ALBUM REVIEW: The Stranger – ‘Kaleidoscope’


Words by Tracey Moyle {Music Maven}

Brisbane’s Prog Metal outfit, The Stranger have just dropped their sophomore album ‘Kaleidoscope’ infusing themselves into the stream of Australian progressive rock/metal talent that is taking the world by storm.

Over the last decade the Australian prog scene has exploded, escalating in recent years, cultivating some amazing talent, unleashing itself out into the local and international arena. Bands like Ne Obliviscarius, Sleepmakeswaves, Karnivool, Twelve Foot Ninja, Cog, Caliulars Horse, Voyager and so many more have created their own progressive stamps.

Now, The Stranger are taking that path, producing a follow up to their 2017 self-titled debut, that presents with a maturity you would expect from a more seasoned band. The foundations of their progressive sound embracing many influences woven through the tracks with no two songs sounding the same. Each one as individual as the band members themselves. The songs project a vulnerability within their lyrics, from a personal and a global perspective. The song writing and musical collaboration of the band as a whole gives a ‘kaleidoscope’ of musical colour to the album that will encapsulate the listener.

Lucky enough to chat to the bands guitarist and backing vocalist Kalen Austin, I was able to delve deeper into each track to put forth an album review that captures the heart and soul of the tracks from the bands very own insights alongside my own thoughts as a progressive fan.

Read about The Strangers journey to unveiling ‘Kaleidoscope’ with Kalen Austin’s interview Here.

The album opens with the second single released, Eleventh Hour. Lyrically the track is an environmental cry. Sonically it’s an emotional ride, with vocals falling between a melodious melancholy and a tortured angst. Musically it’s brutal and heart breaking. The accompanying film clip is a masterpiece in itself. Talking about the track and the video Kalen says, “The song itself is about frustrations around climate change and how our future’s looking pretty sketchy if we don’t make some serious changes soon. The way that we wanted to portray that in the film clip was this idea of nature versus industry. If we continue to have industry run the way it does, which is with a total abandon and a total disregard for the natural world, then there’s no way that these two entities can coexist peacefully. That’s what we tried to portray with the two avatars if you will, having this back and forth tug-o-war throughout the film clip. Then in the end nature dies and is sort of reborn and that’s what the final dude coming out at the end is.”

Latest track The Gemini arrives with interlaced synth and big crisp riffs, lifting the mood and taking the song into the light with brilliant guitar work coming together from Kalen and Drew Taylor. Adding in a distinct groove from bass and drums, the song hooks you with Tom Fraynes chameleon-like vocals easing you in and out of the momentum with his outstanding range.

“The song is about how we are massively influenced by the opinions of those around us.” explains Kalen. “The story is about a character who exists as part of a hive mind, so the similar to the Borg,(Star Trek) and ends up breaking away and going off, discovering that there’s so much out there in the universe. Then comes back to essentially spread the good word, that there is more to life than you know. That there is so much gratification to be found in discovering your individuality.”

Jungles has a super funky vibe that captures you straight up. The song creates the feeling of building musical chapters. The arrangement hooking you in, through to the end of this almost six minute track. Like an enthralling tale you’re taken though the arrangement with brilliant crisp guitars and guttural growls, falling in alongside a belting, rapid pace set by drummer, Dan O’Brien. This song is the brilliant example of that adventurous tale telling element that prog embodies. Kalen confirms this – “It’s literally what it’s about for me. All of the songs that we write, that we really love, they always have that that element of variety in them. We’re not that band that is progressive in the way that we have a billion times signature changes through the song, we’re that band that expresses its progressiveness through variety and trying to pull in different influences. Aside from the lyrics as a narrative, I want to take someone through a journey musically. I want to have a beginning, a middle and an ending. I want there to be a climax and I want you to feel a variety of different things before you get to the end, just like you would with a really good book.”

The song itself is written from a perspective of someone who is putting up resistance to newly incoming forces. For example the Spaniards invading an Amazonian tribe in South America. “It evokes a lot of mystical and tribal sort elements.” Kalen adds. “It paints a picture of this crazy tribesmen with a wife and a child that he’s trying to get to safety while also resisting these invading forces.”

