Now that we did one,
It’s time we show you round two,
Happy Wednesday, punks!
Now that we did one,
Now that we did one,
It’s time we show you round two,
Happy Wednesday, punks!
The master storytellers in Alesana deliver yet another mindfuck with the short film/music video for “Comedy Of Errors.” The song comes from the band’s most recent album and the third and final installment of their Annabel Trilogy, Confessions. Only a small portion of “Comedy Of Errors” is featured in this video, however, and screen time is mostly reserved for a cinematic look into the sci-fi realm of time travel as it plays in to the overarching story at work here.
And this is only Part 1. Watch the short film/music video below, and then rewatch it about twenty more times to wrap your mind around it.
Thanks to the digital age, we literally have access to music from all around the world. One of the latest musical gems we stumbled upon hails from Scotland. Say hello to To Kill Achilles. This DIY six-piece from Dundee, Scotland have been killing it in the post-hardcore/metalcore world, and have done so entirely on their own. With a true DIY work ethic, the guys in TKA have released two music videos, a full-length debut record, and a brand new single produced and mixed by the master, Joey Sturgis. And guess what? They did it all without the support of a label.
The following interview is a collective response rendered by the band via email. Get to know the guys in To Kill Achilles before their new release drops later this year!
How did To Kill Achilles first come together?
To Kill Achilles: We all wrote music independently and were all good friends before we started TKA. We started to write together and it all took off from there.
Why the name To Kill Achilles? Is it directly inspired by the Greek hero?
All our lyrics are based on life experiences, about getting over situations or dealing with things that hurt. We based the name on the Greek hero Achilles because he was seen as immortal. To Kill Achilles means to come face to face with something you think you can’t beat but you overcome it in the end. It’s about what we all feel like in bad situations.
Your two videos for “The Secret” and “Confessions” were exceptionally well received when they first debuted. What made you guys want to jump into the game with two almost back to back videos?
In our minds, the best way to gain some exposure was to bring out a music video. It gave the songs a visual, it was easily sharable and videos often grab the attention of people more so than just a track on its own. We’re proud of the views and feedback we’ve received from those videos although they are quite old now and we’re moving on as a band.
Since then you’ve released your debut full-length Existence along with a new track, “You Live On In Me.” Your sound seems to get progressively more complex and even heavier. Is that the direction you’re planning on taking To Kill Achilles?
We are planning on going heavier. We’re in the process of writing a new release at the moment and the tracks are sounding a lot heavier than the original releases. In saying that, we don’t really plan the songs we come out with; we write what feels natural. At the moment we’re experiencing some things that we’re not use to and our music is coming out with a big anger feel, but that’s probably something to do with what’s going on around us.
What have been some of your major musical influences?
I guess we really listen to everything. With six people in one band it’s impossible to pinpoint the influences. Some of us are really into punk, some metal, lots of shit pop music. We just kind of like music in general and it all inspires us.
What was it like working on a full-length without a label to back it?
Actually, really easy. We never expect our music to go anywhere. We play in this band for the love of it. We get our opinions on things out there, but we don’t focus on sales. We wrote the full-length early because we had the feel for it. We’re proud of it, but we all have our issues that we would fix if we could go back. But that album launched us into touring and we couldn’t be happier. Traveling has become the new inspiration for us.
In general, how has being DIY for the majority of your musical releases helped shape To Kill Achilles?
We love the DIY ethic. When we were growing up we all had the dream of being a touring band playing sold out shows and staying in badass hotels every night, but when we started doing what we are doing we realized that’s not how it works. We sleep outside, either underneath the van or in some trees by the side of the motorway. We turn up to shows and the room is tiny and there’s 25 kids who can’t move because of the lack of space and we love every second of it. Some of the best shows come when a local promoter books us in the pub he goes to every day. DIY is the way to go; it feels like you earn your experiences. Being in a band, traveling, meeting new people every night who care about the songs you write in your bedroom when you’re back home is the best feeling ever. If it was all organized by someone else and you turned up, played and left you wouldn’t get any feels and that’s what it’s all about.
