Overall Score: 9/10 Performances: 9/10 Songwriting: 9/10 Energy: 9/10 Pros: A raise in quality across the board sees Stray From The Path produce their best performances and tracks to date Cons: This feels like their sound at the highest level, don’t expect it to necessarily change your mind
As the band themselves like to frame their own career, Euthanasia is the third album in the STRAY FROM THE PATH reboot. Kicking off with the addition of Craig Reynolds on drums and 2017’s Only Death Is Real, these last three records have played out like a perfect trilogy arc. Each one has proven to be better than the last in every way, whether it’s the strength of the songs, the performances or how their message translates. This time around, it’s the same story but if you skip over Internal Atomics (2019), the leap from 2017 to this version of the band is very impressive.
The fundamentals of what their band is all about have always stayed the same, no one is going to be taken aback when those huge bendy riffs and political/societal commentary jabs start coming your way on the opening track. STRAY FROM THE PATH are definitely a band that is at their best when they’re foaming at the mouth and looking for someone to bark at and Euthanasia sounds like their most pissed-off record as a collective. Whilst every aspect of what they do has levelled up again, the fire that burns throughout the record is so essential to making their sound feel authentic and as rallying as it’s supposed to.
Whilst that gives everything an extra punch, STRAY FROM THE PATH have always been known for that trademark sound of snarling RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. That anger is the baseline level of what you expect from them but Euthanasia goes above and beyond that due to the songwriting and performances, which the record has career bests on both fronts. One of the big sticking points for many will be Drew Dijorio’s unique vocals and his performance is the best output he’s had to date. Whether it’s because of how much ammunition they had after having to sit and wait out the pandemic, the vocals and lyrics feel far more concentrated and focused. Dijorio isn’t just spitting venom and seeing what sticks, it’s the most convincing and confident he has ever sounded.
The same goes for the rest of the band and that results in several career highlights dotted around the tracklist. Whilst III is maybe the best example of their sound condensed into one song with an incredible groove and slickness combined with a strong message and fired-up energy, Bread & Roses is such an exciting diversion for them. It still has that tidal wave groove to it but with stripped-back vocals and a lot of metal influences that made their way into the sound on these last three albums. Another example of the band just being better this time around, the choruses on both these tracks are above and beyond what they’ve produced in the past.
The majority of the tracklist can be best described as relatively standard STRAY FROM THE PATH but in the upper tiers of their back catalogue. Guillotine, however, might be the best thing they’ve ever released. Despite breaking his back as the band was scheduled to start recording the album, Craig Reynolds’ drum intro on this track is their new calling card and it’s dazzling everytime you hit play. For that matter, Reynolds‘ performance all over the album is the stand-out aspect, the balance of heavy and groovy that he brings is such a huge asset for Stray. There aren’t any punches that don’t quite land and the chorus is the perfect example of yes, Stray always sounds pissed off but it’s never this abrasive and real. That’s helped by Will Putney‘s production which fits like a glove with this band in particular.
Whilst the band’s energy on Euthanasia comes from negative sources, to come out the other side with their best record to date is a massive achievement. With a band so in your face as they are, it needs to feel real and they accomplish that whilst channelling that anger into great songs. STRAY FROM THE PATH feels like an incredibly tight unit now that has gone from strength to strength over the course of these last three records. This isn’t a band who have drastically changed anything, the difference is that the level of quality across the board has been raised several notches.
Euthanasia releases September 9 via UNFD.
For more information on STRAY FROM THE PATH, like their official page on Facebook.