Strung Out are capable of letting nearly six years of relative inactivity pass without losing a fraction of their greatest qualities. Eight albums in, Transmission.Alpha.Delta puts forth some of the most inspired songwriting of the band’s career. Not once do they recycle a part, and not once do they settle for merely matching the strength of their past work. That’s impressive for a band who have written well over 100 songs over the course of two-plus decades. It’s all the more impressive considering the vast degrees of complexity they continue to display.
In an interview from very early in the recording process, 41-year-old vocalist Jason Cruz said he preferred to show his age rather than pretend to be young. Transmission.Alpha.Delta is a result of that frame of mind, where decades of experience trump immaturity. Unsurprisingly, then, there were no questionable sequencing decisions. There were no curveballs. The album itself is a tight, well-rounded 44 minutes that could only have been written by punk veterans.
Still, there’s a youthful presence to these songs, due in part to the work of producer Kyle Black (Paramore, Comeback Kid). Black nails each of the record’s plentiful hooks and shapes the tone of the record into something resembling pop-punk more than metal-infused hardcore. But that works here, because the band’s riffs remain complex, even among accessible anthems like “No Apologies.” Transmission.Alpha.Delta is certainly no less technical and guitar-driven than previous releases, but guitarists Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley channeled their riffs into brighter melodies.
Transmission.Alpha.Delta excludes Strung Out’s usual dose of aggressive material. “Rebellion Of The Snakes” briefly reveals a hostile Jason Cruz, but it’s a tasteful moment of confrontation that decelerates back to the uplifting harmonies that preceded it. The album never indulges in the heavier dynamics of 2004’s Exile in Oblivion and 2007’s Blackhawks Over Los Angeles. Thankfully, Transmission.Alpha.Delta is energetic and creative enough to not only make up for the lacking aggression, but to render that aggression unnecessary. “The Animal And The Machine” is a driving force of fretboard gymnastics. “Tesla” is technical and more tense than blatantly pissed-off. And the stellar major-key affair of “Nowheresville” is a cousin to (but not an imitation of) some of the very best songs from 1998’s Twisted By Design.
After their long absence, Strung Out probably could have appeased longtime fans with nothing more than a ’90s skate-punk retread, but Transmission.Alpha.Delta takes the more challenging route. The album isn’t merely “classic” Strung Out, because it isn’t a replica of earlier material. That being said, these soundscapes are familiar. But the band are so adept at squeezing every ounce of creativity out of their punk-rock skill set that there is not yet a need for them to explore uncharted, genre-bending territory. Strung Out helped map the original territory more than 20 years ago, and they’re still unearthing some of its most compelling riffs.