Can We Return to the Golden Age?

“Don't you know you are my everything. And don't you know you make my heart sing.”

The following is an excerpt from the “Rituals Of Life” retrospective Fanzine called “Second Chances.” The book contains notes, reflections, and essays from the band as well as Hatebreed, Rise Against, Bane, The Gaslight Anthem, Shai Hulud, Furnace Fest, Further Seems Forever, and more. (Available as a deluxe package, or on its own).

Stretch Arm Strong has just meant so much to me over the years. The friendships, the music, the stories and experiences were all so rich and beautiful. I brought together the group of guys that would initially form the band. Needless to say, they stuck with it a heck of a lot longer than I did! But my old pals were gracious enough to ask me to come back and lay down what ended up being quite a few vocal tracks on Compassion Fills the Void, their first full release after my departure.

The details of how I came to participate in recording this game-changing record, Rituals of Life, have gotten a little foggy over the years. I’m sure it was a conversation with Chris or Scott in late 1998 where I learned Stretch was going to be recording in Little Rock, AR. As fortune would have it, I had plans to be in the area on business that only required a minor tweak to be able to be there at the same time. “I’d love to stop by and hang out” was my reaction to the news. It was suggested there might be some opportunity to contribute vocals to the recording much like the Compassion record.

By the time I arrived, Chris had worked out some places for me in a few songs and we went to work. I remember everyone being crammed into one hotel room. The guys were kind enough to order me a cot to sleep on for a couple of nights. It was a fun couple of days for me just getting to take part in what had been a cherished part of my youth…being in this band with these guys. Having already taken part in recording Compassion, I was excited to hear the Stretch Arm Strong sound getting bigger and heavier.

Chris filled the role of vocalist in ways I never could and made amazing connections with the live audience. Everything was moving in a very positive direction, which was really exciting. Stretch was becoming the band I had hoped it would. Listening to the raw drum and guitar tracks being laid down in Little Rock confirmed that the band was continuing down the path of fast, heavy hitting music with thought provoking song topics you wouldn’t get from a lot of bands.

Despite hearing some of it come together in the studio, I was absolutely blown away by Rituals of Life a few months later when it was released. It was immediately my favorite record. I listened to it non-stop. The beauty of Rituals is how it stands the test of time. It’s a top ten album of all time for me even in 2022. It was a real honor to get to participate in recording this amazing album, but even better to get to be a fan of this band and to enjoy one of the best hardcore records made (IMHO) for years to come. Congrats on making a difference, guys!

- Matt McCarty
Original Bass Player and Vocals for Stretch Arm Strong

Photo by: Heather Vaught (@heatherxedge)