Less than a year after one of Houston's best hardcore bands was resurrected upon front man Daniel Albaugh's return from Philadelphia, Die Young is back with an EP that is short on running time but very long on a peculiar brand of confessional, compelling metalcore. Chosen Path is all you would expect on the surface, with Albaugh's throaty screams over the pounding pulse of Wendel Lopez's avalanche drums, but breaking down the release into its emotional canon reveals a lot about the man Albaugh has become.
True to its title, Chosen Path lays out a journey of self-discovery and the regret of rage. Die Young's 2009 breakup was precipitated by the exhaustion exacted by their grueling tour schedule, as well as the band's protracted legal problems with bannings and their name. Albaugh and his mates had grown bitter, and felt that they needed to step away. Eventually the singer fled Houston in search of a new start, but managed to find some interest still here in his hometown to return.
How does Chosen Path stand up to previous outings from the hardcore icons? Pretty damned well, actually. I'm not going to lie; it's not their most versatile record. In fact, given the short running time it's easy to lose track of where one song ends and another begins.
That said, it begins with the short but excellent (and appropriately named) "Enter," which starts with some dynamic, almost cinematic flourishes that leave Albaugh plenty of room for his prophetic preamble. It's one of the best done intros I've heard on a Houston record in recent years, failing to top only Benjamin Wesley's "Aliens."
The title track is where everything gets real. This is Albaugh at his most raw, singing "The days of lashing out at everything and biting the hand that feeds only wore me down/ Now I'm left to reap what I had sown." The band leaves nothing on the table, holding itself open and bloody to what their particular set of musical tribulations has wrought. Their choices in both lyrics and in their sudden, guerilla guitar solos are instinctive and brave. It's a very hot, bloody album.
If there's a flaw to the record, it's that the middle is largely "Chosen Path Parts 2-4." I understand the place Die Young is coming from, but it would have been nice to see them show off some of the less hardcore-by-numbers chops that appeared in "Enter." The sentiments are no less sincere and the music is no less technically grand or face-punchingly aggressive, but it does tend to come off more as a rant that went on too long than a series of concise segments.
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Thankfully, it ends strongly with "Return to Earth." The final notes of 'Rite of Passage" lead into a nice, cleansing silence that erodes into the finale. Of all the songs that appear on Chosen Path, "Return to Earth" feels the most like an example of positive growth for Die Young and a sign of hopeful things to come. All the explosive rage that fuels the record sands off the edges, making the last song a sharper, more accurate weapon.
"So much I can't explain -- like the madness of man." sings Albaugh. "Perhaps we're born just to suffer in vain, but I'll do what I can to make my peace and transcend." Die Young is still hard as hell. They couldn't be anything else and still be themselves, but after a long rest it's clear the band choosing a new path to walk from under the shadow of former problems.
Die Young performs Saturday, April 19 at Walters with Vulgar Display, Snakeway, Walk The Graves, United Races, Blunt, and Badrat. The concert is to benefit Pets for Vets, which trains shelter dogs to aid veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. Chosen Path is available on the band's Bandcamp page for $5.