Jester follows with a completely different feeling. This song proves that the bands diversity is not in that they change genres each song, but how they weave the essence of different influences together. Kalen also takes on lead vocals on this track. “One of the notable things about that song is it actually doesn’t have a verse or chorus or anything like that. Nothing in that song repeats except that there is a variation in the opening that plays again at the end. But aside from that, structurally, nothing repeats in that song.” He goes on to explain the song was written at a vulnerable time in his life. He had been through a particularly mentally draining break-up and it was like the exorcism of that grief. “The lyrics flowed really easily. Essentially its about a relationship that never got to be what it could have been because of this fucked up personality disorder. It’s just frustration potentially written down. I was glad it was over and it had to be over but I was really fucked up about how much of my life was spent trying to make something work but ultimately was just never going to work.”

Coming Home is the Insturmental interlude that brings you back to earth and reminds you that this album has a story to tell. Kalen wrote the song for his father for his 60th birthday.

Siren is a big rock track with a classic feel, embodied within the progressive sound. There is a great deal of funk woven through the track. It has a familiar feel and I find myself thinking of the era of big synth metal bands of the 80’s, like Europe, and maybe even some heavier Queen tracks, but this song has a life of it’s own. “I need to give an honourable shout out for this song to DanielKalen claims. “That song all started because he came in with that drum beat. He brought it in and I had the guitar pop into my head after hearing him play that . Then the whole song just wrote itself from that point onwards.” Lyrically the song is a bit of fun around a narrative between a sailor and a Siren. Could be my personal favourite on the album.

Next is Creatures In The Canopy. The intensity of this track is emphasised with the band playing to the albums theme of a suffering world. News broadcasts overlaid in the bridge, of a broken world screaming. Guttural vocals in the breakdown contrasts the melodic story telling of Frayne’s lyrical mastery throughout the track . “Linc (Morse- bass) brought in the skeleton of it,” says Kalen, “and then I got in there and sort of chopped and changed it a bit, threw in a few more riffs but it’s really Linc’s baby musically.” Lyrically, “Creatures In The Canopy is set in a dystopian sci-fi future” he adds. “Did you ever see that show Altered Carbon? That gritty futuristic sort of thing but more third world.” The song talks about the power that money wields in our society. The imbalance the world has with those above and feed off those below who live like ‘creatures in the canopy’.

The Devil You Don’t is a big bass driven track creating a heavy, ominous feel with contrasting growling vocals playing off against a melodic ring of hope in dual vocal styles. The Devil is conjured in guttural vocals with a light and dark feeling portrayed Tom’s full vocal range. Metal riffs support the dominant bass and drums pounding the depth of the song through to the listener.
“Lyrically speaking this is the most melancholy and the most in the most hopeless on the album. This one that Drew wrote all the music for. The lyrics took the longest time to come together. It took Tom the longest time so we sat down and nutted it out together” says Kalen. “Lyrically it’s set in the same universe as Creatures In The Canopy. It could be a Black Mirror episode” The song tells a tale of online love, falling into obsession, and the decent into madness when the illusion of a ‘relationship’ is shattered by the antagonists subject of desire.

Taking the album out is the first single release and title track Kaleidoscope. A beautifully crafted track with all the ingredients needed for musical tale telling. Emotive vocals, crisp hooks and a flowing rhythm guiding you through to the end. Everything that is the essence of prog.
Kalen says of the track, “One of my favourite lines from that song is something like ‘I don’t want to die without any scars’. It’s this idea that life’s to be lived and it’s to sink your teeth into and to really get amongst it and live as much as you can. It’s not something to be wasted away idly in a job that you can’t stand just doing the nine to five grind and then watching TV at night going to sleep. It’s to be lived.”

Order your copy of ‘Kaleidoscope’ on Vinyl HERE
You can listen to ‘Kaleidoscope’ now with new insight into the tracks, on all streaming services.

Follow The Stranger on socials for more

With thanks to Overdrive PR

Leave a Reply