Devin Townsend has always remained at the forefront of maniacal metal bands with a sound only Devin can make. This is particularly true with his efforts as frontman for STRAPPING YOUNG LAD backed by Jed Simon, Byron Stroud, and Gene Hoglan. However, their newest release, The New Black, strikes out in a slightly different direction. Unlike the majority of SYL‘s catalogue, this release does not contain what have almost become Devin‘s trademark vehemence, anger, and aggression. Instead, The New Black covers more satirical subject matter reminiscent of SYL‘s original debut, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing. Tracks such as “You Suck,” “Anti Product,” and “Fucker” (a.k.a. the ‘untitled’ track) very clearly poke fun at both the mob mentality of modern metal fans and the ridiculous censorship that so often takes place. Even the name of the album itself is the band’s attempt at over-the-top marketing approaches. A report from Devin just prior to SYL‘s recent tour on Sounds of the Underground stated that he intended the band to be the pubic hair in the otherwise edible cake that is that tour. The New Black is exactly that. However, songs such as “Monument” and “Wrongside” show that the band still has a flare for both melody and the theatrical. Overall, the songwriting on The New Black is slicker and more palatable than previous albums, but there is still plenty of experimentation throughout. Nearly all of the vocals are a bit higher pitched than normal, but this does not detract from the sonic juggernaut of the album.
Fans looking for an even more aggressive or intense follow-up to City or Alien may be disappointed with this release, but fans both old and new should find this release more than worthy of praise as one more talented, thoughtful middle finger in the face of mainstream metal. (Century Media Records)