For Fans Of
Naturally, releasing new music as soon as one signs to a new label is optimal, while the hype and initial publicity are at their peak. This, however, poses a serious problem. One may unintentionally rush their project in order to meet deadlines and time constraints, which can often lead to a disappointing product. Take ‘Hold On, Pain Ends’ and ‘Heartbound’, by The Color Morale and Dream On, Dreamer respectively. Both records were released soon after the band’s previous releases and both on new labels. Both were largely hailed as disappointments by fans of the previous works, and it seemed that only the die-hards and newcomers were convinced.
This, unfortunately, also applies to Stick to Your Guns and their Pure Noise Records debut, which falls short of the mark. ‘Better Ash than Dust’ feels rushed; as if it’s simply filler, a midpoint between full-length albums.
The five-track EP is just so painfully similar to past works ‘Diamond‘ and ‘Disobedient‘, yet somehow less memorable. Think of the signature STYG formula (fast, metallic riffs, catchy, two-step chorus, slow build-up to an “edgy” lyric before a pummeling breakdown, etc), and then listen to ‘The Never-Ending Story’. This song fully exemplifies that formula, and best illustrates the 16 minute EP sonically. It fits all criteria to a T. It is less memorable, however, as the chorus feels out of place, with the edgy, one-line lyric “just give a fuck about something, mother fucker” is just cringy rather than empowering, and the breakdown is child’s play in comparison to older songs like ‘I Choose Nothing’ or ‘Such Pain’. While on the topic of the latter track, listen to lead single ‘Universal Language’ and tell me you don’t hear “my only enemy is me” before the breakdown, except now the line is “war is all I fucking see”. Talk about painfully similar.
The rest of the release follows the same trends, with the title track sounding like a ‘Disobedient’ B-side with a decent yet same-same chorus and set of riffs, while the angry ‘No Tolerance’ contains lyrics that would be more fitting on an early high school hardcore kid’s demo. I’m all for furious and passionate lyrical content within heavy music, but “What the fuck did you expect in a world that is unjust? You can try and try, but you can’t have us” doesn’t exactly inspire me. In fact, I expected much more from vocalist Jesse Barnett, as 2012’s ‘Diamond’ had a very positive impact on me, as well as my own perspective on life. He’s evidently capable of producing motivational and influential content, but unfortunately ‘Better Ash than Dust‘ doesn’t deliver on this front either.
Where the release does deliver, though, is in the vocal performances. Although the lyrical content has been stronger, Barnett’s yells have never been more ferocious and fervent, while his clean singing has never been as soothing nor as soaring. Guitarist and backup vocalist Josh James (also of Evergreen Terrace) sounds more intense than ever too, with ‘No Tolerance’ surpassing ‘Faith in the Untamed’ as his finest effort behind the mic. Oh, and Brendan Murphy of Counterparts lends his voice on ‘Universal Language’, to great effect of course. I mean, I wouldn’t expect any less, honestly.
Despite all of the misses, the biggest positive of the whole release is the EP’s concluding offering, ‘The Suspend’. Not only does it bring much-needed diversity to the release musically as well as lyrically, but it actually brings diversity to the whole of Stick To Your Guns discography. Conveying influence from Barnett’s very reputable side-project Trade Wind, the track is atmospheric and progressive in nature. The melodic guitar work and vocal combination in the track’s finale was immensely satisfying and it is by far the definite highlight of the whole release.
Yes, ash may indeed be better than dust, but this EP will also be collecting dust as soon as a new album is on the horizon. However, as a fan of Stick To Your Guns, though, I really think that this release should have been called ‘Better B-sides Than Nothing’.
1. Better Ash Than Dust
2. Universal Language
3. No Tolerance
4. The NeverEnding Story
5. The Suspend
‘Better Ash Than Dust’ is out now via Pure Noise Records.