The Strand – Combat Advantage
Release Date: May 1, 2012 – Digital/June 30, 2012 – Physical
Label: Self Release
Review By: Grant V. Ziegler
It’s been 12 years since The Strand released their first album In the Trench. It seems now, in 2012, David Strand and his crew have finally found their niche. After the 2008 release of Destroyers, which came off with a very bubble gum and pop vibe, The Strand returned to their Wax Trax influenced sound on Combat Advantage.
With female vocalist Laura McQuaig by David’s side, the tandem have a created a formula that seems to fit The Strand motif. Laura offers up the sweet and sensual sounds on songs such as “No Thanks,” and “You’re a Freak (That I kinda like).” Meanwhile, David fluctuates between different levels of vocal deviancy; switching back and forth between his typical industrial snarl and a more distorted and demonic sound. To make a poor analogy, they’re like the sweet ‘n’ sour chicken of industrial.
Combat Advantage has a very Wax Trax influenced aura to it. And in no way is that a bad thing. David’s ability to sound like Ohgr of Skinny Puppy and Eric Powell of 16 Volt at the same time is something to cherish. Tracks like “Sintoxication” and “Wear Down Me” took me straight back to 1996 when industrial was thriving. It’s unusual to hear an album that doesn’t sound like loops and pre-recorded tracks. Combat Advantage actually sounds like instruments are being played and recorded.
What also may have strengthened Combat Advantage when compared to The Strand’s previous works is that the current members of the band have all been together since 2007. A band that is as a revolving door for members usually suffers in quality. Luckily, Laura and keyboardist Elias Lewter have been with the Strand since 2007, drummer Bryon Anderson has been there since 2003, and keyboardists Scott Levy and Steve Laskaride have been playing with The Strand since 1999. With the release of Combat Advantage, the chemistry in this line-up seems to have finally clicked.
And in true industrial fashion, The Strand sampled some household products to incorporate into their music. David must be a clean freak because he used a Swiffer on “No Thanks” and his washing machine during “You’re a Freak.” Makes you think that Einsturzende Neubauten might have used Shake Weights and Slap Chops had they come out this decade. Nonetheless, the cleaning supplies added some spunk to Combat Advantage.
In my opinion, the top track off the new album is “Pay to Rock.” It’s not as complex as other tracks on the album but its carnival-sounding keyboards and honestly sung lyrics bode well and help it stand out as a more “honest” track than the others. Personally, I was a fan of this album until tracks 8-10. The last segment seems a bit unfocused, as if the band was running out of things to write about. However, this means that 70% of this album greatly impressed me and that ain’t bad at all.
Combat Advantage may be a hidden gem to those not in the Arizona area where The Strand is located. I hope soon their sounds can escape their local box and spill all over the nation. This album would be an excellent addition to any industrial fan’s collection.
2. Death Trap
3. No Thanks
4. Stay Home
5. Wear Me down
6. You’re a Freak (That I kinda like)
7. Pay to Rock
8. Hey Hey You
9. Six Drink Max
10. Healthy Mess
Download Combat Advantage from Amazon MP3