stink hot at 5am
when the machine starts up again
the sky is still pink
all hail the new flesh
Strapping Young Lad began as a solo project by the Canadian Devin Townsend (hailing from Vancouver) in 1994 with the intent "to punish the senses of the metal underground, and to create their own niche of labyrinthine metal". Townsend, having previously gained experience singing with Steve Vai on the Sex and Religion album (at the tender age of 19, no less), and playing with British rock band The Wildhearts and Canadian industrial metal stalwarts Front Line Assembly, found himself at a loose end while trying to bring his Noisescapes (later Ocean Machine) project to a record deal (prior to his stint with Vai, he had sent a demo of Noisescapes to every record label ever- later starting his own imprint, HevyDevy Records, to distribute this and his subsequent solo releases). While he waited for positive feedback for Noisescapes, he bided his time with this heavy metal project.
1995's "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing" was the first release. The album lived up to its name; it featured Devin singing and playing all the instruments himself (except drums, which were played by one Adrian White; even then, he had programmed some drum loops on a machine for use on the album), multiple lyrical tirades against the music business (symptomatic of his annoyance at the continued rejection of his 'main' project), and entirely too many pictures of his ass on the inlay.
While not a critical or commercial breakthrough, did garner some attention upon which Townsend could later capitalise, not least that of legendary thrash drummer Gene Hoglan (he of Death, Death Angel and Testament), who, along with guitarist Jed Simon and bassist Byron Stroud (also of Zimmer's Hole, the latter of whom recently also joined Fear Factory), aided Townsend's musical endeavours through to the second SYL album, City, released in 1997. The Ocean Machine project was also finally released within a few months of the release of this album, giving the searing industrial/thrash heaviness of SYL a counterbalance with its flowing melodies. City was just as its name suggested; sleek, modern and nightmarish sounding.
After the release of No Sleep 'Til Bedtime, a live EP recorded in Sydney, Australia, Devin Townsend maintained for a while that he would not release another Strapping album and would instead focus on his self-titled solo projects (under which the albums Infinity (the strain of making which led to a nervous breakdown), Physicist and Terria were formed; later, the Devin Townsend Band became an officiality, with Accelerated Evolution being their first "official" release)- the reason he gave for this was that he had no more to say, and to make an album under a name as traditionally abrasive as SYL without actually being angry would be insincere. However, after the events surrounding the World Trade Center on 11/9/01 (dd/mm/yy) and the threat of invasion of Iraq, Townsend decided the time was right to write another SYL album, which was released in 2003; this time, a conscious effort to have an SYL album be a full band effort rather than just one man's vision- the result was certainly different from, but not necessarily worse than, previous SYL workouts. The tour for the album also saw the introduction of a permanent keyboardist, Matteo Caratozzolo.
All has been quiet on the Devin Townsend front lately, save for his production work with other bands and the fan club-only releases of Devlab and Ass-Sordid Demos II (a collection of ambient laptop workouts intended to be "a completely fucked record that complements schitzophrenia or Flu symptoms", and a collection of old demos from Noisescapes and Grey Skies, respectively)- but whether the next album proper is Strapping Young Lad or not, chances are it'll be unique and brilliant.
To quote the robot at the end of City, "Strapping Young Lad rocks my hairy anus."
1994 - Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (Century Media)
1997 - City (Century Media)
1998 - No Sleep 'Til Bedtime (live) (Century Media
2003 - SYL (Century Media)