Devin Townsend and the boys of Strapping Young Lad are back already with a new release titled The New Black. Mr. Townsend has been a busy man over the last two years, releasing SYL's Alien, his solo project Synchestra, partaking in the Sounds of the Underground tour, opening up for Fear Factory as well as Opeth, this summer's Ozzfest tour, AND he and his wife just had a baby. Might sound like too much to handle for most people, but Devin's always been a pretty hectic worker over the course of his career. With all this activity though, The New Black sounds somewhat rushed, many of the riffs sounds a little too familiar, and some of the lyrics seem a little forced. But hell, it's a SYL record, so of course you can expect plenty of the same kind of metal mayhem that the band has made famous over the years.
One thing you will instantly notice is that the guitar riffs from Devin and Jed Simon seem a little busier and more complex this time around. Songs like "Decimator", "Antiproduct", and "Monument" bristlle with rapid fire patterns and intricate fills, while monster drummer Gene Hoglan and super bassist Byron Stroud provide the relentless rhythms. Even "Wrong Side" rampages along with reckless abandon, complete with Townsend's evil growls and plenty of twin lead guitar solos, something that has been lacking the last few albums. However, many of the tracks here are fairly short, and just as the listener begins to really get into a piece, it ends. In fact, seven of the eleven songs here are less than four minutes long, a few less than three, which is a little unusual for a Strapping album. The meatier pieces tend to be the longer ones, like the grinding crunch of "Hope", with its heavy riffs and bubbling electronics, the progressive speed metal of "Far Beyond Metal", and the powerful title track. "Almost Again" is a neat melodic rocker that could have easily fit in on Townsend's solo album Synchestra, but you'll shake your head a little at "U Suck" and "Fucker", two amusing numbers that ultimately get repetitive due to the excessive expletives.
With Townsend's recent admission that he is unsure of the future of SYL, you have to wonder if The New Black was put together quickly to fulfill a contract, or whether he just wanted to complete this one to take time off to be with his family. Judging by the majority of the music here, it's obvious that SYL still has lots of life left in the tank, but perhaps they need to take an extended break and come back fresh in a couple of years. The end result here is a solid extreme metal album, but certainly a step down from Alien, which might have been the apex of Strapping's career so far.
2. You Suck
3. Anti Product
5. Wrong Side
7. Far Beyond Metal
8. Almost Again
10. New Black