"Strength And Conditioning"

By Dr. Abner Mality

New York's SOS emerge from the sewers once more after a long quiet period where I thought for sure the band had hung it up. They just don't know when to quit. I'm kind of glad. because over the years I've developed a fondness for this unclassifiable and goofy band. They are from New York and on occasion play punk influenced stuff but they don't really fit in with the well-known NYHC scene. I think the word we are looking for here is "idiosyncratic".

The band continues its slow but steady progress. "Strength and Conditioning" is by far their best produced effort and has a very respectable sound, which I sure couldn't say about past output. The music is still quirky and odd, but not as completely out of whack as past SOS efforts. The primary style is still a mixture of classic hard rock with punk/thrash crossover, but as usual, they touch on many different influences. The first cut "Let Them Come" is definitely more mid-paced rock and doesn't give a hint of the sometime violent music they are capable of. That first starts to rear its ugly head with "Run It Into the Ground", which starts with feedback and an almost death metal riff. "None So Black" is brutal raw hardcore with those trademark high screaming vocals which will be "make or break" for most SOS fans.

It's an unpredictable ride, like most records from this band, but not quite as bumpy. "Low Road" is bluesy classic rock, "Whiskey Beard" has more painful screams and a thrashing chug, the instrumental "Daytime HIgh" has effects-drenched guitars that almost remind me of mid-period Rush! That's the sort of awkward melange you can expect. Last track "Good To Go" is another instrumental based on a simple catchy riff, but it beats it into the ground for way too long.

I've gotten to admire SOS because they keep pushing on and they exist in their own little world. They do keep improving with each release and "Strength and Conditioning" is the first one I can really endorse with no reservations.