There are some albums that you hear for the first time and fall in love instantly. There are others that require repeated listens in order to grasp the depth and complexity of the material. These albums get progressively more enjoyable as you listen to them. With every spin another pleasant nuance exposes itself. Strung Out’s latest album Transmission.Alpha.Delta falls into the latter category.
I first discovered Strung Out somewhere between the release of An American Paradox and Exile in Oblivion. These albums consumed me, and I studied them with a religious devotion. When I felt I had exhausted these holy sources I began to focus on the band’s extensive back catalogue, marvelling at Strung Out’s evolution from album to album and the diverse range of material contained on each record. When Blackhawks Over Los Angeles came out in 2007, however, I remember feeling that the band had made a departure from their evolutionary trajectory into a strange and unfamiliar direction. Transmission.Alpha.Delta feels like Strung Out at their prime, as if the band has returned to walk the path they had been on since the early 90s, a path that no other band can navigate. After a couple of underwhelming releases, Transmission.Alpha.Delta is not just a return to form but an improvement on the classic and untouchable Strung Out sound.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the new album is the overt influence of the band’s own body of work on itself. Because Strung Out is a band that has constantly evolved their sound, some fans feel particularly strongly only about certain albums the band has released. No matter which era of Strung Out is your favourite,Transmission.Alpha.Delta will find a way to please. The most satisfied listeners, however, will be those who enjoy the band’s entire catalogue equally, because every version and era of Strung Out is represented on this release.
The opening track "Rats in the Walls" follows the classic Strung Out formula by not sounding like anything else on the album or their previous releases. Strung Out has consistently started their albums with their fastest, heaviest, most technical and unique songs and this one is no exception. The intro to the next track, "Rebellion of the Snakes," sounds similar to the more experimental songs off of An American Paradox. "Modern Drugs" sounds much like Exile in Oblivion era Strung Out, striking a perfect balance between melody and aggression. "Black Maps" features a technical progressive aspect that would have fit on Element of Sonic Defiance. "Go It Alone" harkens back to the classic skatepunk sound which Strung Out dominated on Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and Twisted by Design.
One of the standout tracks on the album is "Magnolia," which describes a car accident on a deserted highway. Jason Cruz’s lyrics on this track are a vivid example of the storytelling technique featured on classic songs like "Contender" or "The Exhumation of Virginia Madison."
Somewhere in this highways moan
The Angels dare to guide my way
Strychnine and broken spine
The engine wanes
Seat belt tightens across my chest
Broken glass and plastic finally come to rest
And all my senses come alive and start to shake me
Broken bones and the smile that you left
Much like "Virginia Madison" its unclear whether "Magnolia" is an actual character or some part of the narrator’s own psyche. The song’s dark romantic theme is familiar and welcome territory.
While Transmission.Alpha.Delta successfully channels a variety of conventional Strung Out elements, in no way is it a simple regurgitation of the band’s previous material. No song is a complete recycling of a previous Strung Out tune. Any elements of the band’s back catalogue are woven into complex structures which feature a mixture of old, new, and uncharted sounds. The song composition is one of the strongest features of the album. The listener never knows what’s coming around the corner, but when it comes it feels completely natural.Transmission.Alpha.Delta sounds like a group of musicians who have been pursuing a collective goal for a long time, and are so focused and confident in their destination that they are able to add intricacies and departures without tripping or straying from their path. For example, one of the most interesting parts of the album is the short Spanish guitar interlude on "Spanish Days," which the band seamlessly follows with an aggressive section. Another example is the progressive instrumental section at the end of "Black Maps," which showcases the magical guitar harmonies of Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley. The album would already be an exceptional release without these parts, but they still feel like intuitive progressions of the songs. Although these parts are extras, they do not feel like the band is being technical or experimental just for the sake of doing so.
Ultimately Transmission.Alpha.Delta is an example of a seasoned band embracing the components which have made them great and pushing them onto a higher level. The album is masterful blend of skatepunk and metal with a dash of pop punk. Any fans of technical melodic punk rock should definitely check this out. Anyone who has listened to Strung Out in the past but has stopped paying attention to the band should use this opportunity to give them another chance, because they will not be disappointed. As for those people who have kept on listening to Strung Out throughout their various phases, you probably already know how much this new album rips, and are as impressed with it as I am.
9.4 / 10
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