Stray From The Path
posted on 8/2005 By:
If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then there are a few northeastern technical hardcore acts that oughta be smiling right about now. Specifically, Converge, Deadguy, and their various protégés should be plastered with smirks over the likes of Long Island’s dissonant export Stray From the Path, who mimic their earsplitting heroes with white-knuckle precision and without a shred of originality. Not that this should be held against the band per se; their sound is an endearingly eclectic stew of the style’s last ten years of history, and Stray From the Path’s unfaltering energy and spot-on musicianship make up for their entirely derivative sound. This is a band that has made it their mission to play noisy metalcore at its best, and with only two albums under their belt, they’ve done a pretty damn fine job.
It’s all here, ladies and gentlemen; from Converge to Coalesce to Botch to The Dillinger Escape Plan, these New Yorkers pay tribute to virtually every important band in the genre on Our Oceania. The album’s first three tracks blow past in a storm of off-time skronk and speedy thrash tempos; the effect is something like early Burnt By the Sun’s riffing played over Botch’s more intricate rhythmic structures. Interwoven into the obscure song structure are moments of Ion Dissonance-styled death metal groove that come and go with appropriate brevity. Did I mention that this band begs comparisons the way urban vagrants beg change? Guitarists Tom Williams and John Kane have nailed a guitar tone that fits perfectly with their technical musings; it is both thick enough to send their breakdowns crashing through the floor and gritty enough to avoid robbing the band of their jagged-edges hardcore aesthetics. The rhythm section of Justin Manas and Frank Correira mix nimble time-signature gymnastics with the tightness demanded by this style of metal; in fact, one of Stray From the Path’s saving graces is the sheer confidence displayed on this release. Their well-rehearsed, well-conceived songs give the impression that the band could well have been around to help invent this style rather than simply being a collection of uncommonly talented neophytes. Most impressively, they aren’t afraid to break up the monotony of their acid-spitting sound with a little melody; the second half of the album in particular (“The Great Exodus,” “Formaldehyde Kiss,” “CODA: The Nightbirds”) sails into somewhat more experimental waters with a sort of mournful, soaring melancholy last seen on Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing. The sound is, in total, notably memorable and steady in a genre that’s become thick with riff-stacking hacks, and that alone is enough to render Stray From the Path’s latest a solid choice.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Stray From the Path is susceptible to the irritating foibles of noisecore for the same reason that they capture its strengths so well, and so Our Oceania is not without its grating moments. As ever, the piles of discordant chords tend to run together a little, and while Kane and Williams are adept riffmasters, they can’t quite avoid some degree of redundancy. The issue is somewhat exacerbated by vocalist Ed Edge; while his clean singing voice far exceeds Jake Bannon’s during the band’s aforementioned lighter moments (thank heavens), his vocals rarely deviate from a vein-popping scream aside from the obligatory attempted death growls in the breakdowns. Finally, Stray From the Path twice fall into one of metalcore’s endemic traps: the two-minute noise interlude. I mean, come on, now. I know it was really cool and experimental and edgy when this shit popped up on Calculating Infinity, but it's been six years and it’s lost whatever chic it may have once had. Stray From the Path’s noise breaks are more melodic than most and are as good as anyone’s, but it still breaks up the album’s destructive flow in a manner that seems particularly unnecessary in light of their sufficiently diverse songwriting. I would advise them (and everyone else who still thinks these goddamn things are cool) to, y’know, stop using them. Now.
Cantankerous ranting aside, this truly is a very solid album and merits the attention of any serious noisecore fan. This comes to me as something of a relief after Five Point Record’s last swing-and-miss Label the Traitor. While some may reject this album on the grounds of unoriginality in a crowded genre, I would remind them that this is metal we’re talking about here, and you’d be hard-pressed to track down a genre that ISN’T stuffed with redundancy (I’m looking at you, br00tal kvlters). Stray From the Path won’t change the world but they’ll certainly appeal pretty strongly to a lot of modern metal fans.
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