It’s kind of surprising to realize Stray from the Path‘s newest record Anonymous marks the seventh LP from the Long Island-based hardcore outfit. For as long as they’ve been around – and even for myself only being really familiar with 2009’s Make Your Own History and on – Anonymous‘ initial punch and following venom strikes much more potently than 2011’s Rising Sun, and certainly with much more variety and less finger pointing in the process. Okay, so this is a Stray album – there is plenty of finger pointing. But where Rising Sun felt like a band trying to top what could be argued as their most powerful record in History, Anonymous shows a group of guys honing themselves into a group that knows its roots, but embraces the future in much smoother strides this time around.
If you’re of the usual hardcore fare, “False Flag” and “Slice of Life” are good starters for heavy riffage with some punch. In that same sense, there’s plenty of the usual Stray feel to this record – from familiar songs like the previously released, but tighter re-recording of “Landmines” to an introduction-like track in “False Flag” that sets precedent early on. The band’s core sound, including Drew York’s snide vocals, Tom Williams’ guitar trickery and an always pummeling rhythm section, drives these tracks with purpose and passion at nearly every turn. “Radio”, “Slice of Life” and “Scissor Hands” all show a familiar side of the band without sounding too repetitive or dull, and energy-wise are among some of the better cuts of the bunch.
But some of Anonymous‘ more intriguing moments reside in passages where the band sounds a little out of their element – including the brooding titular closer and the almost tribute-esque “Badge & a Bullet”. While the curves make for a much more interesting listen for ears familiar with the band’s sound, it derails the train here and there as the band seems more interested in being technically interesting than simply grabbing and holding the listener’s attention. Fortunately, Stray from the Path are able to find plenty of middle ground on Anonymous to keep both ideas in check without losing us in repetition or tangents.
To match that though, the band again treads on some social commentary mixed with personally-rooted lyrics to be both familiar and at least inspiring to the point of realization towards the society we are currently in. The ideas fall a little flat a times, including the vigorous but at times lacking “Badge & a Bullet” and the tongue-in-cheek references of the title track. The ideas are certainly there, but I’d wager they aren’t necessarily call-to-arms type lines as they probably could be. To be fair though, York does some strong writing elsewhere, including the seething “Scissor Hands” (shout out for the ‘BLEGH’) and the catchy hook of “False Flag”. If anything, he makes up some of the writing shortfalls by maintaining a high level of energy in the delivery of the lyrics throughout.
After being somewhat disappointed in the staying power of Rising Sun, Anonymous feels like a better overall effort despite a couple licks in the process. But for a band seven albums in, Stray from the Path certainly still have something to scream and strum about on this record – the dissonance and tension found throughout Anonymous is certainly a testament to that.