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Music Review: Ambitions – Stranger

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It must be difficult to be a band in a genre which is strictly defined as hardcore. Witness some of the negative reaction to Throwdown's latest release, Venom and Tears, which brings to the fore influences like Pantera and Machine Head. It's not 1982 so you can't expect things to sound the same as they did twenty years ago.

In my opinion, a slavish devotion to "loud fast rules" put a stranglehold on creativity in the hardcore scene. When bands like Husker Du were criticized for being sell-outs because they began to experiment with complex song structures, different instrumentation, and concept albums as well as committing the cardinal sin of signing to a major label, it became clear that hardcore was in deep trouble. "You aren't a non-conformist like we are so you must not be one of us."

Which brings me to Stranger, the upcoming release from Ambitions. Brothers Jay and Jeff Aust came out of With Honor, an energetic hardcore band from Connecticut which combined the best of old-school with modern influences. They played spirited, positive hardcore in the same vein as bands like Comeback Kid, Rise Against, and XLookingForwardx.

Ambitions is Jay Aust (vocals), Jeff Aust (guitars), John Ross (drums for With Honor, bass), Jake Woodruff (guitars), and Keith Maddog (drums). They caught the attention of Bridge Nine Records while touring with bands like Have Heart, Bane, Verse, and Modern Life is War. They joined the Bridge Nine roster in 2006 and began writing the songs which would be their full length debut.

This 13 track album set for a November 6, 2007 release is no exercise in hardcore nostalgia or trendy fashion-core. The album opens with "The Habit of Despair is Worse Than Despair Itself", a short instrumental, which starts with some restrained feedback that gives way to guitars and drums and then segues into "The Illusion." Jay Aust's expressive vocals are nicely complemented by the guitars and rhythm section. There's real singing here, as opposed to the shouted vocals so common in hardcore.

"Calamity" shows that Ambitions have not turned their backs on their hardcore roots but aren't afraid to mix in a healthy dose of melody. The mix on "Rapid Succession" highlights nicely interlocked guitars and some tasteful bass playing. The title track, "Stranger" is a mid-tempo instrumental which gives way to the up-tempo, anthemic shout-outs of "Losing Control." "Redemptive Soul" closes the album with a guest appearance from Pat Flynn of Have Heart.

This is a strong debut from a band who mixes their hardcore heritage with solid, guitar-based songs to come up with a really good album. It's refreshing to see a band not just rehashing the past but maturing in their musical expression

Track Listing:

 1. The Habit of Despair is Worse Than Despair Itself
 2. The Illusion
 3. Sinking

 4.Fact Remains
 5. Calamity
 6. Rapid Succession
 7. Overstep
 8. Postscript
 9. Stranger
10. Losing Control
11.Culmination(of my life's work)
12. Between Breaths
13. Redemptive Soul

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