Providing further proof that bald Canadians are indeed the future of music, Devin Townsend (in his long-standing role as leader of Strapping Young Lad) has again upped the ante on intense and progressive heavy music. For the past eight years, Townsend's SYL have been at the vanguard of metal's future, combining the epic pomposity of symphonic metal with an unrelenting, cyber-grind that out-heavies, out-speeds and out-hates pretty much any other band that dares call themselves "metal." "SYL" (the fourth album from the group) is their most hatefully punishing, a misanthropic romp through a post-9/11 landscape that's as frightening in tone as it is fascinating in invention. With lyrical flights of fancy that ranges from extreme violence ("I want you for your body/I want to see you fucking dead" from "Rape Song") to extreme absurdity ("dripping ... leaking/dripping ... cabbages" from "Dirt Pride"), Townsend proves a facility with words that far outstrips the Neanderthal rantings of most metal lyricists. (Thankfully, Townsend also manages to frame his war imagery in a distinctly left-wing position, condemning the war machine in "Bring On The Young" and unmasking the arrogance behind America's anti-Arab warmongering in "Aftermath"; it's truly refreshing given the gung-ho stupidity of many of his peers.) It's been five years since Townsend last loosed a Strapping Young Lad album into the world. Hopefully, he'll stay sufficiently angry to do the next one sooner.