Jesse Barnett has a lot to say. Understandably so as well, considering that the Stick To Your Guns frontman has spent the last decade-and-a-half as the mouthpiece of some of the most vital, incendiary melodic hardcore going. And with the world hanging together by a thread at the minute, one would assume that Stick To Your Guns would have a plethora of material to draw on to continue that streak. After all, every other band has done it.
And that’s exactly why True View isn’t that album. No matter what Trump’s latest head-in-hands move is, there’s only a finite way to articulate that through the medium of searing punk and hardcore, and rather than following the trend to get yet another anti-Trump statement off the production line, True View diverges entirely, and it’s all the better for it, a potent self-examination of its openly flawed narrator that still manages to bite hard and often.
That’s not to say that politics is exempt from the equation, mind – both Cave Canum and Through The Chain Link clearly come from a generation who know something is blatantly wrong with nothing being done to rectify it – but for the most part, True View is exactly as it says on the tin, with the mirror turned to Barnett to admit his own shortcomings and mistakes. And with vocal snippets from his mother spliced into 3 Feet From Peace and Through The Chain Link, it’s made clear just how deep a lot of this subject matter runs. The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: “Penance Of Self” represents the turning point where he realises the need to take responsibility for his own actions, leading to the series of admissions of destroying successful relationships on Delinelle, or the knock-on effects of his own self-destructive behaviour on 56. On the other side of the coin though, True View has its own quasi-redemption arc running tandem, where Barnett accepts his own agency to change for the better on You Are Free, and the hardcore scene that’s ultimately been something of a saviour to him on Married To The Noise. It says a lot that The Reach For Me: “Forgiveness Of Self” closes the album, where the two lines coalesce and Barnett acknowledges that he is indeed flawed, and while he hasn’t entirely redeemed himself just yet, he’s owned up and wants to change for the better. Admittedly this does skirt dangerously close to a flimsy “only human” defence that, in the worst case scenario, would undo everything that the album has previously worked up to, but given how the song takes the form of a surging alt-rock track with Barnett at his most vocally vulnerable, that instead shifts to show character growth above anything, and that’s something to be admired here.
All of that might imply that True View is a softer album for Stick To Your Guns than previous efforts, and that would admittedly be a fair assumption; after all, it would be nigh on impossible to convincingly craft the layers this album wants simply through another dose of hardcore flurries. Of course, that’s still the bedrock of Stick To Your Guns’ formula – just take the crashing, metallic riffs of The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: “Penance Of Self” or You Are Free to see this band at their full power – but melody is perhaps more crucial than ever at establishing that wider emotional range, and with the choruses of Delinelle and Cave Canum drawing from alt-rock or some Rise Against-esque strain of arena-punk, True View slots into some more fully fleshed-out territory than if it was a simple hardcore album. But even then, there’s diversity to Stick To Your Guns here that serves as a real shot in the arm. This is definitely a more punk-driven album on the whole, even outside of its choruses; the likes of Married To The Noise and Owed Nothing take a mid-paced approach that’s no less exciting, and with 56 and The Reach For Me: “Forgiveness Of Self” being almost completely cleanly sung, there’s a shade of melancholy that covers them to reveal yet more unexplored layers.
Basically, for as much of a deep, soul-searching process as True View is designed as, it succeeds in its aims on two fronts, both in Barnett’s honest narration and in an instrumental performance that deconstructs the entirety of Stick To Your Guns’ sound to isolate what it needs when it needs it. The end product is an album that’s an immensely full, satisfying listen, complex without being totally inaccessible and melodic without succumbing to any pop-leaning tropes. As far as introspective punk and hardcore goes, Stick To Your Guns are fully keeping on top of the competition with True View; this is an album that unfurls its true treasures over time and with deeper digging, but they’re well worth sticking around for.
For fans of: Beartooth, While She Sleeps, Rise Against
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘True View’ by Stick To Your Guns is out now on End Hits Records.