The Emptiness

Written by: TL on 02/02/2010 20:20:40

Let's be honest here, a lot of people really hate Alesana. Hell, I used to hate Alesana myself, I mean just fuckin' look at them. Really. Go to their myspace and look at them, and tell me your initial response is not one of disgust when faced with the cliché scene hair, guyliner and bloody imagery. As we all know, the scenes of rock and alternative today, are all about introspection, honest self-destruction and subtle, backwards ways of saying things. Thoughts of dressing up, putting on a show and dancing on the edge between excess and "over the top" - those all died when the hair-bands rode them to death in the eighties. Glam? Glam is dead! So really, how does a band like Alesana fit in a contemporary alternative view on music?

They probably don't, and still, despite my previous hatred, I now love Alesana, and their third album "The Emptiness" has been by far my favourite listen of January. Confused? How does one flip 180 like that? Well, you could try to restrain that urge of yours that bids you only like bands that are honest (tr00?) - you know, the one that enables you to elevate yourself above your other music-loving friends. Either that or you could just see Alesana live, as their show is certain to reveal that, in all their gloomy attire and bloody theatrics, they are first and foremost about two things: Fun and controversy, and this record, as well as its two predecessors, is an incarnation of those things.

As usual with Alesana, we're dealing in extremes, as shamelessly melodic guitars wrap themselves around monstrous breaks, and the silky cleans of Shawn Milke and the shrill screams and deep growls of Dennis Lee (all of them equally overstated and ridiculous...-ly fun) take turns at vocal duties. The story this time has more original content, as Milke and Lee have proceeded from rewriting Greek mythology (on "On Frail Wings Of Vanity And Wax") and the brothers Grimm (on "Where Myth Fades To Legend") onto composing a manuscript of their own, though still inspired by an external source, namely Edgar Allan Poe's poetry. More on that in a little bit though.

"The Emptiness" is an awesome record simply because Alesana have gotten more focused. The way heavy and soft parts are put together seems much less random than it has before, and now does not only the dynamics work well, the songs actually also flow in a manner that appears sensible. That's not all though, because it is also awesome because it displays what sets Alesana apart from other fun-loving whatevercore bands, like Asking Alexandria for instance, and here is where the story comes in. You see, where other lolcore bands seemingly throw melodic guitars and generic breakdowns in a blender, push "on" for as long as they can be bothered and then add nonsensical lyrics and inside-jokes with seemingly no interest in conveying anything to the listener, Alesana are much more classy due to their flair for theatrics. The spoken word passages that weave the songs together (courtesy of Shawn's sister Melissa and Adam Fisher of Fear Before) and the overall sinister mood induces the record with a feel of it wanting to actually communicate a story to you, rather than just pummelling you with random riffs and rhythms. Something a lot of young bands could learn from I think.

However, in spite of all my praise, there is something that bars Alesana access from the most promised of grades, and it is here as it has been on previous records, the fact that their heavy parts simply don't weigh enough in the mix. In a live environment, Alesana's breaks sound like they could shatter the earth below many a deathcore band, yet on record, they are polished as if to make the listening more poppy and streamlined, and this is a God damn shame, because the dynamic effect between two ridiculous extremes is exactly what makes listening to Alesana so much fun.

I haven't mentioned any highlights yet, and I'm not going to, because this disc has so many catchy moments that listing some and not others is pointless. Liking this does not depend on whether you pick up this or that hook, rather it depends on whether you can get over the 'back to the bone' mentality that has dominated the music business ever since Nirvana, get used to the fact that horror themed things do not always need to be horrible, and get into the idea of something that is simply over the top in every way it can be. If you think you can do that, get this record, dance around to it, and join me in wishing for more Alesana shows on nearby soil. If you can't, well, your loss I guess.


Download: Hymn To The Shameless, The Murderer, The Curse Of The Virgin Canvas, Annabel
For The Fans Of: Silverstein, From First To Last, I Am Ghost, BlessTheFall, The Used

Release Date 26.01.2010
Fearless Records

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