Retrospective: Strapping Young Lad – “Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing”

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Ya know, when you dig into early works of Strapping Young Lad, you start to realize just how ridiculous the career the career of Devin Townsend has been. Of course, we all love his newer work, specifically everything released as The Devin Townsend Project, and we have discussed such content at length here and on The Nine Circles Podcast, including more of that later today (spoiler alert). But what we don’t revisit quite enough, at least in my eyes, is the project that kick-started his solo career… Strapping Young Lad. And the album that started that particular era is none other than Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing. (Side note: Also one of the best album names of all time.)  

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: Strapping Young Lad wasn’t a solo project, it was band. You’re right… except your not. Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing under the pseudonym Strapping Young Lad was almost entirely a solo effort. A couple tracks may have included session musicians and there may have been a drum machine, but the rest? All Hevy Devy. In fact, virtually everything he had done in his career before this album was under other musicians, most notably Steve Vai. As such, it’s certainly one of the more notable albums in his career. Oh, it also came out in 1995. Which means it turned 20 this year. That’s insane.

I’m sure we’ve at least covered 2006’s The New Black at one point or another. And at that time I’m sure we made note about how over the top that album was in lyrical content and style. Well, as aggressive as that may have been, Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing is simply on another level. It’s a fantastic fusion of thrash, death, and industrial metals that can never decide what they want to be over the course of the album. But, ya know, even if Devin may frown upon this collection of tracks today, it is still something to appreciate. It opens with a rather creepy spoken passage (something about a bear eating a kid or some shit) by a 3 year old Devin at the outset of “S.Y.L” that more or less confirms we are in for a bit of a wild ride for the next hour or so.

Despite it’s ridiculousness, some of my favorite Strapping Young Lad tracks of all time are on this album. I’m referring to “In The Rainy Season” and “Japan” specifically, which both evidence the crunching riffage and complex time signatures that define this album, and really much of Strapping Young Lad. This album was heavily paced at times with those aforementioned tracks,”Cod Metal King” and “Drizzlehell”,but I couldn’t talk about this album without mentioning the chaos of “Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)” and the endlessly amusing “Satan’s Ice Cream Truck”, which plays out exactly as the name would suggest. I encourage blasting that in a car while driving through an urban area. Just because. Oh, and “Exciter” is just stupidly thrash cheesy. Look, there are some awesome songs on this album that feature some impressive musicianship and just the right level of catchiness in the choruses, but at the same time it was clear that Devin gave absolutely no fucks. And frankly, that’s totally fine by me. Oh, and it was performed live with visual specimens such as this. Another winner.

Is this an album that will go down in history as one of the best metal albums ever? I wouldn’t expect that to be the case. But it is a defining album for both a genre (take your pick) and an artist? Absolutely. This began the run of incredible work from Devin Townsend that continues through this day and it would be unfair to not give it the recognition it deserves in its 20th year. Whatever recognition that may be. Anyway, I included a YouTube below. Take a listen and get weird with me.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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