Review Summary: "This is the Rising Sun, it hangs from up above, blinding the children from the darknesses they’ve come to love."
Long Island alternative-hardcore band Stray from the Path deliver on the promises they offer in the opening and title track of their 3rd full-length album from Sumerian Records. Make Your Own History remains their defining release, and Rising Sun follows right in its footsteps. While not quite MYOH 2.0, it encompasses and follows the same trends and themes as were previously set. Drew York maintains his rarely-screamed, heat-filled yells much in the vain of Rage Against the Machine, packing hate and angst in a way few vocalists can.
The drop of a rhythm guitarist ends up being a solid change for the now 4-piece band. Guitar wunderkind and brain-child Thomas Williams constantly pumps out catchy, angular, and distorted riffs out of his signature 3-amp setup and maintains great flow on every song. The guitar, bass, and drums are very spontaneous and rarely do what you want them to or expect. Their trademark mathy sound is well-played and even slightly discontenting for first time listeners but is something that is a great changeup for repeat listeners and longtime fans of the band. Laser-like guitar effects like those used in “Mad Girl” do more than add something cool and new; they are a signature of the chaotic fury that Stray is known for.
Breakdowns abound in the album and they are rarely as punchy and heavy as those found in MYOH’s “The Things You Own End up Owning You” or “Damien.” Instead they rely on off-time drumming and dissonant guitar licks, bringing back memories of older hardcore/metalcore acts. The breakdown in “Bring it back to the streets” is a great example off the spontaneous nature of the breakdowns. The long gap between guitar notes allows for great little catchy fills from Dan Bourke within the short-lived breakdown.
Aside from the guitar, the main selling point for Stray From the Path are the vocals by Drew York. His intelligible yells fit very well with the music again, often using uncomfortably gauche transitions and packing in words with the atypical rhythms. Unfortunately, this album lacks some of the signature noises he made in MYOH. Where on the previous album he would make vocalizations like the forceful “BLEARGH” or the “DAAAAAAA EEEEUHHHHH BLEAAAAAHHH” type of strained and stretched sound he made in “Damien,” he now casually throws in a simple “blech!” in way too many spots on the album (three times in the first four tracks). While it was catchy before, now it seems like he’s doing it just to fill a demand by the fans and/or label.
The guest spots on the album are great, with Jon Vigil’s low bellows from The Ghost Inside being a great contrast to York’s high yells on the track “Death Beds.” Cory Brandan from Norma Jean’s overtone-rich vocals also work great on the track “Prey,” speaking out against using Christianity as a marketing and merchandising tool.
Even so, lyrically, Stray is as awkward as ever. Drew often attempts to rhyme in spots where it really is cringe-worthy. It’s easy to forgive him though when he’s busy calling out everyone from his ex-girlfriend who has full custody of their daughter, people who pirate music, fake Christian bands, Attack Attack!, and the upper class.
The sound clip at the end of iMember where a former Attack Attack! vocalist is quoted as saying “What connects us to the hardcore scene is the fact we use pink and purple in our name, but when kids come out and hear that we have heavy-ass breakdowns and stuff, it’s like, not what you’d expect” embodies everything Stray is not about. You won’t find any bass drops or clean singing on this record; the band isn’t trying to become huge and play arena shows, they are just 4 dudes from Long Island who are trying to shine some light on all the fake bull*** around them.