Stick To Your Guns - Diamond
Record Label: Sumerian Records
Release Date: March 27, 2012
I remember back in 2003, first starting to seriously dig into hardcore and anything closely related to it. You see, I grew up on radio rock known to my mother as oldies, and in the last two years of high school and throughout college I did what a number of people do as they reach that part of their life – I broadened my horizons. It’s been said over and over, but one of the better records to come out of the genre during that time was Comeback Kid’s Wake the Dead. It still is one of my favorite records, an album that not only would musically spawn a league of imitators, but ultimately is an album that speaks to me on a personal level. It is strange that I would feel the need to say this in a review for Stick to Your Guns’ newest effort Diamond, but considering the underlying message of this album, it seems only fair to say that in a genre constantly being double-dipped by pop-punk kids and mosh-warriors alike – Diamond manages to make good on its opening pledge of self-realization with passionate fury. It hits a couple bumps musically, but even so does not waiver in its delivery of adrenaline-pumping sermons of inner-reflection and unapologetic blasts against those who stand against them. It might have taken them almost ten years to get here, but Diamond takes the old hardcore standard of positivity and wraps it in alternative-tinged, mosh-inducing inspiration, leaving Stick To Your Guns sounding more confident and powerful than ever.
Laced with audio clips complimentary to the varying lyrical spouts of STYG vocalist Jesse Barnett, Diamond is firm in what it has to say without crossing the line into becoming preachy. The titular introduction gives us a buildup built around a clip from Jiddu Krishnamurti, a song that strangely enough feels as if it is the end and not the beginning due to how it resolves with a thudding breakdown. While I am aware of Diamond’s sound being much more aligned with the melodic-tinged, less punk-influenced sounds of post-hardcore, as I once described “Amber” as Terror covering Breaking Benjamin, the fuel to the fire seems much more characteristic of hardcore than anything else. “Against Them All” slams a chunky riff against varying rhythmic section backdrops, including a pushing verse that stands out against the huge chorus of this track, as the line ‘Forever us against the mold’ soars through the juxtaposition of this sound in a band particularly aligned with heavier elements. A bit off-kilter in its rhythmic base at first, “We Still Believe” pumps mid-tempo chugging into a hard rock skeleton before diving into a solid rhythmic line for the bridge. Ripe with clean vocals and upbeat melodies, this track is prime for singalongs and pile-ons from start to finish. “Bringing You Down” is another track that stands out for catchiness, with clean vocals spicing up the gritty, yet catchy riffs here.
Don’t think though that this is the band’s departure into more accessible material for the masses. “Empty Heads” is a barn-burner with choice words for pessimists (‘You say fuck the world, we say fuck you!’), as a call for positivity (‘Give back or get out’) burns through the buzzsaw guitars and driving drums. The guitar melodies selectively placed through this one are a nice touch, though it could use a bit more to make them feel a bit less ostracized. “Life in a Box” doesn’t pull any punches either, calling out those who use religion as a tool against others – all while churning through blasting drums and grinding guitars in this back-and-forth number. Barnett might not be the most poetic here (‘Save your breath you homophobic shithead’), but his passion for what he is saying certainly never wavers.
Stick To Your Guns didn’t forget to write any breakdowns on Diamond, though they are for the most part selective and a bit more fine tuned than most bands employing them these days. “Empty Heads” uses dead space to help cut up the rhythmic blast midway through, while opener “Diamond” certainly hits the mark with its crushing guitar hits. Even the near-end pummeling of “Such Pain” sparks with self-reflection (‘My only enemy is me!’), further incorporating the two more appealing elements of the track together for a strong ending.
But even as the band tests the waters for their generally blunt-force lyricism, the musical backdrop is not always in the post-hardcore vein. The short and sweet, yet slightly out of place “D(I Am)ond”, while certainly a bit too short and regurgitates more than it probably should, is almost as mood-changing as you’ll hear Diamond get with its hi-hat-pulsed drumming and laid-back guitar melodies. “Ring Loud” also scores a miss on its choral-backed chorus, mostly because the rest of the song hits so hard that it just sticks out like a sore thumb.
With such passion and drive to create a change in the mind of their listeners, Stick To Your Guns’ Diamond deserves to not be overlooked. Will it ultimately hold itself up to some of the more vocal records hardcore has given us? I can’t say for sure just yet. But beyond the message, Stick To Your Guns has penned some of their strongest, most vocal material to date. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys turn some heads outside of the hardcore realm in the remainder of 2012 and beyond.
I enjoy this record but not quite as much as the Hope Division. Some of my favorite moments come from songs like Diamond and D (I Am)Mond that just don't feel fleshed out enough. And they still do use breakdowns pretty tastefully, but I still would prefer a little less. But overall I really enjoy it