Strung Out - An American Paradox
2002 (Fat Wreck Chords)
Jason Cruz - Vocals
Jake Kiley - Guitar
Rob Ramos - Guitar
Chris Aiken - Bass
Jordan Burns - Drums
Strung Out burst onto the scene in 1994 with their first album 'Another Day in Paradise'. The group soon gained a very loyal following with their awesome live shows and the support of Fat Wreck Chords. 'Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues' followed in 1996 and in 1998 band released 'Twisted By Design' which hinted at a heavy metal edge. The edge was fully realised with the 8 song EP 'The Elements of Sonic Defiance' released in 2000. 'An American Paradox' is the bands first album for four years and the sound is a halfway point between that of 'The Elements of Sonic Defiance' and 'Twisted by Design'.
I use the term punk to describe this album in the broadest sense of the word. The songs on this album range from pop-punk all the way to metal. One thing is consistent throughout the album though, the songs are all filled with fantastic musicianship and a great vocal delivery from Jason Cruz.
Jason's voice is at the forefront of this album. He can sing, he can scream, he can howl and he can whisper. In some songs he alternates between all the styles. He also has a sh
itload of power behind his voice. His vocals can change so quickly, in 'Kill Your Scene' he growls, he sings and he pulls off one of the best chorus's that I have ever heard. There's no doubt you'll be singing along "Shoot yourself and kill your scene, you are your own worst enemy". Go from that to the pop-punk sounding 'Alien Amplifier' and you really get an idea of his vocal range. In 'Razor Sex' Jason breaks down the whole song with an awesome screaming breakdown. It's hard to describe just how awesome Jason's voice is, you need to listen to this album just for his vocals.
Punk music is constantly understated by people for being 'Talentless'. Strung Out put most metal bands to shame when it comes to musicianship. The guitars are fantastic, the metal influences of this band can be clearly heard in the guitars with huge solos and super fast palm muting being the norm throughout the album. The two guitarists obviously take their time when it comes to writing their parts and the guitars work fantastically together. Right from the first song 'Velvet Alley' Jake and Rob show off their talents. The band can take simple chord progression and turn it into a work of art. Simply put the guitars in this album are awesome. Jordan Burns has constantly been voted one the best punk drummers out there. It's not hard to tell why on this album. Jordan isn't just fast, he's amazing. Listen to the outro of 'Velvet Alley' for an example. He's constantly adding variety into his technique whilst keeping steady some of the fastest drumming I've heard.
So we know the musicianship is awesome but what about the actual album? Well for the most part this album is good, very very good. 'Velvet Alley' is the albums first track and it's a Strung Out classic. It has fantastic verses, the chorus is very powerful and the outro is awesome. It's also well written lyrically. 'Kill Your Scene' is another great song. It's got a great chorus and it's got a huge element of power to it as well. 'Dig' is yet another standout song. It starts off with distorted guitar with flanger before the whole song kicks in. It's got a pop-punk sound to it as it's pretty upbeat. The vocals on the song are great and the chorus is pretty cool. 'Razor Sex' is basically a metal song with punk vocals but what a song it is. It's one the albums fastest and Jason gives one of the best vocal deliveries on the album. The highlight of the song is the breakdown where Jason screams "Step back as I set myself up for the kill, I might shoot myself in the foot while I swallow that pill". He goes straight from the breakdown back to his normal singing voice almost instantly. 'Cemetery' which follows 'Razor Sex' is the track that got me into Strung Out. It was released as a single as received quite a bit of radio and TV play. Lyrically it's the best Strung Out song to date. It's a haunting image of Los Angeles and so powerfully written. It's one of the best Strung Out songs there is.
There really is only one weak track here to me and that is 'UnKoil'. It could have easily sat on 'The Elements of Sonic Defiance'. It's an alright track it just doesn't seem to go anywhere. It drags and even Jason's vocals can't save it. For the most part the rest of the album is good, all the songs have well written lyrics.
'An American Paradox' is a good album. It has five outstanding songs, eight good songs and only one weak song. Jason's voice throughout the album is amazing and the musicianship behind the voice is equally impressive. There are a few flaws but they don't take away from the general enjoyment of the album. This is my favourite Strung Out album and it is worth a definite listen for anyone who likes fast and melodic music.
It's a solid 4/5 :thumb: