Stick To Your Guns‘ latest release, Better Ash Than Dust, picks up exactly where their last full-length, Disobedient, left off. In effect, the new EP is an extension of the previous record; there is very little that differentiates the two as separate works other than time.
Hardcore powerhouse Stick To Your Guns have just signed to Pure Noise Records. Along with the announcement, they’ve released their first single since their 2015 record Disobedient, and it’s a banger full of social and political commentary like you’ve come to expect from the band. The song, “Universal Language,” was released by the band with the following statement:
In no particular order, here are the HXC Magazine staff’s favorite records from 2015!
Minimalism is perhaps the most common theme spread throughout hardcore. When you embellish a basic chord progression in hardcore, suddenly it’s metalcore. If you add lots of lights and a barrier, that local vibe is gone. You’re “selling out” in a sense. There’s a real sense of community derived from such a simple idea that you can just pick up an instrument, have a message and play it for people to hear. This is perhaps why many music videos in hardcore are homemade, live footage from shows, or simply the band playing in an empty warehouse or white room.
So what happens when a metalcore band heavily routed in the hardcore community takes a stab at it? Well, just like their music, it embellishes that idea a bit more.
The Orange County quintet Stick To Your Guns have been riding the success of their latest album Disobedient and have just released the second music video, “The Crown,” in support of that album. As the song and video suggest, we are but small creatures in a much bigger world, and with power in this world, as Ben Parker notes, comes great responsibility. For a highly politically vocal band, this video has a lot to say simply through images and contrasts. Take a look at the video below to see some pretty incredible visuals paired solely with STYG playing in a very bright, white room and let us know what you think!
To anyone who has recently heard the new Sworn In record, The Lovers/The Devil, you may be asking yourself “What the hell did I just listen to?” And this is a pretty standard reaction as many of the tracks on the quintet’s sophomore effort are pretty much collections of not-so-collaborative noise. After the great success of their debut full-length, The Death Card, this shift from “emocore” to experimental melodic metal(ish) collage-djent (yes, that is a mouthful just as much as an earful) felt almost disappointing and out of place for the band.
A couple weeks back I cited Sworn In as one of the bands you need to know based mainly off of their highly innovative efforts on The Death Card, or XIII, depending on how you want to read it. It’s a fantastic album that carries a distinct sound throughout the entire work, but is filled to the brim with dynamic and out of the box rhythmic patterns over strange chord progressions and an intense use of distortion pedals. It’s what I imagine broken hearted spoken word in a dive bar would sound like if suddenly Rise Records wanted to remix it. While it’s definitely a little bizarre, it’s also incredibly intense and highly enjoyable. So when The Lovers/The Devil dropped and I couldn’t understand my own disappointment in their strange, new musical direction, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Have Sworn In gone crazy or are they really just musical geniuses no one understands?”
When it comes to art and music, where do we find the exact divider? In fact, is there even a dividing line or is music simply a form or “genre” of art? And if so, is art all encompassing of “the arts” and thus not solely focused on the major artistic media such as painting, sculpting, and drawing?
Okay, so where is all of this philosophical stuff coming from that sounds like the beginning of a bad 101 class in college? And why am I asking so many goddamn questions?
Well, that’s kind of the point. When you listen to a great record, not just a good record, you want the music to challenge you. This is why listening to albums like Stick To Your Guns‘ Disobedient will always hold more of an impact than listening to Falling In Reverse‘s Just Like You. While FIR may have catchy and even danceable riffs and hooks, STYG are preaching lyrics with a strong message as well as musical backbone. People love Bring Me The Horizon for similar reasons. While the music is amazing and ever-changing, it’s the personal and emotional aspect of tracks like “It Never Ends” and “Drown” that will resonate with the listener long after the records stop spinning. If the music doesn’t subliminally force the listener to think in some new or different way then there really is no point to invest yourself in it.
When I first heard The Lovers/The Devil I was confused. I had previously only heard the singles “Sunshine” and “I Don’t Really Love You” and I couldn’t quite get a grasp on why the fuck a band so rooted in doing spoken, emotionally driven unclean vocals would want to introduce these weird meshes of melodic cleans sporadically throughout each track. It wasn’t sonically pleasing, and it wasn’t aesthetically intriguing either. The fan feedback via social media also seemed to be just as disappointed or confused as I was (though now, looking back, I think it was more confusion disguised as disappointment). The one major thing this album was doing was getting people talking–whether it was good or bad, people were genuinely discussing these out-of-left-field singles that seemingly no one could figure out.
In a strange move, Sworn In took to social media themselves to really push the idea that the album needed to be listened to as a whole, not just in bits and pieces. They stressed it was a concept album divided into two major ideas, The Lovers and The Devil, naturally, and encouraged fans not to write them off for their shift in sound.
