Premiere: Sterling Burn With Punk Passion On New Album, Dig On This

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Punk emerged from a realm of dissent, deeply rooted in fringe and underground culture, igniting flames of simmering frustration. Over the decades, this ethos has seeped into the mainstream, fueled by its ability to tap into the full range of bitter sentiment. As societal and political dialogues evolved, they intertwined with personal narratives, shaped by global connectivity but defined by the artificial barriers in between. Emotional dissent emerged as the driving force behind punk music, catalyzing the emergence of numerous sub-genres that evolved into fully-fledged structures, sometimes surpassing their origins in both scope and impact.

Over the last decade, numerous bands have emerged from this crowded array, each infusing the timeless architecture of punk with renewed vitality, even fifty years later. One such band is Sterling, a recent addition to the Richmond music scene, boldly blending elements of pop-punk and post-hardcore–two distinct yet interconnected expressions of the classic dissident spirit. In their debut EP, Dig On This, the quintet seamlessly merges these divergent sounds alongside several others, crafting a cohesive and ingenious sonic palette. Scheduled for release on Friday, May 3rd, this five-track record not only showcases Sterling’s promise as a band but also their remarkable maturity and sophistication at this early stage of their career. Today, The Auricular is thrilled to premiere this new album with an exclusive stream below as well as a track-by-track breakdown of their ingenious approach to punk rock.


Sterling is comprised of Benjamin Zimmerman (drums), Brian Huang (bass), Dennis Huang (rhythm guitar), Cole Ward (lead guitar), and Jordan Ronan (vocals), a dynamic ensemble packing a robust sound. The five songs on Dig On This all branch out from a solid base of melodic punk, reaching out firmly into classic post-hardcore, underground third-wave emo, pop punk revival, and even the grittier realm of post-grunge. This versatile sound will resonate with both mainstream listeners and those entrenched in the underground scene, harkening back to that first inkling of melodic defiance that craved thundering drums and piercing guitars.

“Night City,” the album’s lead single released just under a month ago, kicks off with a sense of urgency. Ronan’s fervent plea, “There’s still something to save\ Don’t throw me away,” sets the dire tone, aiming to salvage a sinking relationship burdened by the tide of life. With crashing drums and feverish guitars, the music mirrors the urgency of the narrative, painfully affecting with emotion while also animating with vigor. While it initially unfolds as a straightforward pop-punk sprint, the band adds a subtle twist, surprising listeners with an intriguing instrumental break that draws inspiration from beyond the energetic sub-genre.

“Amnesia” takes the stage next, settling into a mellower rhythm to embrace the melancholy that “Night City” desperately sought to evade. Here, the lyrics delve into the aftermath of relationship wreckage, assigning blame both outward and inward for the unfolding calamity (“Afraid to say this, but it’s just not working out\ You want someone who’s more sure of themselves\ Meanwhile, I’m sitting here wishing I was somebody else\ Too much“). Much like its predecessor, the band peppers in unexpected musical flourishes, reserving them this time for the outro—a poignant finale marked by a relentless rhythm punctuated by a guitar line equally soaring and crestfallen, driving the heartache home.

“Kratos” sneaks in with a muted guitar line over a palpitating drumbeat, swiftly blossoming into a melodic frenzy reminiscent of overlooked album gems from bands like Jimmy Eat World. Lyrically, the song delves deeper into the exploration of a doomed relationship, this time with a more pointed tongue that lays bare the rift responsible for the separation. “What sacrifices are you willing to make?,” Ronan solemnly asks, resigned to the inevitable answer that sealed the fate of the connection. Marking the halfway point of the record, “Kratos” emerges as its most impassioned moment, leaning on classic emo frameworks to amplify the melodic potency of the composition.

“Ishimura” reintroduces the bold pop-punk sound into the mix with an intro that commands the rhythmic energy of a bobbing crowd. Sterling delivers their most penetrating moments here, with lyrics that linger long after the song fades (“If time really heals everything\ Why are the hands on the clock still taunting?”), alongside piercing revelations (“Though I fight it, I’m hardly a victim\ I detox, relapse, and repeat it\ Mistaking your embrace for my medicine”). Like the mining vessel from the Dead Space universe after which the song is named, “Ishimura” drills into your consciousness, merging punchy, infectious melodies with vulnerable insights that leave a lasting imprint on your mind.

On the closing track, “Andor,” the band revels in the most creative freedom of the album, seamlessly blending their diverse influences into a sound that feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. Here, hints of nu metal unexpectedly arise, intermingling with vocals delivered in a manner that subtly prioritizes rhythm over melody. The song encapsulates the album’s themes, exploring the bewildered rejection (“Do you really look at me\ As somebody you could never be with?“) and potent vitriol (“You’re like a poison in my bloodline\ You could kill me if you really tried, so\ Pull the plug as you make your leave“) that converge into a toxic blend. Yet, amidst the despair, a glimmer of hope persists, albeit with a realization that it may be more destructive than promising (“So I’ll bury my hopes again\ Even deeper this time, so I won’t be tempted“), a sentiment underscored by the music’s cutting edge.

With each song, Sterling digs deeper into an aching nerve, each scratch triggering a new sensation musically and lyrically that thrills with creative prowess. The culmination reveals a band adept at channeling raw emotions, crafting melodies that resonate deeply and lyrics that cut to the core. Sterling’s fusion of punk sub-genres is particularly impressive, seamlessly blending sturdy and distinct musical branches into a cohesive sound. This achievement speaks to the band’s artistic maturity, a notable trait found within hybrid pop-punk mainstays over the last decade. While favorites such as State Champs and The Wonder Years may veer towards post-hardcore or emo territories, those that remain grounded at the intersection of punk are often the most effective at truly captivating listeners–just as Sterling achieves on Dig On This.

Dig On This is available on Friday, May 3rd on all streaming platforms, which you can pre-save now by clicking here. To keep up to date on future releases and announcements by Sterling, make sure to follow them on social media by clicking here.


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