More than it has been before, these days, it’s important to know what it is you believe in, and to take a stand for it, lest you get washed away in the crowd. Music is no different – in fact, the requirement that you, as an artist, stand apart from the others predates the growing societal demand for individuals rather than a collective. In this field, Stand Your Ground are veterans, and their latest EP, Standards is proof. Combining hard-hitting elements of in-your-face hardcore with subtle touches of metallic technicality and buckets of emotion and heart, Standards is a release which not only encourages the listener to stand apart from the nameless, faceless masses which surround them, but indeed, stands apart from the nameless, faceless releases of their peers.
The first exposure the listener gets to Stand Your Ground is in the form of “Contradictions,” which opens with the catchiest and most voracious aspect of the band’s arsenal – their ability to create bouncy, yet heavy grooves. “Contractions” kicks off with a groove which is bound to get stuck in the listener’s head for days – or rather, would be bound to get stuck in the listener’s head, were it not for other, equally contagious sections scattered throughout Standards. For example, later in the same track, the band uses a brilliantly timed vocal cue to push the song into an even lower and heavier breakdown that crunches as if a steamroller were paving a bed of eggshells. Similarly, “Understanding” uses a bass-heavy, popping tone to contrast the high, grating nature of the vocals to create a dynamic, heavy-yet-smooth series of breakdowns that flow into one another as if they were a river. Stand Your Ground are able to create beautifully synchronized moments of heaviness and catchy groovyness that are nothing but pure fun for the listener to bob their head to – and it’s largely thanks to the instrumentation.
While Standards isn’t home to technically impeccable or stunningly intricate musicianship, the instrumentation behind the release very much fits the purpose of the album: to inspire and drive. Pounding, pulsing percussion serves as an unshakable backbone for the guitars to harmonize within and spread out from, much like nerve endings. These nerves then act to stimulate the strong and bouncy bass which, for a metalcore album, is markedly prominent and provides a noticeable amount of kick. Together, these elements function as a strong, upright body – as can be seen in “Betrayer/Deceiver,” where the guitars range from a deep, down-tuned chug to an uplifting and inspiring series of well-harmonized chords. All the while, whether chugging, riffing or harmonizing, the drums follow along, providing a strong, punchy foundation, allowing the bass to either blend in or stand out, flowing with the river or swimming upstream.
Where the instrumentation might be well-done, it is, however, slightly samey and predictable at points. This isn’t as much the case with the vocals. Establishing a relatively shrill higher pitched scream as the backbone, the vocalist is capable of ranging from a gruff, lower-pitched yell when it fits the meatier, heavier grooves. Furthermore, Stand Your Ground make use of a range of group chants (“The Fearless,” for example), clean vocals (as seen in “Understanding” and “Betrayer/Deceiver”) and a guest vocal appearance which comes out of nowhere and grabs the listener by the throat. The vocal variety and energy on Standards is one aspect of the release which helps it from becoming just that – a standard release for the genre.
While the EP’s inherent simplicity might seem like it’s unbecoming, it’s truthfully anything but. Standards is a fun but well thought out release which utilizes sturdy and punctual instrumentation alongside diverse and well-executed vocals as a means to inspire the listener to stand apart from the pack and make a change. It doesn’t waste time with unneeded filler or messy attempts at technicality, but rather shows Stand Your Ground providing a skin-and-bones release which is bound to make it onto countless Summer playlists.