Review Summary: Another quality release from Strung Out. Nobody is surprised.
I know it's not a typical way to start a review, but "Black Crosses" is a perfect song. There are bad songs, good songs, great songs, classic songs, and perfect songs. The songwriting in "Black Crosses" is a perfectly balanced, excellently executed melodic hardcore song with a rich set of dynamics, an unfailing sense of flow and purpose, a rock-solid theme, and a soaring chorus that can make your naughty parts clench with joy. Everything about it is amazing, and it ranks up there with "Calling" from their previous album as a corker, excellent album opener, and frankly they're two of my favorite songs of all time.
The entirety of Agents of the Underground
does not, unfortunately, live up to these lofty standards. If it did, I'd be on the news as the person whose head burst because his testicles tried to escape their skin prison, shoot through my internal organs to my brain bucket and become swollen enough to pop my top like a cheap balloon... all in an effort to try to be as badass as that theoretical album would have been.
If you're unfamiliar with Strung Out
, they're one of them hybrid punk bands that have the sensibilities of modern radio punk, the grit and intensity of hardcore, and the technical fireworks of a metal band. In particular, Strung Out
has been lauded as one of the best bands to do this style of music. While their new effort won't cause testicular cranial rupture, it's not a disappointment and any fan of the band will find a lot to like here.
The basic formula is here and as vital (if a bit less relevant) as it ever was: Tweedle leads, dukka dukka punk beats, bubbly bass, plenty of chug, and singsong choruses that still manage to not shoot for the cheap seats entirely, but show a definite sense of the easy hook. This formula works both for and against the band, as it hasn't entirely changed much since they decided to adopt metal tendencies early in the double-oughts. In other words, depending on your listening frequency of the band or similar bands, it might be getting a bit stale by now.
Also, it seems sometimes (but not too often) they suffer from Soilworkitis
, or serving the chorus at the expense of everything. Granted, I'm finding it hard to find any exceptionally weak sections of Agents
, but when in comparison to the amazing Exile in Oblivion
, the sharpness of their hooks has been dulled a bit. However, with gems like "Vanity", "Jacknife", and the title track, you won't notice it too much.
Agents of the Underground
is Strung Out
to the bone, but an older Strung Out
. Their focus has narrowed a bit on this release from their previous albums leaving the dynamics a bit shallow, but it's a worthy album in a catalog full of quality music. It's a better album than its predecessor, and if you're a big fan then this is a no-brainer.