Music can be turned to many uses. It can be for pure entertainment, to make you laugh with joy and dance around a room or it can subtly influence your mood. Dig deep down inside you and unlock emotions that you didn’t know you had. Then it can be wielded the way that Stray From The Path use it. Like a sledgehammer to the face.
Only Death Is Real is a political album where you don’t have to go searching for the message. In fact, one look at the song titles should tell you what Stray From The Path believes. If you’ve somehow missed that, the words aren’t subtle. ‘Loudest in the Room’ is a scathing inditement of America asking ‘greatest country in the world, what do you mean?’ While ‘Goodnight Alt-Right’ is happy to say that ‘you just got knocked the fuck out, the punishment fits the crime.’ If you’re someone who thinks we should be having a chat with the Nazis, this isn’t the album for you.
Who it is for is anyone who can appreciate a riff with more bounce than the Poznan. Stray From The Path have an arsenal of them, that could be dismissed as simple, and yet are as catchy and lairy as they come. This music follows the lyrical message. It might not be the most complicated thing in the world, but fuck me it does what it sets out to do. If there’s any justice these songs will be causing rock club floors to tremble for the next twenty years.
Thomas Williams cements himself as one of the best vocalists on the planet for spitting out a lyric like he means every word of it. On ‘They Always Take The Guru’ he screams that ‘it’s nights like this that remind me, that we’re all temporary’ and you can already hear the crowd screaming along with him. It’s through him that the anger flows. Those bouncy riffs are turned from nu-metal fun into a vessel for rage at the fucked up state of the world.
There’s a handful of special appearances, with Keith Buckley adding his incredible coolness to ‘Strange Fiction’. You don’t need me to tell you that Buckley’s involvement in something is always going to be a good thing. Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose also pops up on ‘All Day & A Night’ and rapper Vinnie Paz brings some diversity of vocals to ‘The House Always Wins’. Strangely, they are all grouped together towards the end of the album but it does nothing to hurt the flow.
It’s the obvious comparison, but in a world without Rage Against The Machine, it feels right that a band like Stray From The Path step up into their considerable shadow. This album isn’t hiding behind clever riddles or quips, it’s a straight up call to arms. A fuck you to a world that too often treats people like shit. The fact it’s the rowdiest album you’ll hear this year and is full of absolute bangers is just an added bonus.