Review Summary: For those who choose hope over hate.
Hardcore is one of those genres that is quickly sinking deeper and deeper into repetitiveness. 90% of hardcore bands sound exactly the same and it’s hard to find one anymore that stands out above the rest. Though the California based hardcore group Stick to Your Guns have never really done something too extraordinary, the band finally shows it’s true potential with it’s latest release, The Hope Division. This album could possibly be the best hardcore release in recent memory, and this is huge for the band since their last few releases couldn’t quite manage to impress. Instead of creating a random group of songs about fighting or violence, the band veers the opposite way and creates an album promoting love over hate. If you’re a fan of Stick to Your Guns, you’d know that the band’s lyrics always manage to cover some topic that deals with problems in the modern day world. The band has not only stepped up musically but lyrically, creating an album that battles our society and thanks those who choose to love rather than hate.
The album opens with “Where the Sun Never Sleeps” which was one of the first songs released on myspace before the release of the album. The song revolves all around where the band grew up and formed, in Orange County. The lyrics deal with the feeling of coming home and how nothing can take away the memories that were made there. Right away you can hear the bands improvement in sound. We still get breakdowns and a few little two step moments, but it seems the band has stepped up when it comes to technicality. As vocalist Jesse Barnett screams, “Orange county/this ones for you” the first breakdown on the album begins and it hits hard. Most of the breakdowns on this album manage to do this, they’re effective and consist of more than just simple guitar chords. “What Goes Around” is a minute and a half of pure hardcore. It’s fast and intense, just to pick up the energy of the album a little bit more.
“From the soul of the unnamed/to the devastating depths of the head and the hearts of the shamed/I’ll always have faith in the untamed” is the opening lines to the next song on the album, “Faith in the Untamed”. That line alone shows the amount of talent the band has when it comes to songwriting. Though most of the songs on the album continue to revolve around hope, every now and then the band manages to throw something different at us lyrically. “Amber” is a song about a 14 year old girl who’s world is crumbling down around her. From a personal point of view, this song is one of the best when it comes to lyrics. “She screams oh/I’ve had enough please make this go/the sea is rough and I’m drowning slow/her numbing pain has her lost in the undertow/I just wish she didn’t have to be alone” is the chorus to the song and it’s an extremely impressive set of lyrics. This album marks as the best Stick to Your Guns have ever been at songwriting, and lines like these can be found all over the place in The Hope Division.
Musically, the band has escaped from endless breakdowns and pointless chants, and have actually found who they are as a band. We get some catchy guitar riffs in “Wolves at the Door” and some softer guitar work in “Some Kind of Hope”, thanks to guitar players Reid Haymond and Chris Rawson. Drummer George Schmitz is great at pounding on the bass pedals and hitting the china, but this is mostly all he does. Most of his sections are simple, but they sound fun to play. Maybe in the future he’ll get more of a chance to prove what he can do. Vocalist Jesse Barnett is a great screamer for the band, mostly because his somewhat understandable scream/yell mix fit’s the sound. He hasn’t improved nor gotten worse since the bands previous albums, he still sounds exactly the same and nobody should complain, he’s good where he’s at. For fans of what the band has done before, you still get your dose of memorable chant moments and breakdown lines, but don’t expect an album completely filled with them.
Stick to Your Guns have crossed the line with The Hope Division, showing that they’re one of the best hardcore bands out there. They deliver with this album, crushing breakdowns and memorable lyrics help along side the melodic sound overall base of the album. This is Stick to Your Guns highest point in their career, whether they fall from here on or continue to get better with whatever they decide to do next, this album will never be forgotten nor tossed away by any fan of the hardcore genre. Stick to Your Guns shows that they have something to prove, and that they want to teach the world a lesson. Listen to this album, you will not be disappointed.