For this album, Devin recruited a permanent lineup consisting of Jed Simon on guitar, Byron Stroud on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums. This lineup went on to record all the following SYL albums. The album is about the city of Los Angeles, where Devin used to live for a while and where he also wrote Ocean Machine - Biomech album. Bonus track Centipede samples a percussion loop from the song Happiness In Slavery by Nine Inch Nails.
(Songs 10-14 are bonuses)
Velvet Kevorkian - Crazy intro that easily could've been merged with the following song.
All Hail The New Flesh - Right from the beginning it's noticeable that the whole band is playing instead of just Devin. Production is much better too. Unfortunately, the song starts off well but ultimately goes nowhere. Still better than anything from the debut though.
Oh My Fucking God - Don't like this one too much even though it's one of their most popular songs. Too chaotic and with shitty sped up vocals from Devin.
Detox - This one is a lot more coherent although a bit repetitive too. Good chorus though.
Home Nucleonics - Too chaotic.
AAA - One of the better songs on this album, probably because it's slow and not too chaotic. Cool chorus too.
Underneath The Waves - This one is good too. It doesn't meander too much from the verses/chorus structure which makes it good.
Room 429 - Interesting song with a cool keyboard intro. Very creepy atmosphere and almost no chaos. More of this please!
Spirituality - Forgettable plodding song.
Centipede - Some cool parts but overall way too long and repetitive.
Home Nucleonics (Demo 1996) - Not much difference compared to the final version.
Headrhoid (Demo 1996) - Forgettable joke song.
Detox (Demo 1996) - Again, not much difference compared to the final version apart from the more dry production.
AAA (Demo 1996) - Same as other demos.
Overall: Much better than the debut, but still has too many random/chaotic moments. Those moments might be SYL staples though... Dunno how much they do it on later albums. I'd like to hear more of stuff like Room 429. Best song(s) / vote(s): Room 429, AAA, Underneath The Waves
I went with All Hail New Flesh, Detox, AAA, and Room 429.
City is probably the first consistently listenable Devin album. It's also the beginning of Devin exploring the idea of dichotomies and albums that complement each other. This is like phase one of Ocean Machine and represents a lot of the same themes but from a completely different angle. It's the start of the bipolar personality coming out in the music. You definitely hear the sound of LA in this. It's ugly, it's fast-paced, it's aggressive. It intentionally shuts the listener out. Even compared to other SYL albums, it's very rigid. Very industrial sounding. It's a huge improvement on the previous albums, but like NP said, it's still way too chaotic for my tastes. The only SYL album that really did it for me was The New Black, and at that point, it's obvious he's over the SYL thing. But I do like this album conceptually and there are some good songs. The layering has improved and there are some really solid riffs. It's starting to come closer to the Devin Townsend I like. The flashes of genius are starting to stretch into full length songs.
Room 429 is interesting, it actually kind of reminds me of the zanier stuff on Synchestra. AAA has a fantastic groove. Centipede is a bit of a throwaway but it does have some interesting moments that could've been great if fleshed into full songs.
"Imagine if the Joker (of the Christopher Nolan universe) finally killed Batman and then formed a extreme metal band and took a bunch of acid to celebrate...and then ultimately committed suicide in a complete manic breakdown all whilst laughing"
Pure. Unbridled. Chaos.
(That was a bit over the top, but it was the best I could think of at the time).
Lots of bands do fast. Lots of bands do heavy. Lots of bands do complicated. Townsend is just something else. It's not the speed or the tuning, it's the layers. Layers and layers of seemingly disjointed sounds (some musical, some not) that come together and pummel the listener. I almost couldn't listen to it initially because it was just too overwhelming. The weird newscaster samples with the ambient keys and the machine gun beats of Hoglan married with Townsend's banshee wail and reverb drenched speed picking...it was bizarre and unlike anything I had previously heard.
