Stretch Arm Strong - Free at Last (Cover Artwork)

Stretch Arm Strong

Stretch Arm Strong: Free at LastFree at Last (2005)
WPO Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: thefineprintthefineprint
(others by this writer | submit your own)

So the new Stretch Arm Strong album, Free at Last, is upon us. There is, perhaps, only one word that I can use to describe my feelings towards this release: conflicted. SAS has delivered, without a doubt, a solid and very enjoyable album full of screams, hooks and melody galore. Despite this, the re.

So the new Stretch Arm Strong album, Free at Last, is upon us. There is, perhaps, only one word that I can use to describe my feelings towards this release: conflicted. SAS has delivered, without a doubt, a solid and very enjoyable album full of screams, hooks and melody galore. Despite this, the reality is that SAS has altered their style considerably from their earlier releases, and for a longtime fan, this is not quite the SAS that I has hoped would re-emerge following their relatively weak 2003 release Engage and a jump to a major label.

It could be that given my love of SAS's fast-beat, quick tempo, melodic, not quite metallic hardcore, I can't give this album quite the fair shake that it deserves. Rituals of Life and Revolution Transmission, are, for many a hardcore fan, stalwarts of their collections. The gut-wrenching yet coherent and understandable scream delivered by Chris McClane on these releases still sends a chill up my spine, especially when I crank my stereo volume up to 25. While on many of the songs of Free at Last the scream remains, the tempo has slowed somewhat and the fast-beat drumming that got my blood flowing those many times is, for the most part, gone. While exceptions exist, as on the excellent fifth track, "To the End" (not coincidentally, my favorite song on the album), minor breakdowns combined with a slower pace are abound on many songs, such as the sixth track, "When All Else Fails." Other great songs can be heard on the record, especially the killer single, "The Sound of Names Dropping," one of Stretch Arm Strong's best, "Faces," the third song, and "(This May Be In Fact) As Good as It Gets," the eleventh track.

Despite the general pace-slowing, it could very well be said that SAS have ventured into a new realm of more inventive, original songwriting. Generally, the songs have a more complex feel than those found on earlier releases. I often found myself hearing traces of Snapcase, and even occasionally Hot Cross. This is not to say that the album is consistent throughout; in fact, a few of the later songs on the album come across as relatively weak, including surprisingly, the original single, "Landslide," the ninth song, and the last song, an acoustic track entitled "A Time for Peace." While calling them filler would be terribly unfair, the imbalance in quality between these and earlier tracks is uncomfortably apparent. Production too, I feel, is not quite what it could have been. While generally solid, I simply feel that the guitars could just use some turning up, a problem I've heard on a few recent hardcore releases (the latest from Bane comes to mind.)

Lyrically, SAS remains as strong as ever. Their tradition of positive, passionate lyrics continues as the listener truly gets the impression that SAS has been through a lot in their long-running existence as a band. McClane consistently encourages the listener the take heart, especially in tough situations.

The ultimate verdict? This album cuts just in between good and great. While SAS have, without a doubt, produced their most mature album to date, it doesn't (and perhaps nothing could) stand up the greatness that is A Revolution Transmission. I want to love, cherish and embrace Free at Last as a milestone achievement for the band, but I just can't quite bring myself to do it. Definitely pick this up if you are a fan, you won't regret it, but bear in mind that isn't quite the SAS of the old days. Seven out of 10.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
ABedForLiars (September 2, 2006)

This album is so much fun to sing along to when the volume is so high that you can't hear yourself.

Anonymous (January 28, 2006)

Great Album! Go Get It!
Each track, better than the last!

TheCaptain (October 3, 2005)

How do you link this band to NOFX in any way?

Anonymous (October 3, 2005)

"Recommended if you like Story of the Year, Rise Against, Thursday, Nofx"

Oh man that sticker is horrible but the album is amazing! Score is for progression.

vocalyouth (October 2, 2005)

haven't heard this yet. rituals of life has been one of my favorite albums since like 98 or 99 whenever it came out, about that time. revolution transmission was pretty decent. engage totally stunk. i might pick this up, though.

TheCaptain (October 2, 2005)

I take back the "by far the best" comment, because Rituals is really good. But I still think Revolution Transmission edges it out. I wouldn't say it's poppy, it just has a few melodic moments here and there. But so does Rituals.

GreenVandal (October 1, 2005)

Fuck. I ment to say Rituals of Life.

The point is, I find Revolution Transmission boring. A few good songs, but not great. Rituals rules.

GreenVandal (October 1, 2005)

oh, and you must not have been paying attention during Revolution Transmission because nothing they have done since touches that one. Unless you prefer your hardcore poppy and with horrific singing or with horrible plastic coated production. That album is terrible.

GreenVandal (October 1, 2005)

Did you even read my second comment where acknowledged that I didnt hear this album so I dont know its lyrics?

Im a little reactionary sometimes.

TheCaptain (October 1, 2005)

"Im pretty confident that I could. Its not hard considering how bad these ones are."

Wait a second. You haven't even heard the album, and you're saying the lyrics are shitty?
You need to go play in traffic.