What inspired the 2015 track “You Live On In Me?”
The song was based on losing a loved one. Our keyboard player, Tindal, lost his dad at a young age and wanted to write a song about how it felt. The song lyrically goes through the five stages of grief and is a word for word account about how it felt for us to lose someone important to us. We really hoped people would relate to the track and understand that loss sucks, but it gets better.
“You Live On In Me” was mixed and mastered by Joey Sturgis. How was working with him?
He was unbelievably professional yet chill at the same time. Any issues we had with the mix he fixed without a single complaint; he made the track sound like we imagined it to. We’re big fans of Sturgis’ mixes; we we’re humbled to work with him.
Can we expect any more new music coming from you guys in 2015?
We’re working on a new release. We’re planning for summer 2015 but we don’t want to rush this. What we have at this point is refreshing for us. We can’t wait to put it out and show how we’ve grown as a group of friends, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We’re really happy with the new sounds we’re creating, though. We think people will understand what we’re trying to do.
What’s the metal/hardcore scene like over in Scotland?
It’s alright. The bands are sick, everyone have an amazing attitude and are really talented, but the shows have nothing on other countries. We love it here, but European fans really show how much they care; they get so into it and you get the best vibe ever. In Scotland you can have an amazing show but the kids are too focused on looking cool. We’re not mocking at all, we’re victims of it ourselves, but I think the passion for music just isn’t there and it’s a recent thing.
What’s a typical To Kill Achilles show like?
We like a lot of crowd interaction. We put every part of our spirit into the live shows. Because our lyrics mean something to us we really try to show the audience that we care. In all honesty though, we play angry metal and mosh, hoping the crowd joins in.
There’s an awesome video on YouTube of your guitarist playing in the middle of a pit. Is that something that typically happens at one of your shows?
Yeah, Shaun [Lawrence] likes to show off. Like we said, we like crowd interaction. If we see them enjoying themselves, we like to get involved. I think we see shows as SHOWS. We can’t just play the music, we need to create some visuals, show people that dancing, having a mosh, singing along is ok; it’s what we want.
Do you think that kind of crowd intimacy should be present in all shows, or are shows with barricades needed in the post-hardcore and metal world?
Barricades are there to be broken. Every second we’re on a stage we know we’re there because of the people in the audience. We owe it all to people who like what we come out with, so we want them involved. Get on the star, grab the mic, even after the show come party with us. It depends on what the band themselves like, but for us, we want people to get involved and join us.
Are there any upcoming events for To Kill Achilles that we should be on the lookout for?
We’ve just announced a Russian tour which starts on the 14th of May. We’re really excited for this as we’ve never done Russia before. Also, the new release which is looking like a September release. We’re working on new tours, some new videos and really just expanding. We’re having the best time at our size but we want to get a little bigger just so we can travel more.
Describe To Kill Achilles in one word.
Curtain up. This is the end you’ve all been waiting for. After two previous installments–The Emptiness (2010), A Place Where The Sun Is Silent (2011)–The Annabel Trilogy comes to a close with Alesana‘s fifth studio record, Confessions. Shawn Milke (vocals, guitar, piano) himself described the new record as “a panic attack” in our recent interview, and while he certainly didn’t exaggerate, Confessions is far more enjoyable than that. True, the eleven song compilation pushes the boundaries of comfort at times with dissonance and complicated structures (“The Acolyte,” “Through The Eyes Of Uriel”), but those alienating moments are relieved by catchier, pop-ier, more easily digestible sequences (“The Goddess,” “Fatal Optimist”) that effectively complete the conceptual masterpiece.
