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Strapping Young Lad

Alien (Century Media)

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Strapping Young Lad's Devin Townsend includes exclamation points in his liner-note lyrics, and his deranged delivery justifies the ostentatious punctuation. He chants "Fight!", screams "No!!", and rants about "Science!!! . . . and . . . Math!!!" in a tone that would make even the strictest homework-before-play parents back away from the door.

Townsend's manic intensity matches his band's imprisoned-in-darkness riffs and shooting-gallery percussion. Even when Townsend suddenly starts crooning, his jarringly smooth vocals reinforcing the impact of the already-massive choruses, the backdrop keeps thrashing.

Alien sticks to Strapping Young Lad's heavy-guitars-and-cresting-keys formula, with two notable exceptions. "Two Weeks," a crystalline psychedelic number filled with cryptic questions, feels like a transitional tune on a Pink Floyd concept album, while the album-ending "Info Dump" buries Townsend's talking voice under 10 minutes of malevolent mechanical fuzz. These tracks represent the opposite ends of Strapping Young Lad's sonic spectrum; on the rest of the band's tunes, melody and discord meet midway.

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