Review Summary: The Emptiness will... surprise you, actually.
During Christmas break of my sophomore year in high school (that'd be three years ago now) i downloaded two very different albums with some iTunes cards I had received. I became extremely enamored with both and would continue to follow both band's discographies to this day. The first was "Put On Your Rosy Red Glasses" by The Number Twelve Looks Like You, the second was "On Frail Wings Of Vanity And Wax." by Alesana. With Alesana as a self-acknowledged very guilty pleasure, and TNTLLY now out of the game, I was left mildly looking forward to Alesana's third studio album "The Emptiness."
After thoroughly enjoying "Frail Wings" and listening to the underwhelming "Where Myth Fades To Legend" out of pure loyalty to one of the bands that introduced me to the metalcore genre, I wasn't exactly feeling optimistic about this record. I expected more of the same, but was pleasantly surprised.
Alesana's "The Emptiness" is a lyrical concept album based off Edgar Allen Poe's poem "Annabel Lee," and is comprised of 11 tracks of mediocre to better than average metalcore. There are some minor changes in the band's sound as a whole, as they have seemed to figure some things out. First and foremost, with a new guitarist the band has obviously gained some much needed energy in their music and seem much more into their performance here, as opposed to simply treading through the motions as they did on "Where Myth Fades To Legend." Alesana has also apparently come to the realization that while having four distinguished vocalists, it just creates a mess of noise when more than two are singing or screaming at once. The sound of the music here is much simpler and refined, the production is decent, and through the use of samples and atmospherics the album attempts to create a specific mood for the listener. It succeeds about half the time.
Opening track "Curse of the Virgin Canvas" sets the bar for the album with a spoken word introduction and a proclamation of "The emptiness will haunt you.” From here we get standard fare for those familiar with the band, and if you already dislike the band, this album will do nothing to change your mind. This is more of the same throaty screaming, mildly talented guitar riffs, and high pitched singing, although thankfully the annoying highs from their previous two albums are foregone in favor of a more straightforward, less stylized singing method.
In between poppy choruses and screamed verses, the album tells the story of Annabel Lee, with the initial song providing background information, and every other one thereafter being based on a character from the story such as “The Artist,” “The Murderer,” The Thespian,” and “The Lover.” These are actually the standout tracks on the album, playing off of musical and atmospheric concepts that match the character the song is based on. For example, “The Artist” features subdues guitar riffs that don’t take the forefront. The clean singing provided by Shawn Milke takes center stage here, and is actually quite pleasant at times. “The Murderer” is one of the heavier cuts from the album, and plays larger off of dissonant guitar riffs and screaming/growling from lead vocalist Dennis Lee, as well as backing screams from Milke.
“The Thespian” is as close to older material as the band gets on here, starting off with some dual vocals and tradeoff singing and screaming throughout the song’s duration. The song is one of the strongest on the album with a catchy chorus that is again split with the sing/scream dynamic. I never said it was original though, which brings us the the album’s main problem... every other track.
While there are no tracks that are outright bad like on “Where Myth Fades To Legend,” there are some that are simply unnecessary and kind of boring. “Hymn For The Shameless” attempts to be a more melodic and catchy ditty, but save for a few moments of success, ultimately just drags on. The same goes for the song “Heavy Hangs The Albatross,” although Dennis’s vocal work here with the low growls is somewhat enjoyable.
The album’s main problem is that this has all been done before by Alesana. Its just a tad more refined and slightly improved, which leads to many of the tracks blending together. I would recommend you check this out though, because it is better than either of their previous albums. the bar for the album with a spoken word introduction and a proclamation of "The emptiness will haunt you."