The controversy that surrounding the announcement of STRAY FROM THE PATH‘s eighth studio album has been one of the most bizarre in recent years. Surprisingly it turns out hating Nazis is an risky stance to take in 2017 as the outrage that greeted lead single Goodnight Alt-Right dominated all conversation surrounding the band. STRAY FROM THE PATH have been a very political band for several years now but their criticism of a section of the right wing in America got a lot of people very angry. So are they able to rise above the controversy and deliver the best album of their career?
Only Death Is Real is easily the most angry STRAY FROM THE PATH album yet. A scathing takedown of the current political climate in America, this is an album from a group of people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Goodnight Alt-Right throws any subtlety out the window with its rallying cry to fight back against Nazis, even borrowing from the DEAD KENNEDY‘s and turning their brilliant Nazi Punks Fuck Off into a mosh call. On Loudest In The Room they go straight after Donald Trump himself and how he is leading America to their doom.
The sound of this album is still largely similar to what STRAY have done in the past. There’s still plenty of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE worship mixed in with a New York Hardcore sound. Things are just cranked up another level this time. Drew York is undoubtedly still the star here, his lyrics and vocal delivery perfectly convey the anger the band are feeling. Across all 10 tracks he comes out with some of the bands most memorable lyrics. He never stops feeling completely genuine as well. This isn’t just someone spouting slogans to seem political. Tom Williams still provides plenty of brilliant riffs and bits of guitar wizardry and the addition of Craig Reynolds on drums adds even more punch to their sound.
The pace of the album never drops once keeping, keeping this relentlessly aggressive feeling going until the very end. That’s not to say the album is one dimensional. The band throw out a few different ideas over the 10 tracks. A reworked version of The House Always Wins stands out with its guest vocal slot from rapper Vinnie Paz. Whilst there has been a present hip-hop influence in their sound this just takes it a step further and provides a nice change. The other guest vocals might be more traditional to hardcore but they are no less brilliant. Bryan Garris from KNOCKED LOOSE lends his yelp to All Day & A Night while the always brilliant Keith Buckley shows up at the end of Strange Fiction.
All of this comes together to make Only Death Is Real the strongest album STRAY FROM THE PATH have released. The passion the band have takes what is a very good hardcore album and just elevates it even higher. Whilst it might upset large portion of Americans with a certain political view, that is no doubt what they were aiming for. The album just succeeds as a blunt and honest look at the current situation America is facing from a band who want to make a difference.
Only Death Is Real is out now via Sumerian Records.
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