Strung Out – Black Out the Sky

Release Date: 05/11/18

Photo: Josh Coffman

The melodic punk veterans cast their technical prowess aside to unearth a refreshing, stripped down sound on their new EP, Black Out the Sky.

Nearly three decades after their inception, Strung Out continues to progress onward with new explorations in sound. Their acoustic-forward EP highlights the band’s distinct melodicism, while incorporating their brand of catchy songwriting structures, which have served as a sonic cornerstone throughout their remarkably consistent discography. On their follow up to the brilliant Transmission.Alpha.Delta, Strung Out have substituted their break-neck instrumental complexities with relaxed, vibrant acoustics and intimate storytelling; giving the band some breathing room to experiment with new sounds.

Black Out the Sky begins with “The Architect”, which features an intro of acoustic guitars wrapped in dramatic flair, touching upon classic-Latin, and western influences that set the stage for vocalist Jason Cruz’s lyricism. The standout chorus is a concrete example of how complete the band is with songwriting, featuring melodic hooks, and nuanced percussion to drive home the EP’s stripped down nature. The EP’s self-titled track could have easily been a b-side to Transmission.Alpha.Delta, as it features some of the strongest verse and pre-chorus melodies the band has written to date, plus a bright, uplifting chorus. The track introduces some of the more subtle, electric guitar moments that are scattered throughout the EP, which serve as a supporting role in the bands acoustic-forward direction.

“Town of Corazon” is perhaps the strongest track on the EP; it’s cathartic weight being carried by smooth, flowing acoustic rhythm guitars and driven home by a soulful lead guitar riff. The track’s chorus showcases Strung Out flying high in new directions, boasting gorgeous vocal harmonies, while inspiring hope and reflection within the line “It’s days like these, when all the world makes perfect sense”; a hook that you won’t be able to refrain from singing along to.

The redesign of “Unkoil”, a deep cut from the 2002 album An American Paradox, further establishes the band’s creativity and growth, dressing the track with blues influences before nodding to their punk roots with the original version’s guitar riff at the end. “Requiem” features a slow build-up before climaxing with the most aggressive moment of the EP: a snapshot of Strung Out’s classic dark sounding material. “Duke of Sorrow” walks the lines of Americana and Country, serving as the most up-tempo track from the EP, and the farthest outside of their sound that they’ve explored. “Matchbook”, one of the bands’ most iconic songs, off their classic 1998 album Twisted By Design, is tastefully reworked, breathing new life and brightness into the fan-favorite. “Presidio” closes out the EP with one last taste of the band’s dive into highly melodic vocal harmonies, upbeat acoustic guitars, and inspiring choruses.

Black Out the Sky may not resonate with some of the longtime fans’ expectations of a more metal-inspired melodic punk direction, but will certainly be a rewarding listen for those that appreciate the band’s desire to experiment and exercise their extraordinary musicianship and songwriting abilities.

Rating: 4/5

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