Have you ever had one of those bands that you stumble upon completely by accident and wonder how they passed you by for so long? That was how I felt when Stray From The Path came on randomly on my Spotify early last year and since then I’ve been a massive fan. I’m fairly selective about the hardcore bands I listen to but there’s something about SFTP; they’re just one of those bands that I can listen to at any given time. They’re political, angry, unrelenting and their latest offering has built on those dynamics when it didn’t seem possible.
Only Death Is Real has all the hallmarks of a SFTP album. The big beats, huge riffs and abrasive vocals are all there but amplified more than they were previously. They’re fucking pissed at the current state of the world (rightly so) and that anger has culminated in another brilliant album from the Long Island quartet. Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to be a world leader and come up against vocalist Andrew ‘Drew York’ Dijorio in a Question Time-style discussion.
Right from the off it’s full throttle hardcore with very little time to catch your breath. The Opening Move gives you a taste of what’s to come, with low chugging guitars and booming drums that are characteristics of the whole album. Loudest In The Room, Let’s Make A Deal and They Always Take The Guru took several listens through for me to move past, mainly just to carefully listen to the lyrical content and the monstrous riffs around them. Moving on to Plead The Fifth would lead you to believe that they had stuck a mellow song in there for good measure, with an uncharacteristically mellow(ish) opening that’s got some groove to it before normal service is resumed.
The main draw for me on 2015’s Subliminal Criminals was the cameos from notable vocalists (Sam Carter, Cody B. Ware and Rou Reynolds) and it’s good to see that the same has been done with more big names added to the latter songs on Only Death Is Real. In truth, I don’t feel there’s really much need for SFTP to add the likes of Keith Buckley (Every Time I Die) and Bryan Garris (Knocked Loose) to enhance their songs as they have enough about them without such cameos. In fact, my only criticism of the whole album would be Garris’ inclusion as his high-pitched vocals are somewhat an acquired taste and while they keep within the aggressive nature of All Day & A Night, they’re not for me personally.
We were treated to a one-off single release in 2016 in the form of The House Always Wins, which gave a brief glimpse into what was to come from this release. This has been included on Only Death Is Real but now features Vinnie Paz (Jedi Mind Tricks) spitting some bars that feel like they fit so naturally and add another dynamic to one of the heaviest songs on the album.
As a part-time listener of the hardcore genre, it’s hard for me to really delve into the musical elements of this album in any great detail and do justice but one thing I do know, is that it’s fucking brilliant and simply commands to be played loud. Any long time listeners of SFTP will really dig this record as it’s in keeping with previous efforts but with extra punch and aggression. Only Death Is Real has come at the right time and confronts many of the issues that are going on in the world, which ironically, has helped create a brilliant album.