Review Summary: Dog's Blood actually tastes okay, who would've known?
Waiting for this latest EP by Alexisonfire was as painful as waiting for Lupe Fiasco’s “Lasers” to come out (still waiting): lots of hype, lots of promise...and lots of delays and rescheduling. This was promised way back when “Old Crows/Young Cardinals” came out in the summer of 2009, and was supposed to be released earlier this year. Their latest LP excited me so much as we saw a band so close to running the risk of descending into blandness, emerge with a brand new sound and fresh energy. Dallas Green’s voice was somehow more heavenly, George adapted his deteriorating voice to suit the new grungier music style, and Wade all of a sudden saw greater involvement vocally. All in all, I had very high expectations for this EP, even at only 4 tracks.
The tracks are relatively meaty, some of Alexisonfire’s longest to date, the idea being that they are trying to incorporate a more atmospheric, moodier sound. It’s even more of a mosh-pit sound for them, with ridiculous riffs (see the title-track Dog’s Blood, as well as Black As Jet), and much less of Dallas than we are used to. However, many of the trends we have seen thus far have continued, including Wade’s increasing contribution.
For the most part, the album has a fresh new feel to it. “Grey” is a catchy head-banger where George offers up wavy lyrics consisting of small doses of echoing screams with little pauses in between that help listeners feel the effect of the lurching guitars. They even inject a little of the grungy Silversun Pickups sound in here as well by subtly adding screaming guitars that poke out in the background of the overall heavy track. “Black As Jet” is faster-paced than the rest of the album, but Alexisonfire differentiates the track from the rest of the EP by holding the crunchy guitars for longer after each little set, making for an atmospheric and ear-pounding post-hardcore sound that confidently trails off into the distance when the tracks finishes.
The only real letdown on the album is the opener, hence why I saved it to talk about later. At 6 minutes flat, “Dog’s Blood” kicks off with a mischievous riff and George wailing in an almost incomprehensible rush of screaming lyrics. I've always had difficulty deciphering the words George growls, but in this track it's simply unfair. His vocals are so drowned out it's like listening to Jacob Bannon. Then the pace softens to give Dallas Green really his only moment to show off his voice on this EP where he preaches “In Dog’s Blood, we will all drown”. What should have been a highlight on the album, Dallas Green’s line instead has this uncomfortable generic feeling to it. This is warranted I feel, as the same technique was used in “Rough Hands” where Dallas substitutes loudness in order to show a sensitive side. Here, it contributes nothing really except a feeling of nostalgia for another song. The song isn't exactly terrible though, it's just typical. This little lapse in originality is forgotten though when George and Dallas both share vocals on the wild last two minutes of the song.
When the purely instrumental, but no less brooding, ending track “Vex” trails off, it’s clear that Alexisonfire are still not satisfied with where they are, and are constantly striving to evolve their sound. This latest EP is a whole new identity for them. It still reminds us of the older sound, but with enough here that is fresh to set it apart from even the very different-sounding “Old Crows/Young Cardinals”. My expectations were not met however with the title-track. It’s strong, but too generic and messy to fully enjoy and appreciate. The overall sound is also not as crisp as a lot of hard rock bands are becoming, and while it was a solid four tracks, it’s just too difficult at some points to hear what George is screaming, making the production quality a bit questionable. I’m still so impressed with this band, and they will continue to be one of my favourites, and I’m sure most lingering fans will appreciate this album too.