Written by: PP on 31/05/2012 05:51:50

If we look back at the albums that helped define the modern post-hardcore / screamo scene, you always have to start with the self-titled album by Alexisonfire from 2002, a record which basically single-handedly provided the foundation of modern screamo AND post-hardcore as they stand today. It was the record that channelled the mid to late 90s chaotic, piercing screamo into a format that also borrowed heavily from the (back then) punk rock influenced (read: Hot Water Music) post-hardcore , an unprecedented combination of the razor sharp screamo and the more melodic, yet still aggressive and catchy formation of the style that simply did not exist before the release of this album. In that sense, you could call Alexisonfire pioneers in their own genre, or as they are more commonly referred to, as the quintessential screamo band who we'll look back in ten, twenty years time in the same manner as we today look at bands like Nirvana: as the creating forces of something much, much bigger than the bands themselves, as bands that spawned entire movements that, granted, lost momentum as the years passed on, yet the classics never faded.

"Alexisonfire" is one such classic, if not the most important one of them all. People who have followed the band throughout their career are always in endless debate whether this one or "Watch Out!", is better, while the rest of their discography is (understandably) ignored from the discussion, but the fact is that it doesn't really matter. These are both classics within their own genre, although this particular one was the breakthrough album that spawned an entire genre in the years that followed.

But where "Watch Out!" was more of a display of the amazing talent possessed by their guitarist/back-up vocalist Dallas Green, the debut album is basically the same for their screamer George Pettit. I challenge you to find a scream as piercing, as real, as uncompromising as his on any record since the year 2000, and you'll come up short: his aggressive, unrelenting bursts of hardcore-fueled energy and screamo-powered, razor sharp shrieks haven't been matched to date by any singer I've come across. You have to remember that Green had not yet developed into the superstar that he is today on this album, which allowed George to fire on all cylinders, often going way over the top in charging the listener with a buzzsaw-like delivery, such as that on "A Dagger Through The Heart Of St Angeles" shortly after the spoken word sample. Ironically, it is this song where Dallas' contrasting clean vocals truly establish him as the true face of Alexisonfire to come, although at the time of release no-one expected him to release a song like "Boiled Frogs" many years later.

Another factor that suggests "Alexisonfire" to be a classic album is its unusual, even surprising tracking order. "'44 Caliber Love Letter" is the first song on the record, which opens with an almost 2 minute instrumental-only section, not the kind that you usually encounter on superfluous records these days but as a massive build up to the first screams on the album and an explosion of original screamo energy. Later on, "Polaroids Of Polar Beards" introduces a similar instrumental concept, which isn't that surprising in 2012 but back in 2002 was almost unprecedented. Where modern screamo/metalcore albums strike with unrelenting force, "Alexisonfire" instead charms the listener through an unforgettable riff that I'm guessing every member of the 'scene' can repeat when asked upon.

And if the slow quiet/loud dynamic isn't something for you, then you can always go full-blast on "Waterwings (And Other Pool Side Fashion Faux Pas)", a churning piece of post-hardcore that'll always be considered a staple in its genre. It's a prime example of how you can write a mad-catchy post-hardcore / screamo song while still maintaining a sense of pop sensibility to it in the process.

In the end, it doesn't really matter whether you claim "Alexisonfire" or "Watch Out!" as the best Alexisonfire album. The interesting thing is that even though this was a debut album, complete with minor flaws and glitches (auto-tune did not exist yet at this time), they still managed to capture a ravenous expression on record, one that even 10 years later continues to baffle listeners and revivalists as one of the key masterpieces in the development of screamo and post-hardcore alike.


Download: '44 Caliber Love Letter, Waterwings (And Other Pool Side Fashion Faux Pas), Pulmonary Archery, A Dagger Through The Heart Of St Angeles
For the fans of: The Bled, Vanna, UnderOATH, Dance Gavin Dance, letlive.
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Release date 09.09.2002
Distort Entertainment / Equal Vision

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