Few word combinations make me cringe more than “acoustic punk.” I’ve heard more poorly sung four-chord acoustic ballads than any one fella should in their lifetime so when I found out I would be reviewing Strung Out’s new acoustic EP Black out the Sky, I wasn’t terribly excited. Despite my reservations, the EP proved to be a pretty interesting listen.
Strung Out’s musicianship and strong vocals have always made the band a standout in the punk scene and this EP is no exception. If you’re a fan of the band’s previous work or just looking for a more mellow punk album, Black out the Sky might be worth checking out.
Black out the Sky is eight tracks, nearly all of which have a full band– definitely a nice surprise. The EP kicks off with “The Architect,” which boasts an interesting but laid-back instrumental that gives Jason Cruz a chance to show off some of his vocal range. Some other highlights on Black out the Sky include new renditions of “Matchbook” and “Unkoil,” which originally appeared on Twisted by Design and An American Paradox respectively, and the catchy and emotionally-driven closer “Presidio.”
My favourite track on the EP; however, is the titular “Black out the Sky.” The song starts out with an eerie vocal melody before evolving into a comparatively hard-hitting track that’s got some interesting guitar leads and ends before overstaying its welcome.
Despite some standout moments, Black out the Sky doesn’t totally avoid boring-acoustic-punk-you’d-hear-at-an-open-mic territory. “Town of Corazon” lost my interest about a minute in, with no real variation between the first and second halves of the song. The chorus is catchy enough, but it pales in comparison to the hooks found on the rest of the EP.
While it is a full band track, “Duke of Sorrow” didn’t do anything for me either. Again, the song is rather repetitive and the country twang both in the instrumentation and vocals gets old in a hurry. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but when a third of the new songs on the EP feel like filler, it’s hard to give Strung Out a pass.
I enjoyed Black out the Sky a lot more than I thought I would. There are certainly some duds that I’d skip over on repeat listens, but I’ve had parts of the EP stuck in my head since I first heard it. If you’re on the fence about hearing another acoustic punk album, I’d recommend giving Strung Out’s Black out the Sky a chance.
Written by Justin Bruce
*edited by Mike Milito