Strung Out
Songs Of Armor And Devotion


4.5
superb

Review

by redhaze USER (1 Reviews)
August 9th, 2019 | 65 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Although not thematically cohesive, Songs of Armor and Devotion features a band at the top of their game having a mid-career resurgence.

Following on the heels of widely praised album Transmission Alpha Delta, Strung Out is back with their first full length album in nearly five years, Songs of Armor and Devotion. With the band undergoing lineup changes between this album and the previous release (namely the replacement of longtime drummer Jordan Burns), many fans were rightfully concerned about whether Armor would stand up to the lofty standards set by many of the band’s previous releases.

One thing that makes this album really different from the previous two releases is how much faster it is. Armor is really, really fast. Speedy riffs. Huge solos. Everything seems to be on overdrive here. There is somewhat of a cost to pay, however, as this album does not feel quite as sonically cohesive overall as its predecessor Transmission Alpha Delta did. On the latter, all the songs seemed to fit around a common theme musically and lyrically. The songs flowed from one to the next really seamlessly. Armor, on the other hand, is all over the place from song to song. Its not necessarily a bad thing, this album actually has a lot going on and feels more like a greatest hits album, consisting of favorites you just hadn’t heard yet. I think the idea here was some type of culmination of all the previous albums, its like the band took all they knew about songwriting and threw it all at this album. However, if there was one element that was stands out as the glue of Armor, it would have to be an almost sinister/dark vibe to it. It’s a cool touch that is hard to put your finger on but it is a somewhat consistent unifying theme throughout the album. It works, but it’s also a very different listening experience than Transmission. which felt more like a whole album, while Armor ultimately feels more like a collection of really good songs.

Its fair to say that drummer RJ Shankle can be credited with a good deal of the uptick in pacing noted earlier. Shankle’s style helps propel Armor forward in a way that moves the songs along really quickly. Overall, Shankle fits this particular album and these songs in a way that Jordan Burns may not have. While Burns has Shankle beat from a technical drumming standpoint, Shankle really fits within the structure of this album like a glove. While it would have been fun in an alternate universe to see how these songs would have turned out had Burns behind the kit, the reality is that Shankle more than holds his own. The album seems improved with Shankle’s influence and his more traditional/straight ahead style of playing. While previous releases benefited from Burns’ technical and innovative style, this album thrives with the help of a huge push of adrenaline from Shankle.

Songs of Armor and Devotion is by far the most technically ambitious album Strung Out has ever made. So many of the songs are filled with impossibly fast riffs, crazy solos, and huge choruses. The album showcases Bassist Chris Aiken to a much greater extent than previous releases. His playing is really on a whole new level here. It sometimes takes paying special attention to really hear everything that is going on in these songs because all of it is centered around great writing and huge choruses that are giant ear worms. Jason Cruz once again is really solid on this album, with tons of songs providing relatable moments in the lyrics and great melodic parts throughout. The songs ultimately serve to drive the technicality, as opposed to anything seeming out of place or over the top. The album never strays into wankery or showy nonsense, it really all blends together to form some super solid songs. This is a band at the top of their game from front to back.

One particular issue that is interesting is that the songs this band chooses to showcase as singles tend to not really be the strongest songs. This pattern was evident on the last album with “Modern Drugs”, going back even further with “Carcrashradio”, and again here with new single “Under the Western Sky”. While these songs are decent enough in their own right, it is tough to make a serious case these songs represent some of the band’s best work. This becomes even more apparent when you have a song like “Ulysses” as Armor does. A song that practically begs to be a standout single. “Ulysses” really has it all: great riffy choruses, a killer bridge, a chorus that would bring even the hardest cynic around, and a huge solo to close it out. Its like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s the best song Strung Out has ever written. It needs a wider audience and should be the obvious choice for the next single.

Let’s talk about some of the weaknesses of this album for just a second. While there isn’t much to complain about here, there are a few verses strewn throughout the album that can seem a little forgettable. Its also true that there is a really excellent chorus or interlude around every forgettable corner, the forgettable parts aren’t all that frequent, and none of them are anything you would categorize as being bad in any way. Every song on Armor has at least one part (and often multiple parts) that are incredibly well done and make you want to hit rewind. There isn’t a single song on this album that merits hitting the skip button.

