Venusian road warriors Valient Thorr pretty much live their lives on-stage, so whenever they find the time to get out of the van long enough to record a new album, there's real cause for celebration among their loyal legions of "Thorriors." And, to be fair, the band's recording schedule has been quite prolific for a group that averages between 200 and 250 shows a year, totaling five albums in seven years with the arrival of 2010's Stranger. This is the second straight VT album produced by indie maven Jack Endino, and it's certainly no less heavy, eclectic, or downright weird than any other in the band's impressive discography, a discography most notable for somehow making dirty old hard rock sound so fresh and outsider-fashionable. Convulsing opener "Gillionaire" summons up the band's internal Jesus Lizard and is sure to elicit cries of "WTF?" nationwide (see also the jazz-metal skronk of "Woman in the Woods" in this regard), but the very next cut, barnstorming rocker "Sleeper Awakes," sees Valient Thorr operating precisely in their wild-eyed, late-‘60s Dee-troit-channeling comfort zone, but that's hardly where the band remains for the duration. "Double Crossed" is ridiculously infectious of chorus and heavy of riff, "Night Terrors" takes it a down a notch midway through for a bolero-like guitar overture, "Vision Quest" is almost intolerably catchy, the blazing-fast "Habituary" is hardcore at its hairiest, and "Future Remains" clones Angus Young for what one can only presume will be the band's conquering return mission to take Venus back from its Muzak-loving locals. All kidding aside, of all the Valient Thorr albums, Stranger is arguably the one where they least sound like the X-Files' house band, and yet it also sees the quintet coming full circle to the unpredictable metallic rock hybrid concocted by its breakthrough album, 2005's Total Universe Man. This is a good thing, since it means that fans are treated to the same, "as seen on-stage" level of irrepressible energy, wed to a restless imagination and highly entertaining lyrics that have always helped distinguish Valient Thorr from the workmanlike hard rock masses.