Frustrating. If I had one word to sum up Stranger, that’d be it. The packaging is beautiful (wonderfully colorful and ambiguous artwork and some of the prettiest, multicolored splatter vinyl I’ve ever seen), the production is glossy and full, the lyrics are well written, and yet… it resounds with the impact of a band that’s restraining themselves. Firmly rooted in modern, smart hardcore but with enough variance in tone that a listener’s either gonna think a) “Mein Gott! They perform such brilliant and disquieting pretty parts before they go all chunka-chunka! And what a beautiful set of pipes the vocalist has, while other members of the band utilize their more rough-hewn voices to provide fist-pumping singalongs and choruses! Stranger is a true raison d’art!” Or, like me, you may think b), which is, “They sound like they’re a super-talented band that’s obviously good at songcraft. A band that’s totally got it within them to just go the fuck off every once in a while. I wish they would; chances are they’d lay waste to all around them and I’d like this record a lot more if I just heard one specific instance where they went flat out with the speed and shrieks and energy. But they don’t, and therefore I’m forced to flip the record over and over again, trying to hear it in a new way, searching for that moment.” There are bands that display passion and intent with breakdowns and well-placed pickslides and fairly tuneful melodies that cascade into midtempo hardcore songs that are trying like hell to become anthems but don’t quite make it. Then there are bands that just fucking go for the throat and everything’s at full tilt all the time, from start to finish. Ambitions has a lot of one and not quite enough of the other: the result is a band that sounds like they’re continually holding themselves back and, ultimately, the record falls short of being memorable because of it.
–keith (Bridge 9)