I kept coming back to City because of the sense of melody. Yes, melody. Despite all of the madness, Townsend still has quite a knack for creating melodies that you can't get out of your head. They're buried under the gobs of audio, but they are there. And unlike so many other metal bands, Townsend doesn't solely rely on dissonant phrasings to evoke insanity. He's probably one of the few metal musicians who could write a song in the major scale and still rip your head off. All Hail is a perfect example of that. Not every riff is 'evil sounding', but they are all brutal on this record.
And the grooves...if you can't headbang to the breakdown in 'Underneath the Waves', then you're probably not alive...
I also included Spirituality in my vote because I love the vocal line.
This was his first album where I thought "this was a proper album - all solid tracks from start to finish". No filler all killer. Though ironically I can only listen to it in small doses because of the chaos.
This album was first released as "Biomech" under the band name "Ocean Machine", but was soon afterwards re-released under Devin's name. It was recorded once, delayed, then completely re-recorded because Devin wasn't satisfied with the first version. Devin considered Strapping Young Lad a "little project" that was a "parody" and not the intended focus of his music, and lamented that Ocean Machine, which he described as "the music that was really close to me," was largely dismissed upon its release. However, the album was met with favorable reviews and is still revered as his best ever album. The band consisted of Devin, JR Harder on bass and Marty Chapman on drums. Chapman died in 2014. The album was played live in its entirety twice last year, and the performance of it in Plovdiv was DTP's last (for now) live performance. For that performance, JR Harder played bass despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, so he was sitting down during the entire show.
Seventh Wave - First minute of this song is already better than everything Devin recorded so far. To me, the riffing and the production sounds like a weird Dream Theater and Alice In Chains combo, but still very original. Everything about this song is perfect. Verses are progressing nicely throughout the song and the chorus is one of Devin's best ever. Such a relaxing song too. Devin isn't really trying to prove anything here unlike in SYL with the chaos and aggression and it shows.
Life - It's incredible how one guy can write such a happy song like this one (well, musically, dunno about the lyrics) and some of the SYL stuff. This song could've easily been a huge radio/video hit. It's uber catchy, not too heavy and has great vocals. Rare guitar solo appearance too!
Night - Another classic Devin song. Apart from the heavier breakdown in the middle, another song that easily could've been a big hit. Main riff and keyboard beat are super catchy and there are multiple memorable choruses and pre-choruses.
Hide Nowhere - After three hit-ish opening songs, Hide Nowhere is a bit more unconventional. It doesn't have a traditional verse-chorus structure, but there's still some kind of a chorus. There are also weird choir parts which later became more of a norm for Devin in his DTP days.
Sister - OK interlude but nothing more than that.
3 A.M. - I had to turn up the volume because I can't hear anything here. Why two interludes in a row?
Voices In The Fan - Weird song with some creepy cool parts and... church choir last minute and a half?!
Greetings - Starts off in a promising way with a very cool riff but ultimately goes nowhere.
Regulator - First song since Hide Nowhere that is a proper full song with an ending And it's an awesome one too! There's again some electro/keyboard influences and the guitar/drums are very simple, but it works and the powerful chorus rounds it all up. Might be the most aggressive song on the album.
Funeral - And now the epic 4 part ending of the album begins. This is a very simple song with a catchy beat that never changes throughout the song but Devin's vocals completely carry it. He gives it his all on this song and it's especially noticeable on live performances how emotional of a song it is for him. Throughout you can already hear the beginning of the next song which is...
Bastard - What a fucking riff this song has. Might actually be the best riff of Devin's career and one of the best riffs ever. Monumental stuff. "Nighttime, all around, lonely in the city around" part gives me chills every time. Awesome delivery. And then the vocals only get better. And while the main riff drones on from the beginning until the 2nd part, it never ever gets boring. Then another epic riffing part begins at 4:13. Just the 1st part of the song (called "Not One Of My Better Days") is enough to be in Top 5 of Devin's entire career. 2nd part (called "Girl From The Blue City", which starts with the lyrics " The lights from across the harbour") is also cool but not as good as the first one.