Much like A Place Where The Sun Is Silent, if you go into Confessions with the mindset you’ll be listening to an album, you probably won’t have the best time. Most tracks have more in common with movements of a score than actual rock songs, just as their creators are more akin to composers than standard hardcore musicians. You may have to listen to it several times before a good deal of the record sinks in in a satisfying way, but each time you will discover new, exciting elements. From humorous lines like “Dearest love I hope this finds you well/ I am kidding, this is probably Hell” (“Paradox”), to nursery rhyme melodies (“Through The Eyes Of Uriel”), and even reincorporating the single “Fatima Rusalka” into the Annabel narrative (“Fatal Optimist”), Confessions is an emotionally exhausting and surprising journey front to back.
While the album opens on an incredibly strong, entrancing note with “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night,” we turn our greatest attention to the closer (“THIS IS THE FINAL ACT!”), “Catharsis.” Like The Emptiness‘s “Annabel,” the last piece of the puzzle is expectedly epic, reaching the height of drama in a symphony of menacing whispers, desperate screams, racing guitar lines, and building drums. Yet after one of the most well-developed climaxes in post-hardcore history, the ending (Spoiler Alert) comes as a shock difficult to grapple with. After the hours of complexity Alesana have given us over three volumes, it all comes to a finish in the throws of bitter irony and a vanishing act. Dennis Lee (vocals) screams the tragic, “Did man even notice as he was erased?” and with a poof, all is over. My first reaction: “WHAT?!” My reaction after listening to it about seven times: “That’s actually brilliant.”
Honestly, this review could take up dozens of pages to accurately represent all that Alesana have done here, but for the sake of being somewhat brief, what you need to know is this: Alesana have created a work. Over the years, they’ve strung together an entire universe thread by thread, and how many other bands can say that?
Dear Capture The Crown, we’re glad you’re still alive.
But let’s start from the beginning. Alesana hit NYC’s Webster Hall on April 9th, almost a year to the day since the last time they played The Studio with Get Scared in 2014. Taking the larger Marlin Room upstairs this time with support from Capture The Crown, The Browning, Conquer Divide, and Revival Recordings mates The Funeral Portrait, the headliner’s cult status was never more obvious. Translation: Alesana don’t need space. No matter how many albums the sextet record, they will always be better suited to claustrophobic basement dens, partially because they’re such a niche band and because their live performance feeds off of the intimacy between artist and fan. Unfortunately, some indie folk band needed The Studio that night, so all the hardcore kids had to deal with awkwardly spacious mosh pits, which was essentially like popping a balloon with too much air.
Despite the yards of empty floor, openers The Funeral Portrait were able to get the crowd moving. In a peculiar but striking brand of showmanship, vocalist Lee Jennings fled the stage like he was wanted in four states before the last note could hold up a search warrant. But before making his hasty exit, Jennings hopped onto the floor to sing a chorus or two with the crowd and held “story time” with his “readers” on bended knee. While many bands in the scene like to put the audience on their knees to reinforce some sort of power dynamic (Asking Alexandria, BMTH, and *ahem* Capture The Crown), Jennings lowered himself alongside his audience to engage in the art of storytelling. We were all in on a fantasy, a secret, and I prefer that over bowing down to Your Royal Band-ness any day.
Conquer Divide came next, and while I’m thrilled about the idea of an all-girl post-hardcore band, the set fell flat. The songs were good enough, but the only two who had any semblance of stage presence were the unclean vocalist (Janel) and the drummer (Tamara). Here’s an example of a band that could afford to lord a little power over the crowd.
The Browning’s electronically infused metal was what really revved the fans into gear. Epic, danceable beats melded with As I Lay Dying-style vocals for killer, bouncy moshing–which isn’t as oxymoronic as it sounds. Maybe not everyone knew who The Browning were, but that didn’t stop them from partying and punching to each track. It was a set done with too soon.