One more somewhat small negative is that the album does close on somewhat of an anticlimactic note. Considering Strung Out’s penchant for epic closers (Westcoasttrendkill, matchbook, etc.) “Bloody Knuckles” feels like a bit of an odd choice to close out the album. While there is a really great part in “Bloody Knuckles” that feels like it might get fleshed out a bit more, that part never returns and the album ends on a note that makes me feel like this song could have been fleshed out a little more.

Final thoughts: After a little bit of a mid-career lull, we are now seeing a veteran band that is having a late career resurgence. The quality of this album song wise is right on par with previous release Transmission Alpha Delta, with some components (such as the blazing fast riffs, more guitar solos, more melodic moments, etc.) even surpassing the last release. While some of this comes at the expense of a slightly less cohesive listen, overall this is an incredibly solid release that is going to please many, many fans.


user ratings (41)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Lender
August 9th 2019


67 Comments


Definitely checking this out.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
August 9th 2019


9962 Comments


Good first review, welcome to the writing community.

I'd be wary, when writing at this kind of length, of repeating yourself or contradicting yourself, which happens a fair bit here. Multiple points are reiterated or are seemingly back-tracked on. The writing on the whole is solid but could probably benefit from some trimming.

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SowingSeason
Moderator
August 9th 2019


31942 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Ooh need to check this out for sure.

Digging: Off With Their Heads - Be Good

DungeonBoy
August 9th 2019


6434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review dude, POS, you definitely know your Strung Out. Big fan of Twisted by Design and Exile in Oblivion myself. Jason Cruz sounds like he's fading a bit, especially noticeable on that first track. Always dug the shreddy riffs over the old school skate punk sound. Great band for sure and looking forward to diving into this whole thing

Digging: Guild Of Lore - Storm Haven

OwMySnauze
August 9th 2019


2002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Band is solid as always. Wish they revisited their sound with The Element of Sonic Defiance

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2019


847 Comments


Good review, MarsKid gives some excellent advice.

Very excited to hear this. They are one of my favorite bands, and I absolutely loved T.A.D.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2019


847 Comments


Also glad you shouted out "Westcoasttrendkill," one of their very best songs.

WatchItExplode
August 9th 2019


7036 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow. Songwriting is razor sharp but that vocal edge is just gone huh?

Panzerchrist
August 9th 2019


431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think the songwriting on here is pretty potent but fuck does the production take all the teeth out of it. It's so muted and dull :/

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Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2019


24846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I enjoyed the new Good Riddance more but loving all these 90s punk bands releasing music this year

Digging: Oso Oso - Basking in the glow

DungeonBoy
August 9th 2019


6434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

for sure dude, that new Good Riddance album is great

Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2019


24846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I also can’t wait for the new Lagwagon. “Bubble” is fantastic and one of the best tracks they’ve ever done

Keynote23
August 9th 2019


32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really digging this so far, opening tracks have some great energy to them

Lulzwagon
August 9th 2019


5 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I honestly think this might be their best album, with the only flaw possibly being the lack of cohesiveness that Transmission.Alpha.Delta had like you mentioned.



Instrumentally this is the best they've ever been and Jason's voice sounds raw and awesome. Ulysses, Demons, Disappearing City, Politics of Sleep, Daggers... god damn every track rips.

Keynote23
August 9th 2019


32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

really firing on all cylinders here yeah, this was exactly the tempo I was looking for

Shiranui
August 9th 2019


557 Comments


Here where the sun goes down, in Californiaaa.

onionbubs
August 9th 2019


11711 Comments


how have i never jammed this band damn

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DungeonBoy
August 9th 2019


6434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cause you're too busy listening to Alkaline Trio ad naseum ;)

onionbubs
August 9th 2019


11711 Comments


fair enough

looking at the similar bands and hearing the opening track and i definitely shouldve checked these guys earlier

kris.
August 9th 2019


15299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the intro to ulysses sounds exactly like the intro to an anberlin song lol



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