Strung Out - The Element of Sonic Defiance
Well apparently this was an EP. I downloaded this and it came with 11 tracks so when I heard that it was an EP I was kind of confused. Anyway, after some searching on the net it appeared as though I had got the three 'bonus tracks' with the album, so for the purposes of this review I am reviewing it as an 11-track (10-song) album, not an 8-track EP.
I first saw Strung Out live in 2001 at a festival, but didn't fully appreciate them. I was only aware of a few of their songs from Fat Wreck compilations, so I watched from afar at this band who were somewhere between hardcore Punk and unbelievably attractive melodic Punk played with remarkable energy and feeling. Bring the picture up to about five months ago and we have broadband finally put on in our house. Ah, the world of free music becomes available. Well I don't want to get into the pros and cons of downloading music for nought but let's put it this way: I went to see Strung Out last night and I wouldn't have if I hadn't downloaded their music. Anyway, I downloaded most of Strung Out's work from the past 12 years, and The Element of Sonic Defiance
hasn't really been getting much of a run on iTunes. I mean I'm not 'over' Twisted By Design
or Exile In Oblivion
yet. That was until I bought my ticket to their show a few weeks ago and started to listen to all
of their stuff.
has been described as a change of direction for Strung Out, the band taking a darker and more ominous approach to this record. Well it is more 'Hardcore' than its predecessor Twisted By Design
, and I think it's fair to say that the songs are largely less positive and more introspective and contemplative. There certainly isn't a “Matchbook” or “The Misanthropic Principle” on The Element
. It would be unfair to say that Strung Out portrayed a message of negativity on this record though, and the energy of the recordings is palpable. The bridge on Blew
- thanks to the beautifully crafted harmonies - is a rare uplifting moment in this half-hour of no-nonsense Punk Rock. The Element
has stripped down the Strung Out sound the loyal fans had become accustomed to and the difference between The Element
and Strung Out's other work of the time is unmistakable. The most obvious point is the lack of “Pop” (perhaps more accurately “Pop-Punk”) on this record, although SO's talent for penning an unforgettable bridge or chorus isn't lost on parts of Everyday Game
or Jacky O
showcases the Hardcore side of Strung Out while never losing sight of the confines of both the album and practicality. The opening tracks are undeniably far more 'Hardcore', as the second-half of the album (including the bonus tracks) loses the angst of Mission To Mars
. The first of the two bonus songs (Andre's Circus
is just a 30-second track of someone talking), Novacaine
takes the Strung Out fan back to Twisted By Design
and is even reminiscent of 1996's Suburban Teenage Wasteland
. The flowing chorus shows the tightness of the band with Jason (lead vocalist) complementing the band expertly. Mephisto-lofi
further supports the argument that The Element
is more than likely Strung Out's most diverse recording to date, showing that their traditional fast-paced melodic Punk can intertwine flawlessly with the Hardcore songs to construct a divergent yet nevertheless strong album.
Personally I find some of the Hardcore songs on this album a little overdone, but it is worthy to note that I am not a huge fan of Hardcore Punk. Mission To Mars
is just too angry and 'hard' for me, as it really fits more into Metal than Punk to a certain extent. Despite this it is a stellar example of Strung Out's diversity, of which The Element
is the shining example. Savant
falls largely into the same category as 'Mission To Mars', yet the best way I can describe the feeling of the first 10 minutes of the record is “as
s-kickin'”. Heavy, energetic Punk Rock that will probably evoke something inside you, more than likely either despondency or rage. The opening verse of Everyday Game
reminds me of 'Blueprint Of The Fall' from 2004's Exile In Oblivion
, and is almost equally as a good song. This is one of the stronger tracks on the album and the guitar work is of particular note. The way the song evaporates after the powerful bridge and solo is somewhat indicative of the feeling throughout the album, that of desolation and dejection. This outlook is carried over to the prominent Razorback
. One of the less 'hardcore' songs on The Element
, this powerful mix of simplicity and raw energy is indicative of the album in general: incredible energy and emotion placed over powerful Punk Rock with an overriding melancholy feeling.
Although I personally don't rate this as highly as Twisted By Design
or Exile In Oblivion
it is certainly an excellent addition to the Strung Out catalogue. The band extended its boundaries and pushed its limits and the result is the highly distinctive The Element of Sonic Defiance
. If you like this record there is no doubt you will love Strung Out's other stuff. One of the most outstanding elements of Strung Out for me is their uplifting and optimistic songs (such as Too Close To See
) which were sadly lacking from this album. Nonetheless The Element of Sonic Defiance
stands alone as one of the best “EPs” around, and the Hardcore element is certainly some of the best Hardcore Punk I've heard. Overall I have to give this a four out of five: it's a strong album - there is a distinct lack of 'filler' - yet it just lacks that exceptional element to be considered an undeniable classic.