Strung Out - Agents of the Underground (Cover Artwork)

Strung Out

Agents of the Underground (2009)

Fat Wreck Chords

Disclaimer: I'm a huge Strung Out fan. They're one of my all-time favorite bands, I love every single album they've released and I've had their Astrolux logo tattooed on my leg since 1998. It's hard for me to review a Strung Out album without basically just reviewing the band. I've seen them close to 20 times and they have one of the most genuine and authentic punk rock attitudes of any band in the genre. Sure, their sound often strays dramatically from being standard punk, but they are never less than a straight-up punk band. These guys express their love and appreciation of the fans more than most bands and they always provide a high-energy and sweat-filled live performance.

Agents of the Underground is their seventh studio album and 13th overall release on long-time label Fat Wreck Chords. The band admits they've always sorta been the black sheep on Fat Wreck Chords, but they remain one of the label's highest-selling acts, a testament to the band's rabid, diverse and highly devoted following.

This record contains the usual mix of incredibly fast drumming, technical guitar and Jason Cruz's passionate and melodic vocals. For this one they changed up producers and went with Cameron Webb instead of Matt Hyde, the latter of whom produced their previous two albums. The album sounds a little more bass-heavy and thicker, and there is a noticeable difference in the vocal sounds, which sound less overdubbed and produced. This should be a welcome change to many fans who had complained about the way the vocals sounded on their last two albums.

The band doesn't stray too far from their usual formula, however. Some songs are heavier and more metal-influenced, while others are more pop-punk sounding (while still being technical and fast). The opening track, "Black Crosses," is probably the standout track on the album, but as with most of their albums I love every song and it's very hard to pick favorites.

Overall, this album is really a perfect combination of their various sounds over the last 15 years (while still heavily leaning toward the slicker production and more metal-influenced sound they've had since The Element of Sonic Defiance) and is a very appropriate 20th anniversary release. If you liked anything they've released in the last 10 years you will love this album, and if you gave up on them after Twisted by Design, this might be the record that brings you back.