When I think of Stick To Your Guns, I think of aggression, fire for change, and intensity to wake people the f*ck up. I think of passion for compassion, to the extreme of hating those who don’t get it. And I think of their vocalist Jesse Barnett, speaking on stage at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, about how it was his mother who taught him how to be a real man, when all the male role models in his life seemed to be lacking and behaving nothing like the man he wanted to be.
So when I had my first listen of Stick To Your Guns’ new album True View, and the first track “3 Feet from Peace” starts with what has to be Jesse’s mom’s voice, I honestly cried. This is a band that walks their talk; that not only stands on stage talking emphatically and with heart about their no tolerance stance on oppression and hate, but also mean what they say enough to include a maternal voice on an album in the hardcore genre where testosterone scented circle pits are a firm fixture.
Needless to say, this album ‘had me’ from the beginning.
“Because in the end, no matter which way and direction this goes,
you’re the only person that can do it”
Stick To Your Guns are no stranger to giving wake-up calls to the wayward, a la “Just give a f*ck about something, motherf*cker!”, but this time the wake-up call is directed inward. The first track, “3 Feet from Peace” tells a story of experiencing destruction and loss, before landing upon that realisation. With fierce determination and honesty that seems to somehow perfectly match the soundbites, the guys set out to find peace, from within. This opening track is a vow to the self, about the self, and sets a tone of what’s to come in the album ahead.
With signature STYG intensity, the second track “The Sun, the Moon, the Truth: “Penance of Self”” begins. It hits hard, with the surrender to self-responsibility feeling like taking a sword through the chest: “Now I must live with the hurt”.
“You can shelter yourself from the sun
And you can hide from the moon
But there is nothing you can do
When the truth strikes its light on you”
It’s impressively vulnerable lyrically, in being with the discomfort of the experience and acknowledging their role in creating the destruction that is going on around them. The hurt they feel being understood as an inevitable outcome that they could not avoid: The penance of their choices.
The (addictive) out-of-body sounding choruses pushed up against confrontational verses capture the struggle between escapism and honesty that is required to take this stance of awareness.
Third on the album, “Married to the Noise”, is a fierce and firm hold onto the hardcore scene where the members of Stick To Your Guns found belonging and a home. Proud of the scene and what it stands for, the track echoes their commitment to it; willingly allowing for it to consume them, irrespective of how it seems to others who may not understand what it means to them. The track seems to be an ode to the role of music in their lives.
“And I was finally heard through the pain of my voice
As for me there was no other choice”
Next on True View, “Delinelle” begins with heartache transformed into roars and heavy drum beats. It’s an uncomfortable and bitter pill to be swallowed; the recognition of support they had from a loved one, and then lost, at their own hand. It echoes the same uncomfortable responsibility that has been seen, even though it’s not easy to accept. The strong and persistent sound sound coupled with the vocal anguish captures the difficulty in facing the fact that something important has been destroyed.
“This is not an apology
Or an admission of guilt
This is a realization of how I destroyed
All the things we’ve built”
“Cave Canem” follows, which translates to Latin as “Beware of the dog”. The ‘dog’ in this case seeming to be a progressively worsening situation willingly being created, and on the verge of being released and causing harm. Heavy riffs foreshadow a hectic outcome, with the anthemic chorus feeling like “I told you so” and “When were you going to listen?”. Responsibility again plays out here, seeming to pit two sides up against each other; one aiming to rescue, and the other to willfully destroy.
“One hand out-stretched, desperately reaching
To pull us from death
And the other gripping the trigger
A bullet aimed right at its head”
A passionate plea, to notice what’s coming, as well as to take responsibility for our choices (and therefore the outcome) culminates in an ultimatum vibed breakdown, hoping we’ll heed the warnings, instead of continuing to mindlessly feed the vicious ‘dog’ set to destroy us all.
“56” is next and is emotionally moving in the passion that’s expressed in being all-in with another. Being all-in despite drowning with them, and the two of them trying to stay afloat together. Taking the heaviness of their connection that they knew surpassed their capacity, and trying to make it work anyway.
“I knew we’d sink, but I still jumped in”
“56” is more heart than fury, and is more of a solid anthem than an intense ‘whoa!’ track, but nonetheless carries the signature passion of Stick To Your Guns.
