ALBUM REVIEW: Kaleidoscope (THE STRANGER)
ALBUM Kaleidoscope // ARTIST The Stranger
Lashings of jubilant licks and polished prog lies in wait on the brand new album Kaleidoscope from Brisbane burgeoning metal lords The Stranger that officially unleashed into the world today.
The Brisbane prog scene is one of unique and blossoming splendour, offering an abundance of talent that, sadly, often gets overlooked when compared to the behemoth prog-laden streets of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. And while fans have been inevitably catching on to the stellar array of complex, brawling beauty bubbling away in the Sunshine State over the years, 2021 has already threatened to steal the prog metal crown in Brisbane's name, with the sophomore album Kaleidoscope from Bris quintet The Stranger hurling a dashing and riveting bombshell of truly epic proportions.
While certainly not newcomers to the prog and heavy realms, the 2021 edition of The Stranger signals a momentous glow-up since the band's self-titled debut album back in 2017 - and that's certainly saying something, given the already large calibre on display just over three years ago. If metal, fizzing synths and the touch of some funked-up djent gets your motor running, Kaleidoscope will unabashedly make you weak at the knees; but there's inevitably something for everyone across the space of nine tracks, from the diehard mosh lords to the fair weather metal heads.
Kaleidoscope proceedings kick off with the deliciously theatrical Eleventh Hour, complete with wailing guitar solos, grandiose soundscapes and menaced glee that hurls a synthetic Ghost-meets-Opeth vibe to set the scene for things to come. Up next, The Gemini gets straight down to a brawny funk metal juggernaut, flexing the band's technical chops alongside some bounce, bliss and synth-laced brutality.
Next up, the slinky stutter of Jungles relishes in its flashy stylistic shifts, growing from a stomping guitar-fest into a madcap fever dream of djenty spice, growling vocals and some show-stopping moments across the board as each member of team Stranger rise to the occasion on this crunchy epic. From here, it's a veritable feast of diversity, as prog ballads (Jester), instrumental interludes (Coming Home), shimmering rock (Siren) and broody prog (Creatures In The Canopy) reign supreme in the middle pockets of Kaleidoscope.
But don't pack your prog bags to dash off just yet! Offering a heightened offering of sharp and snarling metal blitzed with creamy melodic beauty, penultimate track The Devil You Don't flits into the proximity of fellow Bris prog luminaries Caligula's Horse, as The Stranger balance layers of razor-sharp guitars, prowling rhythmics and a continued flawless outing from vocalist Tom Frayne as he soars between heavenly clean and well-timed harsh vocals like a coiled and charismatic chameleon. And just when you think you've heard every trick in the 2021 Stranger book, along comes title (and closing) track Kaleidoscope, showcasing a raw yet powerful burst of swaying rock that is equal parts intimate, poignant and engaging as it shifts and slides like its own charismatic and fluctuating namesake.
For many bands, the reality of moulding metal with synthwave and sprawling pomp would easily crumble if not in the hands of those capable and curious enough to deftly mix such divergent ingredients without risking heavy-handed or pretentious outcomes. For The Stranger, their knack for welding contrasts in a way that feels relatable and spectacular simultaneously far exceeds their status as a band only just on the verge of their sophomore release. With Kaleidoscope, The Stanger have emphatically broken free of being new kids on the block, while transcending the palpable expectations already in progress prior to this new release. What was borne thematically as an exploration into anxiety and anticipation for the future has ultimately resulted in a dazzling triumph, and The Stranger have undeniably struck prismatic gold with their stunning new album.
THE STRANGER'S SOPHOMORE ALBUM KALEIDOSCOPE OFFICIALLY IS OUT IN THE WORLD AS OF TODAY, VIA OCTANE RECORDS & WILD THING RECORDS. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER