Review: Strung Out – Songs of Armor and Devotion

Strung Out: the return of the Giants

Any melodic hardcore lover who has been living on Earth during the last 30 years surely knows at least one album by Strung Out, and will be curious to hear their new album “Songs of Armor and Devotion“.
Obviously published by Fat Wreck Chords (a regular partner by now), this album creates an ideal link to “Agents Of Underground” (2009) thanks to the excellent production by Cameron Webb, who amplified the sound and made the final product one of the top 10 studio albums of the year.
But everyone’s wondering: does this record keep up without the kick and snare drums king Jordan Burns? The answer is: yes.
The well-known creativity and presence of the historical drummer is clearly missing, but RJ Shankle came to the aid of the fabulous 5, straight and at the top with his fast rhythm, borne by a pillar of the 4 strings, Chris Aiken, who proved once again to be a “tightrope walker” and plucked the E string like a real pro. What’s even more important is the extraordinary guitar work, made up of heavy riffs, whistles to the edge of power metal played at a disarming speed, which is a result of the technique developed during the years and employed not just to show strength, but also as a good hit in our auricles. Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos trained with their extra projects, and when they meet up, they always give off sparks and create unique pickings.

The evolution of the last years has done good, “Transmission.Alpha.Delta” was a very, very complex album, as if it was written by a team of architects, really close to the concept of a Propagandhi album; on the other hand, their last Ep “Black Out the Sky” brought them in a completely acoustic project, in which the band could freely express its American folk streak leaving the way open to the fresh sound of these new 13 treats.
The first single, “Daggers“, carries us away and brings us to the moon: tremendous toms and arpeggios stick out showing the more innovative aspect of Strung Out, with a stop in a discreet and soft decompression followed by a refined metal-oriented solo.
But the best is yet to come: as usual, the first track is not always the showcase of the entire album, but each song deserves a several and full-immersion listening; right from “Ulysses”, the atmosphere changes and everything becomes framed inside their habitual world, with that way of devising music that has always distinguished this band, and that 1990s taste we all love.
“White Girl” is a really amusing track, it makes you bang in front of the stereo thanks to a successful riff and a nice sing-along as a chorus.
“Strange Notes” is worth of applause and surely destined to become a great classic. I challenge anyone not to record his or her own tape with this hit on both A and B sides on repeat.

What’s missing? Jason Cruz. Loved and hated, but always envied, he’s still one of the most talented singers of this genre: with his biting and deep voice, he goes up and down, screams and daubs melodies that will last forever in your own mind just like the California sun does. The lyrics are very personal: the booklet shows he dedicated a lot of these words to a friend of his who recently passed away, and this makes it all deeply emotional. Is there any criticism? Of course: firstly, I’m not crazy about the cover artwork; furthermore, there are people who were disappointed by their live shows, and their sound is quite metal/emo sometimes; but throw all of this away, ‘cause the Giants are back in great shape and will accompany you in a fantastic journey.
Put your cap backwards, wear your plaid shirt, tube socks and hold a drink in your hand: “Songs of Armor and Devotion” is waiting for you in your favourite record store!

ALBUM RATING: 8/10

Reviewed by Mauro “Glue”
Translated by Chiara Piva and Alessia Baraldo

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