Seventh on True View is “The Inner Authority: “Realization of Self””. It’s the second of three ‘chapters’ that explore the self (1. Penance, 2. Realisation, 3. Forgiveness), and begins perfectly with ominousness and heaviness that such an exploration may invite.
“So I quiet my mind to hear the inner authority”
Again I find this track powerfully moving. The vocals that roar in ache and refusal of mundanity or conformity, together with a sound that captures the mountain-climb level of introspection required, all create a powerful experience of bravely facing the self and moving away from fear that might otherwise hijack the attempt.
“You Are Free” shoves us into heavy aggression territory which will be a sound that’s more familiar to longtime STYG fans. Blistering drum beats and sick riffs join in with vocals roared with passion. This track’s massiveness directly reflects the huge realisation that’s being expressed in it:
“You are free
No matter what they do or what they say
Believe, you are free
The true power of you can’t be taken away”
The heavy fire barely pauses before it continues into the “Doomed by You”. This next track is a middle finger toward naysayers, who had projected their doubt and fear onto others, fooling them in the process. Fight and refusal to roll over into the naysayers’ negative expectations is expressed through confrontational heaviness, menacing riffs, and gang vocals.
“You made me believe that this was about me
When the truth is, you fucking coward
You don’t have what it takes”
By way of responsibility, it goes two ways in “Doomed by You”; with the other person needing to be responsible for their beliefs/fears, and the other taking responsibility for their success, no longer being content with ‘betting against myself’.
“The Better Days Before Me” begins as a slick drumfest. With hectic pace we’re pulled into an honest admission of the passing of time. With this gradually unfolding and building track, STYG take us through their reasons why they look to the past, how they learn(ed) from it, and how it shapes their choices NOW and into the future. It’s a hard line of self-responsibility, determinedly shining a light on a truth:
“If you’re not satisfied
You have no one to blame but yourself”
This theme continues into “Owed Nothing”; recognising the gift of existence we’ve been given, from the point of the lottery of conception onward. We each only have one life, and nothing we have goes with us when we go. STYG are sharing that even though we know that our time is not promised and we’re not owed anything, we shouldn’t live in fear. “Owed Nothing” is relentless in its heaviness and would make for an amazing track to soak up in person.
“Through the Chain Link” opens with a (heart-achingly genuine) recording of a woman, seeming to have lost hope of those who are asking for her to trust them. In this track, the lens of responsibility looks toward the choices and mistakes of others, seeming to insist that we can do better, even though we weren’t the ones who made those mistakes. It’s a further expansion of what is shared in “The Better Days Before Me”; looking back historically and using that knowledge in the here and now, to create something better, also remembering the preciousness of the time we have.
With the outro of the track we are hit hard with the heavy hopelessness that STYG have observed in others: “There is no point, this is the world we live in”. It’s clear that the loss of hope is something that the band are passionately fighting against, and taking personal responsibility instead of becoming compliant with systems or beliefs that reinforce the hopelessness or lack of freedom.
True View ends with “The Reach for Me: “Forgiveness of Self””; the third chapter of the self discovery. It’s a powerful closing track, summing up in honesty the self-responsibility that STYG have shared throughout the album, with clean vocals and a catchy sound.
“I don’t want a second chance
I just want to understand
What led me down this path, oh
And how I can lead myself back
I’ll face this on my own”
It takes an angle of pulling back the role of forgiveness from another to the self. No longer placing the responsibility of another to forgive them for their choices, but for them, themselves to take ownership of what they have done, and be honest with the fallout of it, and decide what they intend to do differently in the future.
Having now absorbed the whole of True View, I can share that I found the album, its sound, and concepts, to be beautiful, powerful, raw and full of determination for a revolution of individual responsibility. The concept of stepping out of martyrdom or aggression toward those with skewed views or beliefs, and into ‘How can I take this experience/observation and do something better?’ is refreshing. The honesty of Stick To Your Guns in sharing this journey publicly is courageous and important.
To me this album goes beyond ‘just making impressively heavy tracks’ (even though they have done that) and into inspiring a revolution with their shared introspection.
While my attention was definitely drawn to the vocals and messages shared in the tracks, I felt that sonically there could have been more uniqueness across the album. I would have loved more 'wow' tracks which I know the band are capable of.
Signature Stick To Your Guns sound, albeit with more tenderness than we might expect. Powerful honesty in putting their mistakes forward with introspection, and wanting more for themselves and others.