The Death Of Music - This song strips away almost all of the music to make space for Devin's best performance ever. There's only a faint electronic pulse and a single bass drum, and later some orchestrations, but this song is mostly just Devin. He gives it his all here. At first you think it can't get better than the buildup from the faint whisper to more pronounced singing to a final crescendo of the chorus. But then the song kind of stops until the "Don't die on me" part which is even more epic. The orchestrations appear, the beat remains the same but Devin goes higher and higher with his vocals and it can't get more epic than this. If this song doesn't win the Survivor, y'all are crazy.
Thing Beyond Things - Cool closing track. It's hard to top the previous 2 songs, but this song does a very good job. It's another emotional ballad with simple instrumentation and Devin's vocals carrying it. It ends with an insane inhuman scream from Devin, which he seems to have held back throughout the entire thing. Probably a SYL leftover
Overall: As we are way too early in the discography, it's hard to pinpoint how high I'd rate this album. But I know it's awesome. With a bit of trimming (songs 5-8), it'd be a nearly perfect album. This way it starts off in an awesome way, meanders a bit, then finishes off in an epic fashion. Best song(s) / vote(s): The Death Of Music, Bastard, Seventh Wave, Life, Regulator, Thing Beyond Things
Ocean Machine is incredible. He really hits his stride here. As a counterpart to City, it makes for a perfect contrast. Everything comes together on this album: the production, the songwriting, the flow. It’s not my favorite Dev album, but it’s the first one that feels like a fully realized project. I like the way it meanders in the middle. Interlude tracks and stretches of the album where not much is going on is a mainstay for Devin and I like how this album has a sort of intermission before going into a pretty musically dense ending. It helps the pacing IMO. It’s immersive too. Another common trait and one of Devin’s greatest strengths is his ability to make each album its own world with the atmosphere and even album artwork. Ocean Machine is one of the strongest albums in that regard.
The first three songs make up an incredible run. Seventh Wave, Life, and Night are all top ten worthy. I definitely agree with NP on the Dream Theater meets AIC comment. It has that epic opener vibe that you get on a few DT albums but the heavy riffing of AIC. Amazing chorus too (as is the case with most of the songs here). Life and Night are some of Devin’s most accessible tracks. They’re also really deep lyrically despite the relative musical simplicity. Life has an awesome guitar solo. I saw Devin open with Night once, great way to start a show. All three of these get my votes. Hide Nowhere is solid too but a step below the first three.
Voices In the Fan is a cool tune. It has an awesome beat, a catchy chorus, and some solid riffing. It’s a very unusual sounding track too.
I always forget about Greetings but it’s also a nice track. Again slowly getting away from the ambient side of the album.
Regulator is awesome. It’s a nice way of easing listeners back into the sound that was presented on the first half of the album before going into the more complicated material on the album. Devastating riffing. This song is probably a ton of fun live.
Funeral is another song with a 90s grunge/alt rock sort of sound. Maybe Janes Addiction? Great track either way with an awesome groove and buildup. Love the breakdown toward the end. Great dynamics.
Bastard starts off with one of the greatest, sludgiest riffs Devin ever wrote. It’s simple but absolutely perfect. So much atmosphere in this track. Nice call and response between the vocal parts and the main riff. It’s a great vocal melody too that sees some cool instrumental variations about halfway through. The Girl From Blue City is much more atmospheric than the first part. I always find myself getting lost in it, in a good way. It’s very hypnotic. Awesome ending.
It’s pretty incredible what he was able to do with just an electronic drum beat and some ambient sounds on The Death of Music. A fantastic exercise in minamalism. Devin gives a fantastic performance and the song has an intense buildup. Perfect way to close the album.
Thing Beyond Things - I have a hard time seeing this as much more than a bonus track since it’s even labeled as such on the CD. It’s a really nice track though, almost like an ending credits piece. Not that unlike some of the more mellow material he’d write for DTP. Kinda similar to some stuff on Terria too. Good wind down after the intensity of the last three tracks.
This is the first time in the game that I wish I had more votes. It hurts to leave out Voices In the Fan and Thing Before Things because those are really good songs, but the quality on this album is just insane. I ended up going with Seventh Wave, Life, Night, Regulator, Funeral, and Bastard. Death of Music is getting plenty of votes so I decided not to vote for it to make room for another song.
