We hadn’t heard from A Stranger to Remorse in a couple years, so we were stoked when they asked us to review their debut self-titled full length. For those who don’t know, A Stranger to Remorse are a downtempo/sludge/dissonance/djent combination at its absolute finest. In fact, this might be the heaviest local release I’ve heard in years (probably since Darkapathy’s Condemned in Black).
The album has you on pins and needles right off the bat, with an eerie horror movie soundtrack style intro called, “Becoming Myself”. The guitars slowly creep in with bone chilling dissonance, inviting crushing guttural vocals and slow pulsing drums to follow soon after. By this point, you’re immersed in a purely evil/decaying sound, leaving no room for the listener to breathe.
The next track, “Bughuul”, eases in with pounding drums and strings downtuned to subterranean levels. The opening riffs come with all the crushing low end you’d come to expect in a band like this, but there’s a ridiculously scary clean riff playing over the off time Meshuggah style chugs that creates that foreboding fans of this genre crave.
Throughout tracks 2 (“Bughuul”) and 3 (“Mortem”), the first full songs on the album, the listener should have a good sense of ASTR’s full vocal spectrum, which is admirable. Ryan (lead vocals) and Dustin (drums and vocals) both come packed with gutturals, shrieks, yells and squeals, all complimenting a variety of bands and styles. Meanwhile, Jeff’s guitar skills and Andy’s bass skills are both mercilessly on point, delivering commanding depth and diversity on a consistent basis. In a genre that is constantly shit-talked (mostly because of slow tempos and monotonous guitars), ASTR set themselves apart with interesting clean parts (specifically in the songs “Devour” and “Seance”), oddly timed, but beautifully synced up distorted chugs and drums (for fans of Meshuggah, Sikth, Within the Ruins), sporadic/abrupt dissonant chords in the higher register (shades of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge), and radically aggressive vocal styles that just won’t quit (covering styles from death metal to hardcore).
My favorite opening riff on the entire album, kicks off track 7, “Home Pt. 1”. The riff is downtuned, dark tremolo playing in its purest form and also crafts the most death metal moment on the album. From there, it’s back to ASTR’s signature sound, but with considerably more impressive fretwork and drum work than on previous tracks. Even the vocals have a stronger, more emotional presence on this song.
“Home Pt. 2” (the 8th and final track), does the opposite of its predecessor in the very beginning. In this haunting sequel, things start with a very pleasant sounding clean guitar part, which quickly does a u-turn and turns into some seriously emotionally compelling chord smashing and screaming. Speaking of parts 1 and 2 collectively, “Home” is an ideal closer for this album and is by far, my favorite piece of music to come from ASTR to date. I think the extra amount of care and planning put into tracks 7 and 8 is obvious and it really shows in the final product. I’d love to hear more raw emotional tracks like these from this band in the future.
Fuck number ratings, but if you’re a fan of any of the bands I mentioned above, or any of ASTR’s specifically named influences (Volumes, I Declare War, Silence, Adaliah, Reflections), there’s no way you’ll be disappointed with this.
Check out the album below: