After teasing us with several EPs over the last year, Ambitions finally, FINALLY make their Bridge Nine debut with their first full-length album: Stranger.
First, for those of you who don't know already, Ambitions consists of the Aust brothers and John Ross, all from the now-defunct With Honor. They're also joined by Jake Woodruff (guitar) and Keith Sidorowicz (drums). So any fans of their previous work shouldn't have any reason to avoid this.
As far as the album goes, the sound is a little bit of a venture off the beaten path that With Honor started and the Question EP continued down. While Question was, for the most part, a stripped-down mish-mash of singing, screaming, punk, and hardcore, Stranger remains in the hardcore foundation but branches out even further into a more of a rock/punk territory. Such examples can be found on the mid-tempo "Fact Remains" and "Rapid Succession"; both songs are of the most melody-laden on the record and also somehow retain the hardcore intensity that throw neither song off at all. The placement of these songs may be one problem the album has. The aforementioned tracks reside in the middle and are blanketed by the more traditional hardcore songs we come to expect; however, the remaining three "rock" songs (for lack of a better description) close the record out on a slower note. None of these songs are necessarily bad though, and each match the criteria of the previously mentioned songs, the highlight of them being a guest appearance from Have Heart vocalist Pat Flynn.
But aside from all that, Ambitions does stay true to their hardcore roots on the whole record. On about every song there's the right amount of singing, screaming and well-placed, occasionaly melodic (yes, apparently they do exist) breakdowns. What struck me the most was how good of a singer Jay Aust really is. He's completely earnest when he sings and you can't help but be sucked into it. He's obviusly a much better screamer than singer, but the rousing gang vocals throughout the album more than make up for a small weakness.
Overall, I just feel that Stranger is a really, really well-rounded record. Between hardcore romps like "The Illusion" and "Sinking" to instrumental interludes ("Stranger") and a magnificent and soulful closer ("Redemptive Soul"), Stranger is a welcome and diverse boon to Bridge 9 and hardcore in general.