Tag Archives: The Emptiness

Review: Alesana – ‘Confessions’

alesana confessions

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?

Four and Half Star Rating

Alesana Play Webster Hall 04.09.15

Photo by Alexander Chan
Alesana; photo by Alexander Chan

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.

Alesana; photo by Natasha Van Duser
Alesana; photo by Natasha Van Duser

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 Premiere New Song “Comedy Of Errors”

alesana confessions

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 Announce New Album ‘Confessions’

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.

“The Thespian”

“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
9. Paradox
10. Through The Eyes of Uriel
11. Catharsis

(Anti) Valentine’s Day Playlist

anti valentines dayThe holiday with perhaps the most obvious money-making agenda, Valentine’s Day still manages to conjure up plenty of feelings. There are rumors floating around that it’s supposed to be a happy day, but the people who whispered them have been properly disposed of by now, we’re almost sure. Whether you’re single or not, it’s a day that can bring with it added, needless pressures. To help you cope with the annual annoyance, we’ve reached into the vault and created a playlist that screams, jeers, and even laughs the angst away.

Continue reading (Anti) Valentine’s Day Playlist