Another album, another shredder for Valient Thorr, whose Sadat Thorr—better known as Thunderlip's James Yopp—becomes the band's fourth rhythm guitarist in four albums after replacing the departed Voiden Thorr. But not much else has changed within the group of no-compromise bros from Venus: Longtime lead axeman Eidan Thorr and the rest of the band return, along with Jack Endino—producer of Nirvana, High on Fire and Immortalizer, Thorr's last (and best) record—who employs a similarly slick yet hard-hitting approach here.
Frontman Valient Himself continues to preach from his rock 'n' roll pulpit too, railing against American greed and material excess during the crunchy start-and-stop rhythm of "Gillionaire," twisted priorities over the fast and furious shredding of "Habituary" and the vanities of plastic surgeries and an overmedicated society in the fist-pumping anthem "Future Humans." Though nothing here is as immediate as the best tunes from Immortalizer, the Thorrs still have a way of pounding a refrain into listeners' heads via brute repetition and shouted chants. While Stranger is built on the traditional Thorr touchstones of loud, fast and hard rock influenced by both metal and punk, the album does take a few minor risks. Some of those work, like easing off the pedal to allow for extended, interlocking guitar runs on "Night Terrors" and "Woman in the Woods," while others—mainly the meandering drum solo "The Recognition"—fall flat.
For those who like their metal mystical (mindless, some might say), Stranger has all the screaming solos, punishing drums and tasty riffs to sate. Entertaining as it may be to hear other bands extol the virtues of dragon slaying, corpse sodomizing and getting buddy-buddy with ol' Beelzebub, Valient Thorr still finds its distinction by directing its menace at deserving targets via social commentaries charged by precision and power.