - Sweet City Jesus
08. Skin Me
09. Drizzlehell
10. Satan's Ice Cream Truck
11. Japan [2006 re-issue / Japanese bonus]
12. Monday [2006 re-issue bonus]
13. Exciter [Judas Priest cover] [2006 re-issue / European bonus]
+ S.Y.L. [video] [2006 re-issue bonus]

And now time for something completely different.

Raw, visceral and hate-fuelled, the opening offering by Strapping Young Lad is pure frustration spewed upon the world in a 40-minute sonic blast. The synthesis and packaging of such aggression is what comes to define Heavy As A really Heavy Thing, a melting pot of thrash, industrial, melo death and death metal melded together with the guiding hand of mad genius Devin Townsend. Sit back and feel the power of the music blast you away like a gale force wind, it's a hell of an experience.

The highlights of the record are the ones that signpost where Devin would go in the future, both in his solo ventures and when Strapping Young Lad became a band proper (being a one-man band here). Tracks like "S.Y.L." mix the power and melodic aspects perfectly and create a song that can beat the crap out of your senses before filling in the cracks with a feeling of euphoria. Similar to this is "In The Rainy Season" and "Critic", which focus more on the pummelling aspect whilst still having melodic threads put through.

Much of the rest of the record is fun and compelling, if not as immediately resonating, with tracks like "Cod Metal King" and "Skin Me" featuring a more experimental (tweaking a formula that's barely established at this point) approach if that were possible, the former being a hypnotic rising and falling groove and the latter playing around with effects like they were going out of style tomorrow. Both add a sense of dynamism on a record that could have gotten stale had it stuck rigidly to its guns.

The issue of getting stale and one trick pony is thrown far out of the window with the inclusion of the novelty songs which are…odd, to say the least. "The Filler" and "Satan's Ice Cream Truck" are fun oddities to begin with, before they veer over the edge into insanity as you watch the descent into madness from the top of the cliff, finding an odd feeling that you were once on board with the song but got off before it drove full speed into the abyss.

Given the circumstances around the album's creation and that Townsend was a relative rookie at this point, there are moments that come off as rough and raw in a bad way; rather than sounding abrasive and cathartic, they sound like the product of oversight or budgetary restraint. There are moments where the production fails the music and pulls you out of the immersion that the album had lured you into up until that point. The bridges in "In The Rainy Season", for example, sound very thin, with the bass sounding like it was being played on a string of fishing line and the drums reverberating like hollow thuds. Similar issues pop up here and there across the rest of the album, with parts of "Drizzlehell", "Cod Metal King" and "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)" suffering from the same problems.

Further to the circumstances around the creation and the nature of the music as a means of emotive release for Townsend, it does lead to moments where the music is not compelling enough to carry the same aggression as on other parts of the album. "Goat" is a waste of space on the record, personally; it barks as loud as the rest of the record but it lacks any bite when it comes down to it.

Townsend's playing on the record (as mentioned prior, the band was just Townsend) is a mixed bag; he has talent and creativity in spades and that is evident throughout the record, but he has yet to fully harness its quality and bring it to bear on the album. His vocals are at times a bit lacking in power or misexpression while his guitar playing is a bit flat; while they are still head and shoulders above many, here, it does drop on occasion. The use of a drum machine does rob the songs of the power live drums can provide a record, never pushing the music on top of it higher and as a result creating a flat experience that doesn't help give the record grooves into which the listener can fall and feel the music from.

If you want to listen to something completely different then I would highly recommend putting Heavy As A Heavy Thing on; it is so far out of left field that even Mr. Bungle would think twice before embracing insanity in the same manner. A compelling listen but one with noticeable nicks and scratches here and there that are growing pains, but ones that show flaws.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 9
Production: 7


Written on 12.10.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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