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Sefany Jones Reviews Strapping Young Lad Live in Hollywood

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, September 23, 2003 @ 4:11 PM

Strapping Young Lad Live at th

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Strapping Young Lad… now this is one of those bands I’ve “heard of,” but never actually heard their music or had the first clue about who they were or what they played. All I knew is that some freak-ass looking lunatic by the name of Devin Townsend helmed this band with his inexplicable hair. At the persistent nudging of KNAC writer Chris Hawkins, who touts Townsend as nothing less than ‘genius,’ and the fact that SYL were on tour with my own personal metal gods, Superjoint Ritual, I decided to check these guys out to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. Well, it would appear I have been missing out since 1995…

Now, having missed their set two weeks earlier when they were in town with SJR at the House of Blues, I did however have the pleasure of meeting some of the band at that show afterwards. Drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Jed Simon and keyboardist “Mush” were about as sweet as they come. Teddy bear Gene made trips back and forth to check on his elderly parents that were at the show – his dad proudly sporting an SYL t-shirt, Jed was cracking Canadian jokes and Mush was just the kind of guy you just wanted to pinch his little chubby cheeks! I mean, come on… how metal could these nice boys be…?

Two weeks later, I got my answer – along with an education in metal and a good sonic ass-whoopin’!

I showed up to the Whisky fairly late, skipping out on Intestinal, Strangulation, Dizkord, Shadow Academy and Artisan. SYL was sandwiched between Cathedral and Samael, headlining. I mean, come on – eight bands on a Sunday night? I must be getting old, ‘cause I couldn’t hang with that. Anyway, it only took me about 10 seconds into Cathedral when I decided it wasn’t for me and snuck out elsewhere until SYL came on.

I’ll admit it: I just ASSUMED Strapping Young Lad was going to be this repetitive, cookie monster growling death metal band. Why did I think this? I dunno – same reason a lot of us just judge a band by their name, or their lead singer’s appearance – what have you. I mean – I tried the week before to sit through Hate Eternal’s set… and I just couldn’t do it. I want to like Erik Rutan – I do – but it was just unbearable. But since SYL was so cool and accommodating to me before, I was willing to grit my teeth and give it a chance…

What I got was an ultra tight-knit audio pummeling of brutal and yet melodic riffs drenched in sickness and in light-hearted humor.

Devin Townsend’s vocals are anything but “cookie monster.” This man is just an absolutely fascinating frontman to watch. He has the most intense facial expressions – he’s got those Charles Manson eyes, just spearing daggers into you. His in-between song banter was more of that of a circus barker: “I feel like 10 pounds of shit in a five pound bag… but thank god my hair looks good!” He said the funniest fucking shit in between songs – I wish I could’ve written it all down…

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Guitarist Jed Simon is Zakk Wylde’s evil twin on crack. His fingers were a blur most of the time, and I think I saw his face twice through his mane of sweat-soaked hair in his face like Cousin It. Even railing his flying V’s at lightening speed, every riff stood out and echoed in pure clarity. Keyboardist Mush attacked his keyboard like he was wrestling a thousand pound alligator munching on his loved ones. He was banging his head so hard I was sure he must have key prints ingrained into his forehead. Hilariously enough, later he told me about a time he actually did smack his noggin one time so hard, that he would never, ever do it again.

Bassist Byron Stroud kept the low end brutal and crushing. Seemingly the quiet one of the bunch, he mostly kept to himself and just pounded out the rhythm in perfect synchronicity with drummer Gene Hoglan. And what a trip that Hoglan is… fucking badass, monster-sized drummer, sitting up straight with perfect posture as his hair blows in the breezes of a fan, spinning and throwing his sticks, catching them, never missing a beat. I mean, this guy looked so relaxed you’d think he was sunbathing on the coast of France or something – but here he is, annihilating the skins like Tyson kicking the shit out of his girlfriends.

SYL blasted off tracks from their albums Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing and City, as well as quite a few tracks off their latest self-titled CD, released earlier this year on Century Media. When it came to an end, there were no encores, no confetti cannons or pyros or fireworks… just a deafening buzz in my eardrums and an education in metal: Never judge a book by its cover – you just might miss out on something far beyond your expectations…

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