All I can say is that Biomech/OM is Devin's "Number of the Beast". It's his most highly visible album that everyone seems to adore, but like NOTB, I personally rank it somewhere in the middle.
I completely agree with Mosh that Devin's accessibility and melody come out here. It balances nicely with the early barrage of anthems, the interludes in the middle, and the epics toward the end.
I do agree with NP that things could have used some trimming or fleshing out more. Devin's stream of consciousness style means that some ideas don't get the treatment they probably should have deserved. Greetings in particular builds and has a cool chord progression towards the end, but then it doesn't go anywhere else...I tend to not be a fan of interludes unless they are used sparingly/purposely and I think Devin could have benefited from an editor here.
Even though it feels like a 'proper album', I think the album could have used a better closing track or two. Things beyond things really does feel like a a b-side/bonus and I don't think a ballad works well to wrap things up after a emotive ambient track. I actually would have preferred to see another bouncy anthem track close things out (also...I'll remember to never fall asleep listening to this album due to the false ending!)
But I can't fault the production, song writing, evocative imagination that Devin provides overall. I love his 'ethereal prog pop/metal' style that became his foundation for most of his solo run.
I didn't really pay attention the first time I listened to it and then for some reason held it off a long time despite thinking about it a lot, but 2 days ago I heard it again and it was very good, so here are my first impressions:
Seventh Wave: This is the only track from the first listen I really felt, it's lengthy, the lyrics are great and the wall of sound really makes this track work. That heavy dive before "watch the seventh wave" is great.
Life: Very optimistic sounding and very poppy, I like it it's very fun and has a good solo.
Night: I don't know why I connect Life and Night but they remind me of each other, maybe just the one letter title But I guess it's also a pretty easy one, the chorus is the highlight for me and I guess it's really like a counterpart to Life...
Hide Nowhere: Another great heavier song, the layers do it wonders but also make it bouncy? Listen to the part after the scream in the middle, whatever the word I'm thinking of is it contributes in making it sound grandiose.
Sister: I really like it because it sounds like such a calm interlude especially after Hide Nowhere but there's still so much noise in the background. Great
3AM: Another interlude but much quieter than the "calm" Sister. Beautiful and the atmosphere matches the title.
Voices in the Fan: I don't remember this one that well honestly, but I think it was a little progressive and happy. It's good, I guess it's the centerpiece of the middle 4 songs which are like a bridge connecting Hide Nowhere and Regulator/
Greetings: I like it, very happy as well. Not much to say about it...
Regulator: Awesome awesome awesome and very crushing, REGULATOOOOOOOOOR!!! I love it. Devin's screams and the keyboard are amazing.
Funeral: I love it but I don't remember why. Maybe whenever I relisten to the album I'll remember it more
Bastard: Probably heaviest song on the album, the riff is huge and the lyrics are great.
The Death of Music: Absolutely the best song here, Devin's best performance on the album easily and while I didn't hear any other Devin album I imagine it's one of his best in his entire discography.
Thing Beyond Things: Didn't really care for it much, just alright I guess... I was still digesting the previous track lol
I guess I'd order them as so:
The Death of Music
Voices in the Fan
Thing Beyond Things
As almost everything in SYL this record is a metal extravaganza and a parody of itself. The main point here is to be relentless to the point no one has been before, saturating the listener with samples (the dude had just worked with Fulber in FLA), breakneck speed paced instrumentation and screams to the point of being ridiculously fun. If you expect anything from this record except except power speed great samples and fun then this is not for you. Plus the riff after Exciter isn't the Wicker Man: It's Running Wild by Judas Priest (same sequence as Unleashed In The East) that Maiden kind of copied. And what to say about young Devin's horror story as an Intro or Satan's Ice Cream Truck? Priceless.
Do you like extreme metal with an industrial edge, have a twisted sense of humor and don't mind laughing about the stereotypes of the genre? Pick this one and have a ball!
- Great Songs: SYL, In The Rainy Season, Goat, Happy Camper, Satan's Ice Cream Truck.