Capture The Crown took the stage afterward. And if you think this is all happening a bit too quickly, you’re not wrong. Webster Hall was unnervingly punctual that night to a fault, imposing rapid set changes and even a 10pm curfew. The time restriction wasn’t the worst news of the night, however, as CTC bassist Maurice Morfaw announced that vocalist Jeffrey Wellfare wouldn’t be performing. In a dangerous turn of events, the band’s tour vehicle had put the members through some carbon monoxide poisoning, making vocal duties difficult for Wellfare (a name now slathered in irony). They brought on a friend to do replacement vocals; or rather, to pretend to do replacement vocals. The audio engineer essentially muted his mic and backtracked the vocals, which is disturbing on many levels for a live performance, but especially for a hardcore/metalcore show. After watching his band tank for two songs, Wellfare ran to the rescue and pushed past his initial coarseness to save the set. The old adage “the show must go on” held true, or how we at HXC like to phrase it, “STILL ALIVE!”
Finally, there are only so many ways to describe what it’s like to watch the frighteningly charismatic Alesana play live. The best way I can think to put it is this: When you watch Alesana live, you get the sense that you are watching modern day poets; artistry at its finest. They’re not just generic band dudes that win the crowd with ego. It is a much deeper, more transcendent experience than that. Like mad scientists in their laboratory, the band members laugh wide-eyed and maniacally, loving every minute of their intricately woven insanity. From creepy fan-favorite “The Murderer” to brand new “Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen” to the reigning “Annabel”, Alesana filled the too-spacious room with passionate presence. Perhaps no one has ever hated curfew more. Until next year, boys. Same time same place? We’ll be there.
Alesana is about to embark on a spring tour in support of their fifth studio album, Confessions, set for release on April 21, 2015 through Revival Recordings. Confessions will mark the long awaited third and final installment of the Annabel Trilogy. So far they had only released one track from the upcoming record, “Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen,” and today, the world gets to hear single number two: “Comedy Of Errors.” As with “Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen,” this new single shows that Confessions will most likely be taken in both a heavier direction as well as a more theatrical (I know, hard to believe) direction than The Emptiness and A Place Where The Sun Is Silent. And in truth, we couldn’t be happier.
You can check out both singles below.
For more on Alesana and Confessions, make sure to check out our interview with Shawn Milke.
Alesana have led arguably one of the most prolific careers of any hardcore band of the past decade, not necessarily in terms of the amount of albums released, but in terms of the amount of work put into each record. Anyone would be hard-pressed to name a band as consumed by the art of storytelling and as loyal to their artistic vision and their fans as this theatrical six piece sweetcore family. Yes, family, because that’s what Shawn Milke (vocals, guitar, piano) insists good music is all about. In the interview below, HXC picks Milke’s brain about the upcoming Alesana record, the self-started label Revival Recordings, and why there’s no place for ego or dollar signs in true art.
HXC: Why did you choose Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet as a lens to finish Annabel’s story?
Shawn Milke: Well Dennis and I really wanted to involve time travel in the third installment of The Annabel Trilogy. Whereas with The Emptiness and A Place Where The Sun Is Silent we chose the literature and then built our story in support of it, with Confessions it was the other way around. We decided on time travel and then discussed literature that we enjoyed surrounding that concept. L’Engle writes with a social conscience at the core which is something we love to do as well. There are several really cool allusions and nods to L’Engle throughout Confessions.
A Place Where The Sun Is Silent was even more winding and complex than The Emptiness in terms of sound. Sonically, what can fans expect of Confessions?
It’s intense. When describing the record to my wife I’ve used the phrase “panic attack” to explain several of the movements. There is a lot of chaos but on the other hand there is also a lot of super spacey and atmospheric passes. After all, this is a story about bending time and space. There are a lot of moments where you feel like you need to catch your breath. Several of the tracks are more progressive than anything we have ever done and that was very intentional. The storyline is coming to a climax and, especially with a handful of the songs, I very much wanted the listening experience to mirror the intensity. In the past we have had labels to please and “singles” to release so we would re-structure certain tunes to fit that particular mold. This time around it was about the album as a whole, about the whole creative experience being true to itself first and foremost. This was the most organic approach to writing a record that we’ve had since On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax in terms of going with our gut. Pat and I were very on the same page musically and Dennis and I brought the story to life lyrically in a way that we never have before. It was a blast and I’m very, very proud of Confessions.
