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STRUNG OUT Songs of Armor and Devotion gets 7.5/10


Strung Out
Songs of Armor and Devotion
Fat Wreck Chords

7.5/10

The latest offering from U.S. thrash punkers Strung Out marks their ninth full-length studio album in almost 30 years. Following 2018’s stripped back (and quite disappointing) Black out the Sky EP, which debuted newly recruited drummer RJ Shankle following the controversial departure of the highly respected Jordan Burns, Strung Out had a lot to prove with Songs of Armor and Devotion.

The opening track, Rebels and Saints, kicks off with a simple bass run before Shankle grasps the opportunity to show off his chops with a high tempo and roll-heavy drum intro. From there we’re thrust into the double-time drums and familiar guitar tones that instantly transport ageing skate punk fans back to the glory days of 1998’s Twisted by Design.

There’s plenty of nostalgia present as the album progresses with throw-backs to the classic albums of the late ’90s and even a nod to 2000’s more obscure The Element of Sonic Defiance EP in songs like Hammer Down and Disappearing City, which should keep die-hard fans happy. Unfortunately, this nostalgia can also sometimes feel like lazy recycling. The opening riff of White Girls midway through the album sounds like it could have been lifted from any of Strung Out’s last three albums, and though it was easy to quickly fall in love with one of the stand-out tracks of the album, Bloody Knuckles, the line “Bloody knuckles stain the walls and poison fills my lungs” bears a little too much resemblance to a personal favourite line from Party in the Hills, “Breathe in deep, let the poison fill your lungs,” from the Blackhawks over Los Angeles album.

It was also disappointing to notice that the catchy chorus melody in Diamonds and Gold seems to show up another couple of times in other songs on the album.  Despite this, Jason Cruz’ vocal performance is on point and, bucking the trend of a lot of current punk releases, isn’t produced to within an inch of its life. There are parts where you feel like his voice is on the verge of cracking as he pushes out those emotional high notes.

Songs of Armor and Devotion is a thoroughly enjoyable album and there are some epic moments that suggest the band had a bit of fun putting this album together (the dive-bombs and 80s metal-inspired leads in Demons being a case in point). It’s fast, it’s catchy, and Strung Out prove that every member of this band can still shred.

There will be those who will no doubt say “It’s not as fast and relentless as Suburban Teenage Wasteland or Twisted by Design,” and it’s not, but it’s no slouch of an album either. In fact, it really is a sweet album from start to finish and it’ll have you bouncing around the room and amping you up just like Strung Out did when you were 15.

TONY WESTWOOD

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