Review || Strung Out - "Songs Of Armor And Devotion"

California punk rock veterans Strung Out are releasing their newest album, titled "Songs Of Armor And Devotion", on August 9th 2019 via Fat Wreck Chords. To be completely honest, this band and their music were completely new territory for me so I chose to approach the album with an open mind, like I would do with any other new release hoping I'd get inspired somewhere along the way. I didn't, however, expect it to tick so many boxes from the first spin. The following few (read: many) were an eye-opening experience.

Consisting of 13 tracks, "Songs Of Armor And Devotion" seems to carry both the experience Strung Out has gathered in their 30 years of existence as well as a modern outlook on punk rock. The album follows no specific structural norm, which becomes evident not just by the rollercoaster of the tracklisting but also when taking into consideration how many different elements the songs manage to seamlessly blend. From the pure skate punk in "White Girls" to the crushing "Daggers" to the unkempt "Strange Notes", every song has a varying nature and feeling to convey. The listener will be probably taken aback at first by the lively, dynamic instrumentation, temporarily disregarding the powerful and quite raw honesty of the lyrics. The reality is, the upbeat and at times anthemic character of the songs underpins a layer of darkness which surrounds the lyrical creativity and Jason Cruz's vocal performance. As the album unfolds, some distinct vocal melodies will stand out, the big choruses not allowing to be overlooked. Drawing from the tumultuous period of the world, especially the disheartening situation in the US, as well as the overwhelming grief deriving from the loss of someone dear to Cruz, the vocalist employs his bitterness to tell stories of dread and aggression. Still, "Songs Of Armor And Devotion" doesn't lack any catchy traits; the expressive melodies, combined with the thrilling guitar work, deliver an engaging outcome. If I had to pick favorite tracks, those would be "Ulysses" with its wholesome honesty and the way everything about it resonates with me, the single "Under The Western Sky", probably my favorite song in the entire album which immediately stuck in my head, "White Girls" with its poignant lyrics and "Bloody Knuckles" for the emotions it brings to the surface.

Overall, I think the band managed to win me over. Equally politically charged and stripped to bare emotion, "Songs Of Armor And Devotion" is a very youthful album. If it's true that punk rock keeps people from aging, then it is safe to say that Strung Out has found a fountain of youth in their creativity. The album lives up to its title in many ways and, while it writes the final pages of a chapter, it also sets the foundation for the next step. 
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