STRUNG OUT: Songs of Armor and Devotion: CD

Something’s evidently clear with Strung Out’s output in the last decade: the band has something to prove. One of Fat Wreck’s mainstays, they’ve always been known for “metal tendencies,” and while that’s technically true (I suppose), it often doesn’t tell the whole story. I recall Fat mail order catalogs from twenty plus years ago stating: “These guys spend their time packin’ bowls and listening to Pantera.” Again, probably true, but while Another Day in Paradise and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues had some ripping guitar parts, they were very much typical (and pinnacle) SoCal skate punk records of the era. What I’m getting at is they’re poppy and catchy. The metal thing sounded like more of a mild attribute than a main characteristic. When people refer to skate punk as “pop speedmetal,” Strung Out fits this definition like a glove. That’s likely more accurate. Now, back to this “something to prove” thing—the metal influences appear to have morphed over the years. The former emphasis seemed to be on almost thrash-like riffs, where now (while those riffs are still there), a lot more melodic guitar leads are both present and constant, almost Maiden-esque. If the group’s mission was to let the world know that they’re insanely talented, those paying attention have received the message loud and clear. From transmission.alpha.delta, to the chances they took on their last (mostly acoustic) EP, this new record almost seems like showing off at this point, but it isn’t. Strung Out are just that good. This is what they do. Fans have been fans for a reason, and Songs of Armor and Devotion (is that a nod to their old hit “Ultimate Devotion”?) shows that off well. –Steve Adamyk (Fat, fatwreck.com)