"Stranger" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US grindcore/death metal act Cretin. The album was released through Relapse Records in December 2014. Cretin was formed as far back as 1992, but disbanded between 1996 and 2001 as a result of bassist Matt Widener joining the Marines. After reuniting in 2001, they released a few minor releases before putting out their debut full-length studio album "Freakery" in 2006. Then came another longer break because of lead vocalist/guitarist Dan Martinez transition/sex change from male to female, and the ensuing self awareness process, that such a radical life changing experience is bound to generate. He is now a woman named Marissa Martinez. Since the recording of "Freakery (2006)", Elizabeth Schall has been added to the lineup as the band´s second guitarist, making Cretin a four-piece on "Stranger".
But don´t fear that a lineup consiting of 50% women can´t play badass grindcore/death metal of the old school filthy varity in the most convincing and authentic fashion you can imagine, because that´s exactly what you´re gonna get when listening to "Stranger". Compared to "Freakery (2006)", which is a very raw grindcore album with a filthy organic sound production (heavily influenced by Repulsion), "Stranger" is a more diverse album, bringing quite a few old school death metal elements to the table. A label like deathgrind is probably more correct than grindcore when trying to catagorize "Stranger". Cretin haven´t lost any of their morbid and vile humour though, which song titles like "Sandwich for the Attic Angel", "Mister Frye, the Janitor Guy", and "How to Wreck Your Life in Three Days", are a testament too. This is still pretty sick and bizarre.
The band is well playing and the growling vocals delivered with the right amount of vitriol, conviction, and passion. Great powerful and memorable riffs, a tight yet organic sounding rhythmic attack, and add to that those aggressive growling vocals, and you have a hit. While not all tracks are equally memorable, there are several featuring hooks to die for. As examples take a listen to the rock´n´roll oriented guitar solo which starts the album opener "It", or the infectiously catchy chorus of "Mister Frye, the Janitor Guy". It´s not everyday you come across a deathgrind album with hooks, and I think it shows pretty well that these guys/girls aren´t just skilled musicians, they are also skilled composers with an ear for the adventurous (but never silly) detail.
"Stranger" is packed in a powerful, raw, and organic sounding production, so that side of the album is also of high quality. The music and the production simply go hand in hand really well. "Freakery" is a pretty great album, that Cretin can rightfully be proud of, but I think they´ve taken a step up with "Stranger" and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.