And A Revolution Transmission is a phenomenal album. By far their best.

Anonymous (October 1, 2005)


GreenVandal (October 1, 2005)

Well, again, I havent heard this one yet, so I guess I dont know how good these lyrics are...but Revolution Transmission and Engage were pathetic.

And what does it even matter if I can write as badly as him? Bad is bad.

GreenVandal (October 1, 2005)

Im pretty confident that I could. Its not hard considering how bad these ones are.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

I dunno, man... My lyrics are pretty damn god.


Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

"the lyrics just keep getting worse and worse (and they werent that god to being with)"

i assume you could do much better!

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

i didn't care for this at first, love it now. And these songs live are so fucking good.

takingchase (September 30, 2005)

the first time i listened to this i didn't care for it but I bought it anyways because I had a gift card to use up, I don't now what it was about the drive home listening to it but I really love this cd now. Not as great as their older stuff, but definitely a huge step up from engage.

And I don't see the Hawthorne Heights/Atreyu comparrison at all.

sickboi (September 30, 2005)

And don't get me wrong, I kinda dig that song, its catchy. In fact this album is growing on me, but it has some of the WORST lyrics the band has ever penned.

I mean, how the fuck do you go from songs like "Take Back Control" and "For What its Worth" to this cliche' dribble.

Again, I emphasize, that musically, I really dig this album. And Chris' screaming sounds as tight as ever, but the lyrics that one dude sings in that whiney voice...ugh.

sickboi (September 30, 2005)

Uh, have you not listened to "the Sound of Names Dropping"?

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

I want to feel sexy with the captain!

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

"That one song about touring and everything is kinda cool, but then it goes right back to the main theme of the fucking album...crying about girls"

Crying about girls? What songs do they do that in? Ugh, the ONE part of the album the singer mentions leaving his wife and daughter for tour...yeeaahhh, "crying about girls", ok dumbass.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

yeah, Chris all always done the screaming and David has always done the clean singing parts (which used to be very very limited)

sickboi (September 30, 2005)

When I say "new singer" I mean that homeboy didn't sing much before if he was in the band all this time.

At least I sure as fuck didn't notice, I thought Chris did all the singing before.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

what the hell is that guy below talking about "new singer"?
chris has been the singer since matt left after the "not without resistance" ep, which, by the way, was/is an incredible release for the date (1993). the "clean" vocals you hear is (most likely) dave. he's always been a great singer.

now, this isn't my favorite SAS release (i'm still of the opinion that "compassion fills the void" was the best as it only utilized 2 chords the entire album), but i've got to hand it to the guys, they've stuck with it and finally have a major label-backed record out. i think the guitar work isn't as good since scott left the band, but when a local band you've grown up with puts out a new album, you gotta give it support.

i still want to know when we're going to hear "the nail" and "respect" again. and get Donnie up there on some guest bass duties!

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

score is for south carolina!

superdude (September 30, 2005)

Dear Stretcharmstrong,


Ok, so listen to this. I was talking to Kyle, who said that you.... Oh, wait, nevermind. I wasn't supposed to mention anything.

I haven't talked to Kyle in a while, have you heard from him? Seriously, I haven't talked to him.

So what if you have a new singer. It's no big deal. Look how well bands like, oh, well, uh, Further Seems Forever faired.

By the way, who did you get to model on the cover of the album? I've never seen anyone with a square head.


Peace out,

sickboi (September 30, 2005)

Love the new music, hate the new singer. Seriously, the songs have great structure and you can definately tell its SAS, but damn that god has one, shitty, cry-baby voice.

And the lyrics? Meh...

That one song about touring and everything is kinda cool, but then it goes right back to the main theme of the fucking album...crying about girls.

TheCaptain (September 30, 2005)

I prefer their older style, but this isn't a bad change. Quality music.

My only real complaint is that the high-voiced dude shouldn't be allowed to sing. I don't know where they got the idea that he should take a more active vocal role. Probably a decision made by the record label.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

This release has grown on me, even thought I prefer old SAS better. These guys still put on a great show. 'To the End' and 'This may be in fact..' are a couple of the best tracks on this album. They could have cut out a good majority of the melodic singing.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

Comparing Stretch Arm Strong to Hawthorne Heights and Atreyu is soooo unfair. Do you know anything about this band?

If they were wearing eye shadow and expensive jeans signing about slitting their wrists over double bass I'd agree.

GreenVandal (September 30, 2005)

I have hated eveyhting this band has done since the rituals of life. They stopped being intense after that one and the lyrics just keep getting worse and worse (and they werent that god to being with) I havent heard this one yet, so I will reserve judgement, but I am skeptical at best.

Anonymous (September 30, 2005)

I like this record. Quite a bit. To The End is such a great song.

theundergroundscene (September 30, 2005)

yeah, i wasn't too impressed with this

even though i really wanted to be

inagreendase (September 30, 2005)

Booooo. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This still sounds like a melodic hardcore collaboration between members of Atreyu and Hawthorne Heights.

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