We headed down to Leeds and to The Key Club for the second time in one week, this time to catch socially and politically aware hardcore squad Stray From The Path. They have made a name for themselves as being fearlessly outspoken, using their music to tackle subjects that quite frankly, most politicians would shy away from, never mind their contemporaries in the music world
We only got there in time to catch the last 3-4 tracks of the set from Polar. The Surrey lads play a very fuzzy, pissed off blend of Melodic Hardcore/Hardcore Punk. They often remind of old This Is Hell for some reason and although they are a great band on record, I found them a bit rough and sketchy on this occasion. The buzz and distortion on the guitar clouded some of the song structure, and similarly Adam Woodford's vocals were at times indecipherable. These are perhaps slightly harsh critiques on my part though, because despite the crowd being relatively small at this stage of the evening, the band are well received, and they finish their set strongly with ‘Glass Cutter’ & ‘H.E.L.L’, which has a fantastic, staggering stop/start rhythm and some great guitar work.
Sonically, Dead Harts are chaos incarnate. It’s messy and discordant, with angular, jarring guitar riffs, unrelenting drum patterns and scorched throat vocals. And it is fucking brilliant. It takes half a song before vocalist Matt Baxendale is off the stage and into the pit, and by the second track he has a circle pit going around him while he kneels down so he can scream ever more defiantly into the microphone. You could argue that they perhaps wear their influences a bit too proudly on their sleeves, but when it sounds this convincing, brutal and chaotic who cares. It’s a fusion of technical hardcore bands ranging from Norma Jean, Botch, The Chariot and even Every Time I Die, all played with a ballsy swagger. A perfect example of their chaos/cocky approach is track ‘Cult For The Haggard Youth’, that has some extra groovy riff work in the final third of the track and some great gang vocals. The whole set is unrelenting, and hurtles along with great speed; we are at set closer ‘Concrete Walls’ all too soon, with it’s drum heavy introduction which builds and builds for the entire track, before giving way to an intense final breakdown, with an extremely jarring, angular guitar part, that helps incite an extremely violent final pit. A great set.
After an extremely swift stage turnaround, Stray From The Path wasted no time and hit the ground running with ‘The New Gods’ from recently released album ‘Subliminal Criminals’. Perhaps it was the fuzz and chaos of the two support bands, but more than likely it is entirely down to Stray From The Path as musicians, but it is almost unbelievable how tight and refined their live sound is. For the entirety of the set they don’t put a foot wrong, and I found myself a few times just shaking my head in bewildered approval - they are that good live. By the time they hit the chorus of ‘Outbreak’, you forget that the venue is only half full, because the chorus is being shouted back at the band throughout the room.
The set list showcases the new album heavily, but with such an accomplished piece of work, it is a pleasure to witness, and the Stray faithful all know the words. To everything. They are a band that has continued to evolve their sound and style, rather than change it - and as such have become more ‘themselves’ with each album. The comparisons to Rage Against The Machine are perhaps still unavoidable, but I feel in some ways that Stray From The Path have now surpassed their ‘Masters’, and what they produce has more rage, more bile, and a defiant middle finger raised high in the air. They continue to play flawlessly, but it is not a complete reproduction of what they lay down in the studio. The more outspoken tracks such as ‘Badge & A Bullet, Part 2’ and ‘D.I.E.P.I.G.’ come across as more heavy, and more pissed off than you can imagine, and the response from the crowd is a sea of furiously banging heads. The heaviness reaches a fever pitch during ‘Shots Fired’, and everyone close enough piles forward, scrambling to get in front of the microphone to scream along, before the songs breakdown produces a small but extremely ferocious pit of spinning bodies and flailing arms.
One of my personal favourites from the new album, ‘Snap’ is so infectious live that the whole front half of the crowd are jumping up and down in unison. Again it needs pointing out just how good Stray From The Path are in a live setting. The appropriately titled ‘Black Friday’ gets dropped, and that crazy spiralling riff sends everyone absolutely batshit crazy, and the whole room moves. It is then back to showcasing the new album, and ‘Eavesdropper’ is what counts as a ‘slow’ one, a chance for us to partially catch our breath, and that’s only because it is so groove laden, that you end up staying still to absorb how awesome a song it is. Polar’s vocalist Adam Woodford, grabs the mic towards the end of the track to provide the guest vocals.
Stray From The Path aren’t finished wowing us just yet; ‘First World Problem Child’ absolutely levels The Key Club, band and crowd are all one voice screaming “Shut The Fuck Up!!” The track builds and builds in momentum and tension, giving way to the final breakdown which is absolutely crushing, that note bend on the guitar demanding that your nod your head. Just when you thought they couldn’t sound any more angry, any more full of rage, Stray From the Path close their set with ‘Badge & A Bullet (part 1)’ “Stay away from me. Punk motherfuckers don’t step to me. They abuse their authority. Now I know my enemy… You are not above the law” Regardless of whether you agree with the direction of their aggression, you can taste the bile and bubbling rage. It’s a fantastic end to their set.
This was an odd one, in the sense that I was shocked for The Key Club to only get half full, even for the headliners. Maybe it was having two hardcore shows in one week (The Key Club hosted Deez Nuts, Nasty & Expire on Monday), or maybe people had worn themselves out fighting over shitty tv’s and other such nonsense. Either way, people missed out because Stray From The Path proved once again what a formidable live act they are. They work extremely well as a cohesive unit, bringing a tight knitted and ferocious game every time they set foot on a stage. Don’t miss out on them again!