Sound — 10
Right off the bat, I'm going to say that this is one of Strung Out's strongest efforts to date. The CD as a whole isn't as flashy as some of their other releases, but it has plenty of moments where the record sounds consistently full and equally balanced. Ever since the early 90s, Strung Out has been a strong contender in the punk-rock scene, but with their latest four releases (The Element of Sonic Defiance EP, An American Paradox, Exile in Oblivion, and Blackhawks Over Los Angeles [BOLA]), they have been able to successfully fuse their already great punk sound, with a lot of metal twinge, to make a perfect blend of punk-metal like many bands out there nowadays try, and constantly fail (more or less by making the same exact sounding CD over and over again). The entire album flows from front to back, with the outwardly humorous "western" guitar duel starting out the band's first track "Calling", to the very melodic and poppy "Diver" to close out the CD. And everywhere in between, Strung Out's blaring guitar riffs and solos, combined with the chunky bass riffs and critically acclaimed "Superhuman" drumming, which often times sounds more like The Battle of Gettysburg if it were fought with machine guns instead of rifles. I don't care what anyone says, Travis Barker (+44, ex-Blink-182) is NOT, I repeat NOT the industry's best drummer. Jordan Burns of Strung Out is clearly better, and he showcases his skills each time he records new material. It's a shame this band isn't too popular, because with music the way it is now, we need something to overthrow the Gwen Stefanis and Fergies and My Chemical Romances of our mainstream age.
Lyrics — 9
Ah yes, finally Jason figured it out. No one likes the doubletracked vocals anymore. And in BOLA, this once-overused Strung Out perk is now nearly gone. And now that he's rid recordings of this, Jason's lyrics stand out more than ever. Sounds odd that stripping something down can have a more powerful effect, but it does, and it's achieved very well. Jason's lyrics are really hard to follow on first, second, third and even forth, up to even tenth listen. You almost need the lyrics in front of you in order to get what he's saying sometimes. However, in such songs like "Party In The Hills", lines like "So you do your dance obliterating everything you see, and I do my best to waste it all away" stand out and are easy to sing along to after only listening once or twice. However, Jason doesn't like to enunciate very well, which can be okay sometimes, but he does it at times on the verge of completely annoying. I find myself singing jibberish because that's all I can grasp without reading the lyrics with the song. All jibberish aside though, Jason has a very powerful voice that stands out in this day and age where singers are all about whining and crying to their music. Definitely not for sissies.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, BOLA is a very powerful and consistent effort. Upon reading another review, I had to agree with the writer when he said "This is Strung Out's most consistent album to date. With other albums in the past with some really good standout songs and then a few filler songs, there really isn't any evidence of that with BOLA". With all kinds of throwbacks to old Strung Out albums, this CD is probably their best effort to date, and if not, it's really damn close to the near perfect "An American Paradox". Definitely one to buy if you're a die-hard Strung Out fan, but maybe fans of their older stuff with the mostly punk sound might want to try streaming it online first. After you do though, you're probably going to want it.