Strung Out - Songs of Armor and Devotion (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Strung Out

Songs of Armor and Devotion (2019)


If you're a Strung Out fan, it's hard to argue with you about them making bad music. It really is. Time after time, even when they don't hit the mark, this band conjures something so dynamic and so powerful, whether you're a staunch supporter or not, you have to put them down in the punk hall of fame. I've been listening to them since my high-school days and honestly, they haven't put a bloody foot wrong and Songs of Armor and Devotion is once more testament to how fucking good they are. In fact, I don't really care for whatever flak I might catch, this may well be their best record ever.

What makes this album stand out is simply, balance. Everything has the right mix of finesse, rough edges and overall, you get something that's polished but still, kinda not. And that duality is what makes Strung Out tick as one minute it's melodic punk, then it's skate or post or hardcore or whatever the hell they wanna do. And all of these sounds combine so well here on an album I honestly thought would be heavier, but still the light, quick pace (and dare I say breezy aura) truly makes Jason Cruz's vocals stand out. You've got pop-punk jams that fans of New Found Glory or Millencolin can enjoy in "Rebels and Saints" and "Ulysses" which at first glance, did feel overproduced but the more Cruz's vocals sink in, yeah, the instrumentation stands out. And as they work their magic, it's not hard to pinpoint the band's iconic sonic signature.

Which sets the stage for the fury to come later on, especially midway, with the more technically tricky aspects of the band cutting loose, all made for melodic punk fans. "Daggers" and "Hammer Down" are two of these standout tracks here, reminding me a lot of A Wilhelm Scream's recent work as well. You've got lightning-quick riffs, a lot of energy and hooks to die for. Seriously, fans are going to enjoy these songs live because the choruses are so damn catchy and shoutalong, yet so well-timed to the musical background. They're not too fast, or too heavy... and I think this helps Cruz, as his more laid back approach here really allows him to work his lyrics in. I mean, he's really put his best stuff out to date I think (especially with "Ulysses" and "Hammer Down") so I've got to commend him for that as I did feel the last EP could have been a bit more impactful in terms of lyrics. But I'd be remiss if I didn't also heap praise on Jordan Burns' replacement on the kit, RJ Shankle.

It's some of the best drum work on any Strung Out record and by the time "Disappearing City" and "Politics of Sleep" bring around messages of personal struggles and of course, America's sociopolitical snapshot today, you can't help but feel Shankle's work truly adds the heft and vibrancy needed to fill Burns' legacy. Honestly, I could go on and on, but there are too many songs here to highlight. It's an album that has so much replay value and one you can start anywhere and just let it rip. Transmission.Alpha.Delta was incredible but this here is unbelievable -- and a next level. That said, it's glad to see the decades haven't slowed Strung Out down, not one bit.