You were waiting for it? SO WAS I!! It is with a huge privilege and honor that I was appointed to review the most recent studio album of Strung Out. Back in 1994, the Californian metal-influenced punk rock band came out with their first album, Another Day in Paradise, and here we are today, 25 years later, with their 10th album called Songs of Armor and Devotion that was officially released on August 9th, 2019. Strung Out is my favorite band of all time, so the expectations were very high. Especially since I had been waiting for more than 4 years since their previous and very solid record, Transmission Alpha Delta (March 2015). So, without further delay, let me introduce you to this highly anticipated album that coincides with the group’s 30th anniversary.
Many people, including myself, were concerned by the departure of the former drummer Jordan Burns (1992-2018), but trust me when I tell you that the band did a VERY great job in finding a suitable replacement for Jordan (RJ Shankle). I would even say that if I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t even have noticed that change. I think that Strung Out, during their still brilliant career, are one of the few punk rock bands able to renew their own style on every album and remain true to themselves. And it is such an achievement in the punk rock world! Songs of Armor and Devotion is literally an anthology of all their previous albums in ONE!
In fact, as soon as you start listening to this opus, you can hear at the very beginning of the first song, Rebels and Saints, a familiar bass rhythm heard 23 years ago on Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues with the song Firecracker. So I told myself “Wow, sounds like old school stuff here!” That song encompasses an amazing solo that blew my mind. I started to think that it was a perfect album. Shortly after came Daggers, a song we had the privilege to listen to earlier as it is one of the 2 singles the band released, and it’s probably the most metal-influenced song you will hear on this album! Ulysses is an emotional track perfectly balanced between punk and metal, and you will enjoy listening to this gem from different angles.
When I first heard the fourth song, Under the Western Sky, which was the second single, I was a little disappointed because it’s the most “mainstream” song of the album, but after listening to it many times along with the rest of the album, I came to appreciate the song because of the next one. Monuments is a monumental song! The true essence of punk rock and Strung Out themselves lies within this song. It’s a classic, fast and enjoyable track you’re going to put on your next homemade compilation! The album is so good that I won’t bother you with more details. Let me just say that all the following tracks are incredibly awesome and that you won’t skip a single one. Among them, Demons, Hammer Down and Strange Notes are some of the songs that more “easily” got my attention.
Finally, what we have here is a true masterpiece of punk rock, emotions, melodies and so on. The guitar is at its best. We can also feel that Jason is in excellent shape because it shows in his voice. Strung Out can’t be compared to any other great band such as Lagwagon, Bad Religion, NoFX and Good Riddance because, like I said before, none of those bands can renew their own style like Strung Out do. The greatest achievement of the band was the release of The Element of Sonic Defiance in 2000. Never before we had heard such a perfect mix of 2 styles (punk and metal) and this is what Songs of Armor and Devotion is all about: a perfect balance between old stuff, current stuff, slow/medium and fast stuff. My expectations were high, indeed, but there is no place for disappointment here. It is without any doubt the 2019 album of the year! It might even be the best Strung Out’s record so far… Yours to discover!