STRAY FROM THE PATH have lead the vanguard for socio-political hardcore in recent years. Their releases Anonymous and Subliminal Criminals stirred up issues with the American justice system, and corrupt finance, and their most recent release Only Death Is Real locked horns with Donald Trump, and more fundamental life issues. Regardless of what they’re tackling, there’s no questioning that they’re a very outspoken band, and thus their live shows are a melting pot of frustration and violence. We went down to check them out on their Only Death Is Real tour at Rebellion in Manchester.
STRAY FROM THE PATH did not go lightly when choosing the supports for this tour. First band on are spirited and heavy hardcore crew RENOUNCED. The only British band on the bill, it seems evident that they were out to prove that the UK hardcore scene can step up to the plate. Combining chunky riffs with passionate and frustrated unclean vocals, they brought a sound that reeked of 90s hardcore and metalcore in the very best way. The turnout at this point in the evening was very respectable, and a couple of punters were already at it in the pit, kicking the hardcore dancing with each punishing breakdown delivered by RENOUNCED. The only drawback was the seemingly uninterested style of the vocalist, who spent much of the performance facing away from the crowd, and strutting lazily around the stage. From the rest of the band however, an energetic and hard-hitting start to the evening, and certainly a premonition of what was to come.
Despite being arguably the most popular support band on the bill, OBEY THE BRAVE were up next. A band that’s cultivated a thriving fanbase in Europe, especially Germany, it must have been a novelty for them to play a smaller venue like Rebellion. Filling in on the tour for WOLF DOWN, who split up due to controversy shortly after the tour was announced, it was clear they relished playing a show like this. The last time they were in Manchester was with the Impericon Never Say Die! Tour with THY ART IS MURDER and others, last year. Blasting through a powerful set, the band wasted no time in getting the crowd going. Their trademark bouncy, feel-good metalcore got many off their feet and singing along, especially to more popular songs such as Raise Your Voice. With a sound based largely off gang vocal choruses and huge breakdowns, this was the perfect music to rouse the room at this point in the evening. Fists pumped and legs span in the pit, and OBEY THE BRAVE drank it up like they were born for it.
The final supports for the night were California post-hardcore crew CAPSIZE. A slightly different genre to the other bands on the bill, it was interesting to see their approach. Being post-hardcore, their sound features much more in terms of clean vocals and upbeat, pop-style choruses. Despite their best efforts, this sound did not seem to be what the crowd were wholly looking for on the night. Whether or not they should have been on before OBEY THE BRAVE, for the most part it seemed that the band gave it their all. One noticeable thing that was lacking was a bassist, which was overlaid into the backing track. However, there were a few fans in the room that managed to stir up the crowd after a few songs, and many eagerly took advantage of CAPSIZE’s breakdowns. Unfortunately, much like RENOUNCED, their performance was let down by the vocals. When placed on a bill with voices such as that of Drew York, it’s clear to see when a vocal performance is lacking. The drummer, however, seemed to be injured towards the end of the set, with blood splatters adorning STRAY FROM THE PATH‘s backdrop by the end – therefore it’s a testament to their commitment that they kept on playing. A solid performance, but maybe it just wasn’t their night.
Finally, the long-awaited headliners took to the stage on time. Vocalist Drew York immediately oozed confidence and a menacing authority over the crowd. Their intro samples from the song Only Death Is Real played while the band prepared to dive straight into new album opener The Opening Move. The songs played from the new album went down an absolute storm, as the room recited the band’s blunt and powerful lyrics. Even the more obscure tracks from Only Death Is Real blended into the setlist like classics – Let’s Make A Deal being a good example. As a band that models their sound around huge one liners framing massive hardcore riffs, they delivered each one with tangible relish. Songs like Outbreak showcased the skill of guitarist Tom Williams, with grooves reminiscent of Tom Morello, and the headbang-inducing edge of hardcore. The crowd went nothing short of completely mental throughout. The small floorspace of Rebellion became a brawl from start to finish, with huge guys wearing the band’s basketball vests terrorising many, and smaller hardcore fans spin-kicking their way around them. Stage invasions happened in every song, and Drew York drank it up, screaming the lyrics into fans’ faces before hurling them back into the crowd. The only drawback seemed to be the length of the set. After eight albums and 15 years on the scene, the band have a ton of songs – but only played for an hour, playing ten or eleven songs. With shorter support sets, many fans would have welcomed three or four more songs from STRAY FROM THE PATH, as the set seemed to end rather prematurely, with an encore of Only Death Is Real. However, the fact that the main criticism is that we wanted more is testament to how entertaining their performance is – STRAY FROM THE PATH are undoubtedly the front runners in their genre at the moment. “If you don’t like it, then get the fuck out!”
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Christopher Ryan Photography here: