Strung Out - Exile In Oblivion (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Strung Out

Exile In Oblivion (2004)

Fat Wreck Chords

We have another identity crisis in the world of metallic skate punk. California stalwarts Strung Out's newest effort, Exile In Oblivion, is the band's sixth proper full-length, following 2002's American Paradox and more or less the Live In A Dive album released last year. It's also showing a trend most bands usually dip into later in their discographies.

Whether it be in tone or mood, many bands seem suspect to showing significant variety in their songs after several full-lengths. With the first half of Exile In Oblivion, which is noticably harder than its predecessor, you'll immediately notice how the standard Strung Out sound has definitely taken on some hardcore tones in places. Sure, Strung Out's discography has always been fairly hardcore-influenced, but never more has it stuck out than now. It also helps that you can really hear the double-bass drum in spots. Quick dashes of "chug-chug shout" are splashed here and there, giving the early portion the band's darkest overtones since Twisted By Design, using them effectively and almost never forced, but there are times the mixing makes them seem ridiculously misplaced. "Kataonia"'s hardcore segues are cool, but the transitions sound-wise are so awkward. The sound is nice and full during the riff-drum-crash-shout, with everything seemingly turned up to 11, but when it transitions back to its normal pace right after, everything in the mix seems to quickly retreat to 5 when listening to it on headphones.

However, the second half walks in and it's like a new album. Strung Out threw all the poppy stuff here, and the sequencing is downright weird as a result. It all starts with "Anna Lee," co-penned by producer Matt Hyde, and continues all the way through the end of closing track "The Misanthropic Principle." "Swan Dive" is the most noticeable of these tracks, probably acting as the future single with Jason Cruz's vocals reaching pitches he used to hit constantly - which is actually another problem with the disc. Even with the aforementioned almost-growls, Cruz's style never really strays from ever mixing it up, at least much less so than past work.

The record is competent if not generally underwhelming in spots, and should be a definite bit of satisfaction for those disappointed in American Paradox, as it's not only a slight improvement in songwriting for the most part but visibly throws in more influences, which can be found scattered about the album. The biggest problem is still its sequencing - the less melodic stuff really needs to be spread out, and a way needed to be found to let the second half mingle with the first instead of separating them compilation-like.