A sense of humor is something that very few artists in underground metal possess -- and that's precisely why Canadian Devin Townsend and his wall-of-noise industrial-thrash outfit Strapping Young Lad stand out amongst the melee. City is a fine example of Townsend's metal-mad scientist approach (dubbed "Devy metal" by affectionate followers): An absolutely manic cyber-grind propelled by the elephant stampede kicked up by drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (ex-Death, Dark Angel), thickened by frenzied, nigh out of control guitar riffs and existing in a cloudy electro-haze of pulverized circuit boards crushed to dust, shot into the atmosphere, and breathed in by all involved parties. So this album's predecessor, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, was appropriately titled, although City is a smidgen more focused, mature, and, yes, heavy, although Townsend's subsequent solo projects, Ocean Machine, Infinity, Physicist, and Terria, are less overtly metallic, more fully realized, prog-influenced, and ambitious. What makes Strapping Young Lad most compelling isn't the band's capacity for schizoid arrangements, but rather Townsend's realization that the over the top clich?s of the metal genre -- which he robustly embraces with a maniacal grin -- are innately absurd. So he trots out irony-packed tunes such as "Oh My Fucking God," "All Hail the New Flesh," and "AAA" with such ridiculous bombast and bizarre, borderline non sequitur lyrics (a quick sample: "Devy in the corner of his teen year/Born to run away/Children in the middle with the village idiot/So he never made the potty grade" from "AAA"), all used to skewer the inherent ludicrousness of not just metal, but life in general. On the surface, City is a noisy excuse to put yourself in a neck brace, but closer inspection will reveal Townsend's mentally depraved genius, his mind weighted down with, um, really heavy things. [A Deluxe Reissue from Century Media was released in 2007.]~ John Serba
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