Written by: TL on 09/05/2015 16:28:52

You wouldn't necessarily guess it upon hearing them for the first time, but North Carolina sextet Alesana are getting to be a grown-up band, arriving now on their fifth full-length album since their debut in 2006. "Confessions" has been announced ahead of its release as the final installment in a trilogy started by the prior two albums "The Emptiness" and "A Place Where The Sun Is Silent", completing the series about the fictional "Annabel" who somehow gets wrapped up in the storylines from various authors that the band's frontman Shawn Milke has been inspired by. First it was Edgar Allan Poe, then it was Dante and his "Inferno" and on "Confessions" Annabel finds herself entangled in Madeleine L'Engle's "Time Quintet" series. If that sounds confusing, wait 'til you hear the music. Hardened Alesana fans will know what to expect, but you still gotta hand it to the band that their melting pot of musical elements is unusual if nothing else.

Most have heard of the term "rock opera", and you could say that Alesana's records of recent years have progressively moved them away from the more direct screamo/metalcore approach of their early records, and over to a progressive "metal musical" style which has dominated particularly "A Place Where The Sun Is Silent" and now "Confessions". Vocalist Dennis Lee and bassist Shane Crump deliver a diverse arsenal of shrieks and growls on top of intense metal instrumentation, yet that's only the foundation on top of which you get pianos, synths, strings, the obligatory female guest vocals by Melissa Milke, and, of course, the by now clearly central singing of ever flamboyant guitarist/pianist/songwriter Shawn Milke. Those are a lot of sounds the band is trying to integrate, and you can bet that your ear canals are going to be full at any given moment listening to "Confessions". For the most part though, the rhythm section keeps the energy level hectic while the guitars, strings and keys create a frantic, cinematic atmosphere for the vocals to play their parts in. Where the band once played mostly by the harsh verse/clean chorus approach, Milke's singing now does by far the most of the work, with the otherwise impressively textured harsh parts merely being injected in small responses.

The album is strongest in the three songs "Comedy Of Errors", "The Goddess" and "Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen", the former of which is pretty symptomatic of the record's character as a whole. During its six minutes, the song blazes through more separate parts than you're likely to keep track of, and while Milke delivers a decent vocal hook, it's not quite the kind that sticks for long after the song ends. And that makes you notice that there are no clear instrumental signatures to anchor the track. Considering that Alesana perform with three guitarists, the guitars are generally underpowered on the album, and mostly you can only barely make out that something fairly complex is being played behind the vocals. Instead, the band's instrumental prowess mainly shines in the small interludes that break up the songs' main parts. Here Alesana shows creativity in setting up the creepy mood they are known for, you feel like they've become more about making frantic, yet mainly cinematic atmosphere music with singing on top, instead of having more dynamic back and forth structures between melodious instruments and the various vocalists.

The result is an album where you will feel arrested occasionally, by theatrical bridges or punchy heavy breaks that hint of the band's strength, or by the stronger vocal hooks, such as the ones in "The Goddess" or "Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen". For much of the record's 56 minute runtime, however, there's just too much going on, and the myriad of ideas crowd each other in arrangements that often feel like they simply advance the plot more than provide striking musical contrast. Consequentially the album is more likely to wear you out and drown its good parts in the clutter, than sweep you up and get you interested in whatever is happening with the desperately confused Annabel. With her trilogy now finished, it feels like the band would be wise to zoom in on their best ideas and pen some more focused and distinct songs on a next release.

Download: Comedy Of Errors; The Goddess; Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen, Fatal Optimist
For The Fans Of: Crown The Empire, Coheed And Cambria, Silverstein

Release date 21.04.2015
Revival Recordings / Tragic Hero / Warner

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