Strung Out first started making waves when punk’s resurgence was just beginning to gather steam in the early ‘90s. Part of punk’s second-tier of anonymity, Strung Out might not hold the anchor position owned by acts like NOFX, Bad Religion and Rancid, but they’ve certainly amassed a considerable amount of praise from staunch critics and casual observers alike.
Ironically, the buzz about the band seemed to grow in unison with another ‘90s punk progeny – AFI. Like their Northern California cousins, Strung Out found its straightforward, balls-out aggression slowing turning to the dark side. Its latest offering, the 14-track Exile In Oblivion, continues the band’s trend toward blending a heavier, more sinister angst with its melodic foundation.
The result is nothing short of a full-frontal assault of metal madness juxtaposed with the dreamy, upbeat melodicore that Strung Out introduced more than 10 years ago. It’s a recipe that works throughout much of the album, with only a hiccup or two to keep things honest. Like other acts that have walked the path carved by artists like All, the line tends to be too fine at times, where a step in the wrong direction lands you squarely in the sites of the pop-punk antagonists. Yes, Exile gets a little too cute for its own good, but thankfully only momentarily.
Longtime fans have found it easy to ignore such transgressions, especially given the success of Strung Out’s continued musical evolution, which has done more than enough to sufficiently distance the So Cal act from the would-be punk hipsters.