For Fans Of
‘Subliminal Criminals’, the cover of which looks like Slipknot’s Shawn Crahan went through his back catalogue of road kill photos, is Stray From The Path’s eighth album to date, (or their fourth album depending on who you ask), and while it definitely sounds like Stray From The Path, it’s been crafted and written in such a way to make it their best work thus far in their 14 year career.
Let’s get this out of the way now – yes, the Rage Against The Machine influences are still here. All of the head-bobbing funky grooves, the fast-paced vocal lines, the political edge, anti-authoritarian vibe and aggression is all still there and intact. Of course, while the band doesn’t see themselves in the same league as Zack de la Rocha and co, the influence and inspiration they have from that band is undeniable. But Stray really make their own sound with it, as, for the most part, they’re playing faster and way heavier music then Rage ever did. As such they shouldn’t just be written off as ‘Stray Against The Machine,’ ‘Rage Against The Path’ or this reviewer’s personal favourite, ‘Rage Against The Bleugh’ (there are barely any ‘bleughs’ on this album actually), or whatever other names come up as the top comments on YouTube and social media posts relating to this group.
Now, this reviewer really believes that the band has always had an issue of releasing their best songs as singles first and thus a lot of the remaining tracks on the subsequent records aren’t quite as memorable. However, this album remedies this, some patterns are made to be broken. Exclude the five or six songs they dropped prior to its release, you’ll still have another half-dozen killer tracks to choose from, all of which are great. Whether it’s the more personalised closer of ‘These Things Just Fall Apart’, or the short but intense banger that is ‘Future Of Sound‘, this album is just scarily consistent.
Continuing on the band’s now long-running trend of getting their buddies to feature on their new songs, Architects’ Sam Carter and Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds both feature on ‘First World Problem Child’ and ‘Eavesdropper’ respectively. Both of which are just phenomenal tracks. But wait there’s more! Cody B. Ware of World’s Fair lends an expressive and tight urban vocal style to one of the bounciest, hip-hop influenced songs the band has ever written, ‘Future Of Sound‘. A short but sweet standout that one is indeed.
As one can expect, these three guest spots only beef up and add to what is an already top quality release, thus helping it stand even stronger as one of Stray’s best efforts.
One of the strongest aspects of the record is the variety in the lyrics. This is a band who has always had varied albums thematically speaking, but ‘Subliminal Criminals‘ covers a lot of ground over its half hour run-time. Whether it’s decrying police brutality (‘Badge & A Bullet Part II‘, which is miles ahead of its first part), privileged white kids talking shit behind screens, the Big Brother-like actions of Western governments (yes, Australia included), the control pharmaceutical companies have over their “patients”, governments using foreign and extremist scapegoats to spearhead war, the collapse of relationships, and the disgusting predatory nature of some alleged bands and artists in the alternative scene (i.e. Ian Watkins, Front Porch Step etc.), Stray once again say it how it is. It’s that kind of lyrical variety that makes this record incredibly relevant in 2015 and it seems that as long as the world is a fucked up place, then we’ll have bands like this speaking up and speaking out and writing amazing music in the process.
So while the Sumerian/post-‘Villains’ days are where the band has really, really made their name and fame, this record goes further and harder than ‘Anonymous’ and ‘Rising Sun’, or any of their other albums ever did. Yeah, okay, maybe ‘Damien’ still is their best song, and maybe that’s why they end nearly every fucking gig with it, but damn this record has so many tasty jams on it that the band will be hard pressed to pick a setlist that represents their back catalogue against this new banger.
With their latest record, Stray From The Path have knocked it right out of the park, over the roof, past the car park area and well onto the other side of the town, where your parents tell you not to walk at night. What we mean by that long-winded analogy is that this is easily the best record the band has released to date, perhaps even besting their aggressively attention grabbing ‘Make Your Own History’. Dem be big words for sure, but with such a cohesive, consistent and crisp sounding record that is neither too short or over staying of its welcome, these guys have truly outdone themselves.
1. The New Gods
3. Badge & A Bullet Part II
4. First World Problem Child
5. Shots Fired
8. Future of Sound
9. Time Bomb
11. These Things Have To Fall Apart