May 7, 2018 Strung Out – Black Out The Sky (EP Review)
Stripping the music down to the raw essentials, Punk Rock veterans Strung Out uncover a new side to their sound on the new EP Black Out The Sky, set to arrive Friday, May 11, 2018, on legendary Punk label Fat Wreck Chords.
Strung out formed in 1989 out of Simi Valley, California, consisting of Jason Cruz (Vocals), Jake Kiley (Guitar), Rob Ramos (Guitar), Jim Cherry (Bass), and Adam Austin (drums). After striking a deal with Fat Wreck Chords in the spring of 1994, Strung Out released their debut album, Another Day In Paradise, and two years later released sophomore album, Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues. As the 1990’s Punk Rock scene was getting hot, Strung Out caught the eye of fans and critics as both albums were well received thanks to songs like “In Harms Way” and “Rotten Apple.” Needless to say, Strung Out’s trademark rough-edged sound, which blends hard-nosed, melodic Punk Rock with elements of Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal, was a hit amongst animated fans.
Breaking new ground, it was Strung Out’s third studio album, 1998’s Twisted by Design, that really showed the band’s sound evolving. The album embraced a darker, more abstract feel than the two previous releases, including technical sonics overlaying the speed-induced poppy tendencies which Strung Out fans love. In 1999, Strung Out parted ways with Cherry and hired Bassist Chris Aiken. Sadly, in 2002, Jim Cherry passed away from heart failure. Carrying on, Strung Out continued to rock fans by delivering pleasing Punk albums from 2002’s An American Paradox to 2015’s Transmission.Alpha.Delta. Not to be forgotten, Strung Out are also highly regarded on the concert stage, especially for their many appearances on the Vans Warped Tour.
Moving along, in February of 2018, Strung Out announced new Drummer RJ Shankle was joining the band. At this point, fans were already in high anticipation to hear what Strung Out had in store for them on Black Out The Sky. As many bands enjoy a change of pace and taking risks, this time around, Strung Out chose to release an EP of unplugged material bringing the songs down to the form in which a lot of music is conceived, with simply an acoustic guitar. Cruz wanted these songs to reconnect the band with their roots, to allow the listener to hear what the music of Strung Out is all about when one distinct vibe stands apart from the rest.
Kicking off Strung Out’s newest odyssey, “The Architect” opens effortlessly via soft but stark acoustic chords bringing almost a tribal sound to the mix, as does “Black Out The Sky.” Next up, “Town of Corazon” is a song which garnered a nice buzz since the video was released. Embodying a nice warm melody, this track shines as possibly the best thing about Black Out The Sky. In ritualistic form, “Requiem” is dark and builds to a more heavier, hyped-up tone later in the song. “Duke of Sorrow” enchants with a melody highly-reminiscent of Social Distortion’s “Story of My Life.” As summer arrives, “Presidio” is a sunny, poppy number wanting to know who will be there to save us.
Aside from all the new music on Black Out The Sky, Strung Out wanted to balance out the song choices by including acoustic versions of two previously-released cuts, one classic and one obscure. Taken from An American Paradox, “Unkoil,” the lesser known of the two, is reworked to be completely different from the original. As the original is a dark and heavy dose of Punk, the re-make is performed as a ballad, seeing Cruz sing new meaning into the lyrics. “Matchbook,” off Twisted by Design, is a very popular tune amongst Strung Out fans in the realm of Pop-Punk meets heavy power chords. In redesigning this track, Strung Out provide a more perky and jamming vibe that again adds even more meaning to the lyrics.
Overall, Strung Out may migrate from their fast signature sound on Black Out The Sky, but this temporary leave works well for the band. Black Out The Sky shows another side to the California natives, bringing out the diversity and musicianship in all the members of Strung Out. A softer vibe, Cruz is able to do even more singing and resonates a tone many fans may not be familiar to hearing from the vocalist. For Aiken, though he normally plays bass, these acoustic renditions help showcase his talent to play guitar as the same can be said for Kiley, Ramos, and Shankle. Worth checking out, CrypticRock gives Black Out The Sky 3.5 out of 5 stars.