01.Rats In The Walls
02.Rebellion Of The Snakes
03.The Animal And The Machine
10.Go It Alone
Release date: March 24, 2015
Label: Fat Weck Chords
Reviewed by Chad Jensen
Strung Out made a huge impact on me as a young skate-punker in the 1990s. Their music even helped to inspire me to start my own melodic hardcore band. Their 1998 magnum opus “Twisted By Design” is one of the best melodic punk records of all time. Sadly, it was the last album that former bassist, founding member, and primary songwriter Jim Cherry, would appear on.
Jim Cherry penned the deepest and most meaningful songs in Strung Out’s catalogue. “Bring Out Your Dead”, “Mind Of My Own”, and “Ultimate Devotion” are three punk rock songs that represent the pinnacle of some of the best songwriting I’ve ever heard. I had the pleasure of knowing Jim and I was anguished when he passed away more than 13 years ago. Since Cherry was 86-ed from the band, Strung Out has spent the better part of the last two decades writing melodic punk rock, infused with metalic riffs and mind-blowing percussion
However, vocalist Jason Cruz doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a ‘90s skate-punk band, as he recently told New Noise Magazine.
“I get sick of the old stuff. I get sick of feeling like I suck off the old stuff,” Cruz said. “I don’t like doing this unless I feel like I’m contributing to something. Like I’m furthering, I’m adding something to what we do. I don’t want to be a fucking nostalgia band, or, like, a ‘90s skate punk band. I don’t want to be any of that fucking shit. I don’t give a fuck about the ‘90s. I don’t give a fuck about 2000 or George Bush or what Fat Wreck Chords was or what Strung Out was. I don’t give a fuck about any of that. I give a fuck about what we’re doing now, what we’re contributing now.”
What Strung Out is contributing now might not speak to me like their first three albums on Fat Wreck Chords do, but they still have something meaningful to say and the music on their latest effort “Transmission Alpha Delta” is worthy of their sonic reputation. The album opens with “Rats In The Walls” and has a really cool bass-line that catches you right out of the gates. As a complete unit, Strung Out’s technical riffs, military-precision drums and Cruz’s aching rasp of a vocal (which still conveys melody and emotion) hits hard on the opening track.
“Transmission Alpha Delta” took more than two years to record. The band was meticulous about getting the songs and their sound right for this record. And it paid off. Jordan Burns is his usual virtuoso self on drums. I can sit and listen to Strung Out all day for Burns’ performances alone.
The guitar work on “TAD” is impeccable as usual. Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley duel with one another on the axe throughout the album and complement one another well. If I’m being honest, however, I could do with a little less busy guitar work underneath almost every song’s chorus. Sometimes it’s a little too “metaly” for me and takes away from the melody of the song structure and vocal. My biggest gripe with modern Strung Out is that this happens too often. Less is more would suit me better, but hey, I don’t write their songs.
Chris Aiken has really evolved as a bass player, since replacing Jim Cherry in the late ‘90s. His contributions as a songwriter in the band have helped to shape their post-Cherry sound. On this album, I find myself more impressed by Aiken’s bass work than I have been since “Exile In Oblivion”.
Cruz’s mercurial lyrics have a haunting undertone to them on “TAD”. His lyrics and vocal performance make the album. It could be Cruz’s best effort since the aforementioned “Exile in Oblivion”. My favorite tracks are “Rats in the Walls”, “Tesla” and “Modern Drugs”.
The bottom line is that on “TAD”, Strung Out has found a way to keep one foot in the known and one in the unknown, with even some gang vocals popping up a few times. As soon as Cruz’s vocals kick in, you know exactly who you’re listening to. But on “TAD”, the band is obviously pushing themselves to some uncharted territory and it serves them well. The Strung Out of the ‘90s is dead and gone. It went the way of the dodo when Cherry left the band. But Strung Out still has something to say and their latest contribution to their catalogue is one that deserves to be owned by any fan of melodic hardcore. I give “Transmission Alpha Delta” 3 and a half stars out of 4.