I have found that Stick To Your Guns, especially with 2010’s The Hope Division, is a band that produces exceptional hardcore music. That album was, and still is, one of my favorite albums of all time because of its positive lyrics. Vocalist Jesse Barnett describes the hardcore scene as “a community where every walk of life who felt alone, broken, and shattered could come and feel accepted,” and that album exemplified this statement. Thus, when STYG released Diamond , I thought to myself, “How would the band follow up such a powerful record?”
It would be easy to detect what is different about Diamond from The Hope Division and easily strike down the band for not making another album to a similar degree, but change is inevitable. The most obvious change is in lyrical themes. The songwriting takes on a more negative tone in this record, with anger surrounding tracks like the homophobe-hating “Life In A Box” and the resistance-themed “Against Them All.” Some may find fault in this angry style, but I found it to be a great progression from The Hope Division. Obviously this is how the band felt when they wrote it, so why overlook their sincerity?
Though the lyrics changed a lot on Diamond, sound-wise STYG continues to destroy everything in sight. Songs like “The Bond” have intense build-ups and relapses that seem like they’d sound awesome live, while “Empty Heads” is a dominant force that leaves no prisoners as Barnett screams out the band’s most bitter lyrics to date (“If you say f*ck the world, I’ll say f*ck you”). Tracks like “Such Pain” and “D(iam)ond” seem to end just as quickly as they begin, leaving hardly any room for error as they bombard the listener with scrutinizing melodies and jams. “We Still Believe” is a more laid-back song, yet it still thrives from angsty breakdowns and baleful dual riffage. The addition of new guitarist Josh James’ clean vocals in this track breathes fresh air into the song. It also sees the band progressing into a more punkish, Rise Against-esque sound.
For those hoping this album isn’t a complete departure from The Hope Division, the continued (yet sometimes nagging) usage of Jiddu sound clips, a compact, belligerent arsenal of guitars and powerful lyrics continue to demonstrate the explosiveness that this band possesses. But the band also progresses not by experimentation, but by experience. Throw all the elements of Diamond into a blender, and out comes a release that demonstrates the right way music should be made. Diamond is a record that displays STYG’s sincerity, hard work and dedication over the past few years, and this is something that is often ignored in music nowadays. Hardcore is a genre that is often bloated by computers and synth (i.e. Asking Alexandria, We Came As Romans), but these guys prove that nothing is necessary to crank out good tunes except a mindset ruled by real emotions and a real sound.
Though as a whole Diamond isn’t as good as The Hope Division, it is still a very strong release full of hardcore anthems and a kind of energy that goes nearly unmatched in the genre. With a much darker writing style than on their previous album, Diamond may disappoint many fans. But I found that this only fuels an album that hardly holds back anything. The main thing that makes this album a gem, or should I say, a “diamond,” is its realness, and it continues to prove that these guys are a hardcore act on top of their game.