October 28, 2019 Stray From The Path – Internal Atomics (Album Review)
Long Island’s own Stray From The Path continue their hard-hitting affront and refusal to mince words with Internal Atomics. UNFD present the wonderfully heavy album on Friday, November 1, 2019.
New York has always been a stronghold for Hardcore, and Stray From The Path are one of the state’s heaviest hitters. Formed in 2001 on Long Island (please, no Strong Island references), the quartet issued their independent full-length debut, Audio Prozac, in 2003. Time brought lineup changes and seven additional discs throughout the next fourteen years, including their major label debut, 2008’s Villains, 2011’s Rising Sun, and 2017’s Only Death Is Real. With a dogged determination to the road, and much thanks to their strong fanbase, the four-piece has shared stages with the likes of Anti-Flag, Architects, Norma Jean, Underoath, Stick to Your Guns, Bleeding Through, and many, many more.
For their ninth album, Stray From The Path—Vocalist Drew Dijorio, Guitarist/Vocalist Tom Williams, Bassist/Vocalist Anthony Altamura, and Drummer Craig Reynolds—blend their behemoth Rapcore meets Rage Against the Machine sound into a brutal array of tracks that glance just as intimately inward as they turn a frustrated eye on the world around us. Once again produced and engineered by longtime collaborator Will Putney (The Amity Affliction, Norma Jean), the 10-track Internal Atomics is fraught with both compassion and empathy, and yet a venomous vitriol towards injustice. Heavily influenced by the band’s recent trip to Africa with Actions Not Words and the Hardcore Help Foundation, the collection does not bother to mince words about the state of affairs in 2019.
Internal Atomics opens to the explosion of hard-hitter “Ring Leader.” Here, smashing bass anchors a vicious reminder to the complacent clones that “thinking like everyone else is not really thinking.” Digging even deeper, they assault all the senses with the vibrating wall of sound that is “Kickback.” Featuring guest vocals from Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy, the track spits pure venom and frustrated howls in the face of snakes—those that merely see others as stepping stones.
Reynolds’ powerful drums lead the charge into “The First Will Be Last,” a thoughtful and timely reminder to do unto others, because what goes around comes around. Next, there’s no rest for the weary with “Fortune Teller,” a proclamation that our future is in our own hands and we have the power to overcome the mistakes of past generations. This is led by the empowering, rallying cry, “We don’t answer to anyone!”
Deliciously sludgy guitars weave throughout “Second Death,” a ferocious condemnation of the Catholic priest scandal. The track that follows takes a look “Beneath The Surface,” and shows that few of us have stories that are simply black and white; and many of us are bleeding underneath our smiles. Lyrically, this empathy for our neighbors is reminiscent of Everlast’s 1998 hit “What It’s Like,” another social protest song peppered with compassion. Ultimately, this bleeds into dissonant guitar work that opens the shark attack of “Something In the Water,” a whirling dervish of sound to represent the cycle of chaos that humanity brings upon itself over and over again. Here, the point is not will we ever learn, but rather how have we managed to become so numb to the suffering?
This leads the band to a deeply personal track. “Holding Cells For The Living Hell” finds Dijorio at his most vulnerable, opening up about a family member’s struggles with mental health. A suitably frenetic bout of sonic schizophrenia, its reflection on mental health, and how all too often the doctors simply “up the dosage,” is a bullet to the heart of those that have experienced this personally. An angsty and violent maelstrom, Stray From The Path put it all on the line in this track.
Next, Kublai Khan’s Matt Honeycutt guests on “Double Down,” a slamming attack that spirals down into the album’s grand finale—and don’t expect the quartet to go out in any style other than vicious, unrepentant Hardcore. With “Actions Not Words,” a track very literally inspired by their time spent in Nairobi with the nonprofit of the same name, they challenge their listeners to change the world. Like this, it is a resonating, thrumming wall of sound that backs up the band as they deliver the coup de grâce of Internal Atomics’ message: be the change that you wish to see in this world.
Simply put, Internal Atomics is a heavy album—in sound and topically speaking. There’s not a moment for breath throughout these 10 rabid tracks, just full-throttle sonics and weighty subjects packaged together in a pummeling masterpiece of Hardcore might. Exploring groove-laden, metallic riffs alongside Hip-Hop influenced vocal cadences, Stray From The Path present an album that’s punishing yet memorable. Both socially and politically conscious, the collection and the band refuse to simply fall in line with mindless complacency, and instead seek to ignite a fire for change. It has been said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and these Hardcore punks are doing it right! For this, Cryptic Rock give Internal Atomics 4.5 of 5 stars.
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