Usually when bands release EPs, the general idea behind them is to give the fans something to chew on until their next full-length or are as a place to put some songs that weren't good enough to go on the last album. Strung Out on the other hand, have managed to release an EP that feels more complete and thought out than most full albums. No, this is not your usual "few unreleased tracks, a couple live tracks" half-assed EP, this is a fully realized and thought out punk masterpiece and without a doubt, the most musically adventurous thing Fat Wreck has ever released.
Tracks like "Ice Burn" and "Mind of My Own" off their previous album, Twisted By Design, hinted at the changes to come but could not prepare the listener for the onslaught of opener "Mission To Mars," which is easily the heaviest song Strung Out have ever done. It has nothing you would expect from your average Fat band; Lighting fast double-kick, screams, metallic guitars, lyrics about space travel… I think we have the first prog-punk record on our hands.
We are then seamlessly transferred over to the next song "Scarecrow" where the rage and intensity of the first track are tempered and shaped into a more cohesive and melodic package. This song is a fine display of singer Jason Cruz's amazingly unique vocals and lyrical talent with lines like "I spend my days in the fear one day the wind will blow me away/The only thing that keeps me here are these string of mine that hold me down".
"Savant" opens up with a guitar riff the grim-reaper himself could strut to. However, as soon as the listener can get comfortable, the song shifts into overdrive and doesn't let up. This song is particularly interesting, as it deals with the topic of religion, something Strung Out has never really done before.
Then it's on to "Blew" where the listener is finally given an opportunity to relax for a little bit. This song is quite a departure from the light speed tempo of Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and shows the band trying to lay down more of a groove rather than play as fast as humanly possible.
The album picks up speed again with the soaring "Everyday". This is easily the best song on the album and quite possibly the best song Strung Out has ever written. The same principle as I said about Strung Out making an EP more complete then most LPs applies here too, as the band manages to create the shortest epic of all time at only 2:22.
Next track "Razorblade" picks up where "Blew" left off and shows the guitarists once again, experimenting with textures and effects. The next track "Jackie-O" is a reworking of an older song called "Jacqueline". Although production wise, it fits right in as a nice little lighter song before the end, it really isn't at the technical level of the other songs on this disc. Finally, the album is concluded with riff-fest "Mephisto". This is Strung Out playing with the technicality they are known for except this time with darker edge. It's also further proof that they can easily bite the heads off of younger bands like Thrice and Avenged Sevenfold in terms of musicianship.
With this album, Strung Out has created another genre bending masterpiece that further blurs the line between punk and metal. However, this outing leans slightly more towards the metal side and shows that the band sounds more like Deftones than Descendents now. One thing I've noticed though is that The Element Of Sonic Defiance sits on an awkward neutral that has caused it to become criminally overlooked. Diehard punk fans won't like it because it's too metal and diehard metal fans will never know of its existence because it's on Fat Wreck Chords. Maybe a few years down the road this album will get the legendary status it deserves.