So with that I went back into it.
And still wasn’t satisfied.
When we think “concept album,” we are thinking of an album that is divided up into varying sections and stories, but what if each track on The Lovers/The Devil is actually more of a microcosm of the entire album? Just about every track except “Oliolioxinfree” has this bizarre separation of depressing lullaby-like melody amongst thrashy, experimental hardcore. The title of the album is problematic enough. The Lovers/The Devil is not only annoying to type, but it’s also kind of jarring to look at and say. It’s two separate ideas used to create one concept, one idea. Perhaps this jarring sonic effect was the purpose; perhaps this album is meant to be just as jarring as the stylized title suggests.
The fact of the matter is that The Lovers/The Devil is never going to be truly sonically enjoyable. There is an intentional formula behind it that makes it just impeccably grating to listen to. But it can be appreciated for its conceptual sophistication. Think of Jackson Pollock. His paintings are sporadic and all over the place, but they say something far more transcendent than just a run of the mill portrait. They create outward commentaries on society and the people of the art world as well as those who view, collect, and showcase his paintings. They say that there are set formulas for “art,” but we do not necessarily need to follow them in order to create Art. There may not necessarily be a skill displayed within the painting, or a catchy flow to this album for that matter, but it’s a concept that came about from both past experience in and knowledge of the industry as well as technical skills in general. It’s throwing conventions to the wind and in the end creating conversation.
You cannot deny that people are talking about The Lovers/The Devil. While this time around the lyrics may not be the selling point that the listener takes away, it’s the challenge of making a new sound with a dualistic concept present in almost every track that is completely throwing people off their game. Metalcore, hardcore, djent, punk, dubstep, whatever alternative music you listen to is always so rooted in verse, chorus, verse, chorus, hook/breakdown/bass drop, chorus, blah blah blah, that when an album comes around and changes the entire dynamic, people tend to jump and just say it’s bad. But “bad” is the wrong word for The Lovers/The Devil because the album isn’t one to be listened to for its musicality, it’s meant to be listened to for its innovation and artistic nature. I will never bump this album on a car ride or at a party. I will never want to listen to it because of any melodic nature it may hold. And that’s because The Lovers/The Devil shouldn’t be viewed as a record. It should be viewed as sonic concept Art. And for that, Sworn In deserves to be lauded for their efforts, not beaten down for making a record absolutely no one expected.
Growing up is never easy. Sometimes you feel like no one understands you and sometimes you might even feel like you are nobody at all. With the latest video from Stick To Your Guns, “Nobody,” the band capture the story of growing up feeling invisible because you might think you’re the outcast. It’s something everyone in this scene can easily relate to, which is why STYG also offer up going to shows and finding those people and the environment similar to how you think, feel and act as the perfect outlet to truly being and owning who you are. With metaphorical visuals carrying the story this video portrays, “Nobody” and its accompanying footage work cohesively as the youth anthem they were created to be. Check out the video here and let us know what you all think!
A band that have been and remain socially conscious to a point of great inspiration, Stick To Your Guns deliver an album which ignites passion equivalent to the kind it took to make it, inciting thought, and greater still, action from beginning to end. Not only is it a well-crafted installment in terms of composition and sound, but it does what truly impressive hardcore records do—it interacts. ‘Disobedient’ is not just a product but a living, breathing tool of engagement. It creates a dialogue, it establishes connection in energetic, honest, and heartfelt terms. STYG have not only recorded songs but they’ve captured a spirit. This is the kind of record that is dismissive of the capitalistic demands of the music industry. It’s a record that sounds like it was made purely because there was a need for it to be made, and to borrow from “I Choose No One,” made from men, not machines.
Each track is not widely different from the others; a quality generally to the detriment of a record, but not here. Rather, each song builds upon the last as one sustained effort. ‘Disobedient’ reveals itself to the listener more as a speech being dramatically delivered by an activist at a podium (emphasized by the intermittent sound bites sampled from a 1974 conversation between Jiddu Krishnamurti and Dr. Allen W. Anderson, transcript HERE) than a standard album. Even the effects put on the vocals serve at points to make it sound as though Jesse Barnett were shouting through a megaphone.
The record opens with the chanting vocals and warlike drums of “It Starts With Me,” as if to prepare us to enter battle with STYG as our leaders–and you better be okay with that. “What Choice Did You Give Us,” “Nothing You Can Do To Me,” and “The War Inside” are declaratory and combustible, provoking a guilty conscience should your feet remain on the ground. “Left You Behind” offers a softer conclusion to the record, a poetic and symphonic gesture that begs the listener to start from the beginning again and take it all in, which this reviewer highly seconds.