Stray From The Path have made it incredibly clear they are not here to play games on Only Death Is Real–a blistering, ten-track socio-political manifesto that slams and shreds from start to finish. Only Death Is Real is the sixth full-length release from Long Island’s heaviest hardcore outfit, following up 2015’s Subliminal Criminals. Stray From The Path have never shied away from using their music to make a statement–from addressing police brutality to the woes of capitalism–and their latest is no different. The metaphor begins with the album artwork, which features a row of black chess pieces on a board, from king to pawn, with the pawn highlighted as the lone piece in red. Explained by guitarist Thomas Williams, “The king equals the elite, the queen equals the government, the bishop equals the church, the knight equals the military, the rook equals the police, and the pawn equals the people.”

Only Death Is Real uses each track to attack various injustices of modern-day America. The first and shortest song, “The Opening Move,” invites listeners to choose their side–vocalist Andrew “Drew York” Dijorio demands, “You want the pawns to fight each other, and say that we’re not the same. I say don’t hate the player–hate the game. So what’s it gonna be, you with us or the enemy?” Dijorio wastes no time getting to the point in “Loudest In The Room,” where he screams, “Pledge no allegiance” before one of Stray’s characteristic discordant breakdowns. This brings us to the already-infamous “Goodnight Alt-right.”

“Goodnight Alt-right” attracted the fury of neo-Nazis and far-right trolls when it was released as a music video and single. The title is a reference to a now-famous video of white supremacist Richard Spencer getting punched in the face after the inauguration, while the song features lyrics that directly confront the prominence of Nazi and racist white supremacist groups in the US post-election. Stray makes it clear that they believe we must stop these hate groups at any cost and, yes, that includes punching Nazis. The video depicts the band kidnapping a white supremacist/Nazi who appears to be planning some sort of terrorist attack and ends with black-clad Dijorio tattooing a swastika onto the captured Nazi’s forehead. The release drew an immediate response from the “alt-right.” Hate groups flooded the band’s YouTube and Twitter account with comments claiming that the group was “threatening” the alt-right (for anyone who is confused, “alt-right” = Nazis) with violence–which is ironic, to say the least, since the ideology of Nazis calls for the extermination of entire groups of people. While the angry commenters seemed to forget about the song/video rather quickly, the initial reaction really proved that Stray From The Path had hit the nail on the head. In the times we live in now, there are hordes of Americans defending white supremacists and Nazis’ “right to free speech.” Stray’s video is a stark reminder that “free speech” does not protect you from the ramifications of your words– “If you preach hate, then expect hate–Nazi punks, fuck off!”

The album continues with “Let’s Make A Deal,” a banger critiquing “the union of wealth and state” in America, and “They Always Take The Guru,” a nod to Architect’s guitarist Tom Searle who passed last year following a battle with cancer. “Plead The Fifth” chugs on with one of my favorite Stray breakdowns of all time (I’ll let you check that out for yourselves) while “Strange Fiction” pummels listeners with the vocal combo of Dijorio and Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die. “All Day & All Night,” one of the other singles, rattles on with searing guest vocals from Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose. The album closes with “The House Always Wins,” a single dropped close to the election last year, now updated to feature guest vocals from rapper Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, and “Only Death Is Real,” which was released as a music video last week.

Honestly, this is my favorite hardcore release of 2017, from lyrics to overall sound. Every song brings something different and–in a time where so many bands still refuse to use their influence to make an impact–it is inspiring to see Stray staying true to their beliefs and utilizing their platform to speak out. If you like heavy music and socially progressive lyrics, this album is going to be your new favorite. Don’t sleep on Only Death Is Real and, if you can, get to one of their upcoming tour dates! You won’t be disappointed.

Only Death Is Real Track Listing:

01. The Opening Move
02. The Loudest In The Room
03. Goodnight Alt-right
04. Let’s Make A Deal
05. They Always Take The Guru
06. Plead The Fifth
07. Strange Fiction (feat. Keith Buckley)
08. All Day & All Night (feat. Bryan Garris)
09. The House Always Wins (feat. Vinnie Paz)
10. Only Death Is Real

Run Time: ??:??
Release Date: September 8, 2017

Check out the band’s video for the song “Goodnight Alt-Right”