I've been a dedicated follower of Ambitions since their introduction as a side project band that featured three-fifths of With Honor and occasionally Matt Fox from Shai Hulud fame. There was a demo, a vinyl version of that demo, two other EPs and now the full-length, Stranger. There could be a couple of other compilation appearances here and there but is anyone really keeping score?
Anyway, I have an issue with Stranger. I remember seeing a lot of banners saying how unpolished and raw Stranger is. Yeah, okay, if anything Stranger is one of the more squeaky clean hardcore albums to come down the pike since Ignite's Our Darkest Days. Furthermore, the only time Stranger feels raw is when vocalist Jay Aust does that barked yelp of his. Everything on Stranger is calculated and mapped out. The vocals are perfectly sung and the drum fills come in at all the right moments. Even the guitars and bass tones are stuff of major label wet dreams production wise.
You might thinking that I hate Stranger, when in actuality that is nothing further from the truth. I just don't like being misled into thinking that Ambitions let go of all their polished melodic hardcore greatness. I came into Stranger thinking I was going to hear a noisy crazy new version of Ambitions that I could learn to love or hate. However, what I got from Ambitions is exactly what I expected from Ambitions; a perfected tuneful take on hardcore that recalls they halcyon days of 90's hardcore acts like 411 and the before mentioned Ignite.
Stranger is more than your run of the mill melodic hardcore album with token fast parts, mosh and operatic vocals. Ambitions draw from other influences like the overtly tunefulness of Midwestern emo bands from the last decade to spot-on precision of post hardcore acts like Quicksand and Far. I even hear a little of bit of "it's okay to play grunge since grunge isn't cool now" sound that bands like Shift and Man Will Surrender flirted major label success with. I even hear a couple of Helmet riffs lifted for shits and giggles.
With Ambitions influences ranging from clean hardcore of Ignite to the syncopation of Helmet, it all adds up to an impressive full-length debut. Just don't buy into the hype of Stranger being anything that you wouldn't come to expect from Ambitions. If you are fan of melodic hardcore like myself, then I'd urge you to pick this up.
7.7 / 10
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