For those of you for whom MTV and VH1 are the pinnacles of musical education, and for those of ye who treat music like Fish Macs, and for those of you who are blissfully unaware of the great music that surrounds you (yet remains undiscovered hence hidden well away from your lazy ears), SYL is an industrial thrash metal band created by Devin Townsend. DT is a musical genius (and I never use that kind of glorificatory terminology lightly when describing rock's bipeds) who sings, screams, shouts, plays guitar, writes, and produces SYL (and a host of other projects).
SYL isn't for everyone. Indeed, even the vast majority of metal fans find their music to be too experimental, too abrasive, and far too original. Too much quality will always put off vast numbers of people. SYL is the anti-Slipknot; I think that sums it up well.
After the fairly disappointing "Aboot To Rock" DVD - with its barely audible guitars (a disaster for any metal gig) - Townsend released the second-best music DVD that I've had the fortune to watch. (The all-time best being Ministry's 1996 "Sphinctour" DVD.) Three sections on this DVD: "Download" festival, extra live stuff, and video clips.
The "Download" gig is one of the best I've ever seen. The picture quality is perfect, the sound is very good (we can hear the guitars for a change, and Dev's vocals sound powerful and unjaded), the editing rather fine, etc. While the "Aboot To Rock" gig contains some inferior/mediocre SYL material, the Download set-list has no dull moments at all. Sure, "Love?" isn't much of a song by Devin's standards, but even average material sounds great when presented with this kind of wall of sound. Kudos for sticking "Aftermath" and "In The Rainy Season" into the set-list; along with "All Hail The New Flesh", these tracks provide the most memorable moments. The only "flaw" I can think of is the short running time: 42 minutes isn't adequate given SYL's large, quality-laden discography.
A bonus is DT's standard practice of goofing around on stage: the self-deprecating quips, the "insults" aimed at the audience, and other silly/absurd comments between songs. Devin is unique in that sense; the vast majority of metal bands, especially the frontmen, take themselves far too seriously. So it's rather ironic that a guy who is infinitely more talented than 1000 Slipknots and 5000 SOADs should have this kind of playful attitude. It's very refreshing. If more metal bands had a down-to-Earth approach, then maybe the entire scene wouldn't seem so childish to outsiders. When everyone dresses in black (like in some damn fictional quasi-military composed of T-shirted morons) and constantly gives the "horns" sign with their index/small fingers, then what is badly needed as an antidote to this kind of mindless posturing is someone to puncture that balloon of self-deluded machismo, and no-one recognizes this need or does this better than tongue-in-cheek DT.
The extra live footage is a mixed bag. "All Hail The New Flesh" looks and sounds great, but the audio track is slightly off-synch with the picture, plus I suspect there was some major doctoring of the sound (which I'm essentially not opposed to). "Detox" is from the same gig, from what I remember, but in it DT's voice is totally shot, it sounds awful. Why didn't they cheat on that track too, by improving the sound? "Skeksis", one of SYL's best songs, is featured as well, even if the sound-quality (read: guitar-noise levels) aren't up to the usual 21st-century standard. No idea why they threw in the mediocre "Love?" - of all songs: the damn thing appears no less than THREE times on this DVD, i.e. in each of the three sections. "Home Nucleonics" is taken directly off the "Aboot" DVD, but we'll forgive DT for that one...
I've never been a fan of video clips; they're far too dull, and a tad moronic. Nevertheless, the clip for "Almost Again", the best track from the "New Black" album, looks quite good. "SYL" and "Relentless" are fun too, the former featuring a young 1995 DT, looking like a 12 year-old impersonating a rock star; an interesting clip for those who discovered SYL late, hence might have missed the clip. (Something tells me it wasn't in heavy rotation on any of the major music channels ) And, as mentioned earlier, we've got "Love?" here - yet again. "AAA", "Spirituality", "Shitstorm", "Underneath the Waves", and "Monument" are nowhere to be found, and yet this totally forgettable song gets overkilled. Don't ask me why.
Despite some (minor) flaws, this is a must-have DVD for people who feel that Norah Jones's music doesn't quite do it for them.
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