Album: Strapping Young Lad – Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing

1995, Century Media

1995, Century Media

  1. S.Y.L.
  2. In the Rainy Season
  3. Goat
  4. Cod Metal King
  5. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
  6. Critic
  7. The Filler: Sweet City Jesus
  8. Skin Me
  9. Drizzlehell

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the mighty Devin Townsend‘s first solo album, so I thought it was well worth revisiting for the sake of posterity.

I will be the first to admit that I did not groove to this album when it came out. As you might get from the title Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, it’s not big on singalong melodies. Back in the heady days of 1995, it was too alien for me, and it was only in revisiting it 10 years or so later – after drawing the connection to Devin Townsend who I had latched onto in the meantime – that I had laid sufficient musical foundation for it to have a place to bed in.

I am neither a musician nor a visionary, and I do not easily embrace new things; the music I like now absolutely stands on the shoulders of the music that went before it. Notable examples that I rejected out of hand when I first heard them, which within a couple of years went on to become two of my favourites, were Carter USM (on Top of the Pops in 1991) and Korn (on some-metal-show in 1994). I really didn’t understand what was happening to my face, and it was only time and intervening layers of other music that moved me to a place where I could actually hear it.

[…if you will, it was like inaccessible content; I had to go and level up my music experience before I could unlock those musicians…good grief, I actually said that…]

I digress! The Devin Townsend Project, Zimmer’s Hole… while Townsend is incredibly talented, and I really enjoyed the humour that seemed to thread through everything else that he touched, that is not as apparent in this album. You’d think with tracks titled Cod Metal King and Goat that there might be more room for having a bit of a giggle, but the music and lyrics both feel like much more of a protest and a wholehearted “Fuck you” than anything else.

Actually, with the benefit of Wikipedia and the album notes from the remastered copy, that all bears out. I won’t simply re-type what I’ve read, as if it was all my own research; in fact, it’s funny as fuck so I’ll just include Devin’s own words at the end of this.

The album itself, I really like now. It’s not my favourite, because it misses that mischievous spark and devilment that appeals to me in Townsend’s other projects. But it is balls-out, loud, an interesting mix of noise… and it’s great for thrashing along to. I am not going to go back through musical timelines to see who did what when, and who might have influenced whom, but in places Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing has elements of the same rolling, dirty, industrial sound that is present in most of Revolting Cocks – Linger Ficken’ Good, and also in White Zombie and Fear Factory stuff of the same era…but then with the next track it leaps feet-first into out-and-out thrash metal.

I’ve been punched in the head before in my life – twice in fact. I have no desire to ever get punched in the head again. Due to this, there are certain tracks that as soon as I hear them, they send me scurrying for the corners of the room without a backwards glance because I know what’s coming. There is one of those particular tracks on Heavy As… called Happy Camper. As soon as it kicks off, you just KNOW it is going to trigger a furious meat-grinder of a circle pit with the kind of fists-and-feet frenzy that I simply do not have the balls for.

That for me is the special thing about this album; it’s heavy, but loads of different kinds of heavy, and heavy that I had never heard before, all in one place. Was it ground breaking? Honestly, I don’t know enough about everything else that was around at the time to be able to stake any money on it. Sue me.

You also get a couple of tracks with that signature Townsend vocal, the soaring, ethereal wail that wouldn’t be amiss in a darkened cathedral in any good horror movie soundtrack.

For me, this is not the best album, but I do feel that it’s significant, and worth your time to witness the first flourishes of the genius that is Devin Townsend. My personal favourite track is Skin Me;

Also, as promised;

SYL1 SYL2 SYL3Enjoy.

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