Published Nov 05, 2019Over their past few albums, Stray From the Path have fully embraced their Rage Against the Machine-worshipping take on hardcore, and while many fans loved it, some saw it as an unappealing approach. The band let their influence sit between the lines on earlier releases, and quickly shifted to placing it at the forefront over the past several years, but luckily for both camps, Stray have toned down their rap-metal to a more even level on Internal Atomics.
The band went as hard into political topics as they could with their last album, Only Death Is Real, but even that has been stripped back to an extent. Instead of pointed lyrics about President Trump, the band take a more general look at society this time around, with lines like "Thinking like everyone else is not really thinking" on opening track "Ring Leader," or their message of "What goes around comes around" on "The First Will Be Last."
The riffs on Internal Atomics stand out a lot more this time around too, with a focus on punishing breakdowns instead of squealing groove metal. Aiming for more focus on loose breakdowns with harsh dissonant sounds on tracks like "Kickback" (which also features a sweet feature from Counterparts vocalist Brendan Murphy) or "Fortune Teller" calls back to early albums, like Rising Sun and Make Your Own History. Not enough can be said about the bass tone on this album too, as it stands out more than any of their other records, with a dirty tone propelling each riff to new levels.
Fans who have missed hearing vocalist Drew Dijorio whip out his iconic "blech" sound that's been lacking on the last two records will be happy to know it's back. It may be a small point about the vocals on the album, but it shows their push to bring together multiple eras of the band. Elsewhere, the vocalist doesn't use a rap metal delivery nearly as much, but still fits it in on songs like "Second Death" and "Something in the Water," which both feel like a more succinct mashup of their old and new ways.
There's really nothing wrong with the rap metal approach Stray From the Path have been taking lately, but it's good to see they aren't settling on a formula after integrating those elements into their repertoire. Internal Atomics shows a more rounded version of the band than ever before, proving they aren't happy to pump out mediocre material to simply justify their touring presence. (UNFD)