Sound: Marking the band's 20th year, the Punk Rock rooted quintet Strung Out has delivered quite possibly their best work to date, and trust me when I say this: I never get tired of saying "their best work to date." I'm not sure what shines the most on this record, or if it's honestly just the most structurally sound album they've ever made. It's like a collaboration of a bunch of different things they've already done, but improved on, polished, and raised to the nth degree. As always, the blitzing riffs of Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos intertwine perfectly with Chris Aiken's speedy bass lines. Tying everything together with Jordan Burns' always unrelenting drumming, which at times sounds more bionic than human, this record doesn't let up for more than a few seconds at any given time throughout its relatively short 36 and a half minute run-time.
Agents of the Underground as a whole is a powerful punk/metal kick in the teeth that will likely draw older fans back to the band (had they ever been crazy enough to depart), with songs like "Carcrashradio", which showcases just how melodic Strung Out still can be, without losing any grit. "Ghetto Heater" is comparable to something that would fit right in on "The Element Of Sonic Defiance" (2000), a die-hard fan favorite. "Jack Knife" is another track that old and new fans alike will surely rock out to within the first seconds of the song, and the album's finale "Andy Warhol" is comparable to, dare I say it, "Matchbook" off of the 1998 LP Twisted by Design.
The one thing a little off putting by Agents of the Underground for me was the evident lack of guitar solos. The previous album from Strung Out, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles (2007) featured seven guitar solos, all awesome in their own way. This record contains very few. I'll let you find them. // 10
Lyrics: Jason's lyrics and vocals were notably left out of the preceding section simply because one simple passage cannot contain everything I'd want to say about how his voice has improved from record to record. The melodies he lays down and the harmonies he contrives are something that many artists likely wish they could pull off, they just don't know it yet. One of the things with this band, is they've always stayed under the radar in relation to the mainstream, which is decidedly why this record is named Agents of the Underground. Fans of the official messageboards have taken note that Jason's lyrics are very dark, emotional, and equally powerful in every way. // 10
Overall Impression: To say this is Strung Out's best work to date is a huge understatement. Upon only a few listens, I can safely say that this record has absolutely no overlooked tracks. This record is a safe bet for all fans of the genre. Just be prepared to rethink what you thought you knew. I don't usually like to preach, but go buy this album and support them by seeing them live, especially if you have yet to see them. // 10