LIVE REVIEW: Stray From The Path, The Devil Wears Prada, Loathe, Gideon, O2 Academy Islington, London, 06/12/2019
Stray From The Path are a band that have paid their dues time and time again. The band have been a testament to the fact that hard work inevitability pays off and with this current UK run selling out all but one of its six dates, we venture to the biggest night of the tour at the famous O2 Academy Islington in North London. With the release of their ninth studio album Internal Atomics earlier this year, it is safe to say that the boys are coming with a stronger arsenal of songs than ever before and they have brought a mixed bag of friends along for the ride.
Opening up proceedings tonight is a band who have made quite a name for themselves in recent times known by the name of Gideon. Blessed with an impressively clean sound for an early set (those of you familiar with O2 Academy Islington will know that the sound can be very hit and miss) the boys walk around the stage with the kind of confidence and swagger that you would expect of grizzled veterans, not relative newcomers. They have the already swelling crowds eating out of the palm of their hands from the outset. The nu metal-influenced low-end guitar lines, sampled eerie effects and crushing breakdowns are enough to muster some pretty impressive pits for the time of evening and songs like Cursed (featuring a guest appearance from Loathe guitarist Eric Bickerstaffe in place of Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris), fan favourite Champions and set closer No Love/No One proves that the boys have enough in their arsenal to headline shows of this size in the not so distant future. 8/10
Loathe are the only British band on the bill tonight and take to the stage like hometown heroes (despite being several hundred miles from their native Liverpool). The lads aren’t treated to the same clean production that befell Gideon and as a result, have to endure a pretty muddy sound throughout the majority of their set. However, their power is undeniable and the raw emotion delivered in their songs is enough to throw the now heaving crowd into a state of euphoria. The intricate moments of the songs are unfortunately suffocated by the poor sound quality and as a result, certain parts of the set feel disjointed. However, songs such as Dance On My Skin are still crushingly heavy and whip the pits into a frenzy, encouraging more crowd surfers than you’re likely to see from most festival sets. Closing track It’s Yours from 2017 debut album The Cold Sun sees vocalist Kadeem France launching himself into the crowd and ensuring that the crowd remember his band’s name as the set ends in a haze of feedback. 7/10
Next up on the stage are the lineups ‘wild cards’; The Devil Wears Prada. This is not because they don’t deserve to be this high up on the bill, in fact, it is quite the contrary with the band having headlined this very venue themselves in the past. However, it is the fact they have seemingly no ties to the hardcore scene at all like the others have, instead having toured mostly with other metalcore acts for the majority of their near fifteen-year career. The boys welcome the challenge with open arms and come out of the gates with a crushing rendition of Switchblade from this years celebrated album The Act. They then quickly follow this up with the long-standing fan favourite Danger:Wildman which sends the crowd into a frenzy.
The band have not come to mess around today and walk the audience through all of the different stages of their career, showcasing their evolution from a standard Myspace-era metalcore band to the progressive, forward-thinking act they are today. Frontman Mike Hranica and guitarist/singer Jeremy DePoyster are on top form and pair up wonderfully as they smash through classics such as Dead Throne and Assistant To The Regional Manager with aplomb. It certainly seems that the band have come through a period of uncertainty with the coming and going of members and are now settled and firing on all cylinders. This is no more apparent than when they slap a bow on the performance with a devastating performance of Born To Lose much to the adoration of the crowd. 8/10
The Devil Wears Prada certainly laid down the gauntlet for Stray From The Path with their performance, but the headliners appear to be completely unphased by it as they pick it up and boot it out of the park. From the moment the boys strut onto the stage they have the crowd in the very palm of their hands. The opening salvo of Fortune Teller and The Opening Move, it sets the tone for the evening with the energy levels skyrocketing from the get-go. If there’s one thing that Stray know well, it’s how to write songs for crowd participation and this is no more apparent that during Goodnight Alt-Right with the crowd singing back every word, culminating in the huge call out “Nazi punks f**k off” (a quote from punk legends Dead Kennedys).
The band show no sign of dropping the momentum as they rattle off Badge And A Bullet Pt II, Kickback and Second Death (for which the band are shooting a video for tonight) all the while having their adoring fans screaming the words back to them, throwing themselves over the barricades and kicking the lives out of each other in the multiple pits in the crowd. The effort doesn’t drop off at all for the set as boys drop Ringleader and The House Always Wins. Stray From The Path looks as though they are having the time of their lives tonight and why wouldn’t they? They are a band who have worked their backsides off to get to where they are now, headlining their biggest show in this country to date.
The biggest surprise of the night is reserved for the encore. The band head back to the stage and play through a phenomenal rendition of Badge And A Bullet followed by a section of the Rage Against The Machine classic Killing In The Name. As if that wasn’t enough they then play the instant classic First World Problem Child which EVERYONE in the audience emphatically screams back at them. The pits are raging, the crowd surfers flying and energy is infectious. But even then the boys aren’t done, they reach into their bag of tricks and pull out their good friend; Architects frontman Sam Carter for his part of the track and the crowd absolutely loses its collective mind.
Fans of the band have always been bewildered by the fact that this multi-national punk band, forged in New Jersey are not a worldwide phenomenon, but it goes without saying that if the band continue with this red hot form then the world is truly their oyster. A serious contender for show of the year. 10/10
Written by: Rich Webb
Photos by: Connor Mason (The Loft, Southampton, 07/12/2019)