Why did you choose the track “Comedy of Errors” for a short film?
The decision to use Comedy of Errors for our short film/music video was an easy one. Stylistically, it is all over the map and really showcases what Confessions is all about, musically. It is the third chapter in the story and is a pretty critical turning point in terms of setting up the rest of the prose. Working with director Justin Reich on this was awesome. It is a dream come true to get to do a music video that is more a short film than anything.
You use several different media to tell your stories; film, literature–even the instrumentals on your records help narrate what the lyrics are saying. Why do you like taking this multilayered approach?
I love for our records to be multi-dimensional. A fan can choose to simply enjoy a song or they can dive headfirst into our fictional world. The idea is for the music to tell a story on its own before it’s even concerned with the lyrics and prose. The more layers you create, the more emotions you can convey. When you’ve layered something so dynamically and drastically it can then become the absence of layers that conveys the emotion. A brief moment of silence or a single cello can be just as effective as a full blown orchestra behind three-part guitar harmonies, layered vocals, and screams. It’s always about the push and pull, the building of the tension. Dynamics are everything.
How does it feel knowing The Annabel Trilogy is ending?
It is extremely bittersweet. On one hand I am extremely proud to see Alesana see the trilogy to its completion. On the other hand, Annabel has been a part of our creative psyche for the better part of nearly six years. It is tough to say goodbye to her but I am also pleased with her sendoff. It was a pleasure spending so much time with her and it is because of her that we have developed one of the most dedicated and caring core fan bases in the world.
It’s still early in the game to think about next moves, but do you see yourselves taking on other concept efforts this size in the future?
It’s hard to say, but I don’t think we would do quite this magnitude again. I’m very big on, “Okay, we accomplished that. Now, what can we do that is different and challenging?” We’ve done a trilogy so to do another one would feel like regurgitation. I have several ideas for our next EP that I am super excited about and it would create a whole new set of storytelling challenges.
You’ve earned yourselves an intensely loyal cult following over the years. How do you think that idea of community translates to Revival Recordings?
The hope is that our most core fans will also believe in the positive and artistic community we are creating at Revival Recordings. Music is the flame that lights my artistic world and I will only sign bands who push themselves as hard as I have, creatively. Positivity, open-mindedness, and a lack of ego are all major prerequisites for what we are trying to build. Good Music By Good People is not just a slogan, it is a way of life for our family of artists and our team.
What exactly are you trying to revive?
The belief that good art is paramount. I understand that the music industry is, in fact, a business and, in order to sustain a career, money must be made and success must be had. However, success is in the eye of the beholder and here at Revival we stare through a lens built by art, not the industry. Surround yourself with the right people and keep your focus on the art, the songs, the music itself and you can only win. It is up to us, the fans of great music and art, to not allow the industry to dictate what we enjoy. Fight for what you love and together we can revive an otherwise narrow-minded, dollar sign driven industry controlled by the few.
Revival is a very DIY project, much like Alesana’s overall approach to making music has been. Why do you think “doing it yourself” is so important?
If you do it yourself then you have the power to dictate your goals, your dreams, and your destination. I refuse to be told by some industry drone what my vision should be; I control my vision and my vision is you, the fans. I will be striving to develop great bands comprised of good people who do things the right way for as long as I’m allowed to live on this earth and I’ll be damned if I will ever base my decisions off of the opinion of some corporate zombie who wouldn’t know a good record if it kicked him in the ass.
You can finally exhale Alesana fans, because the band have announced the expected release date of their new record. The finale to the Annabel Trilogy, Confessions will be out April 21st and is now available for preorder. While you jump around your room in excitement, listen to some songs from the first two installments, The Emptiness and A Place Where The Sun Is Silent.
“Lullaby Of The Crucified”
Confessions Track Listing:
1. It Was A Dark And Stormy Night
2. The Acolyte
3. Comedy of Errors
4. The Goddess
5. Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen
6. The Puppeteer
7. Fatal Optimist
8. The Martyr
10. Through The Eyes of Uriel