There is a line on the very first song that stands out for me. It is the very first line on the song, and it perfectly sums up exactly what this album is. "Alright, this is from our hearts, sincerity over simple chords."
I could not come up with a better summation if I tried. The album is exactly what they promise it is: Simpler music-wise, but completely honest. Alexisonfire
have gone through many changes, and it seemed the changes have left them matured and, clearly, wiser.
One of the most drastic and noticeable changes to the album, and to the band itself, is the departure of drummer Jesse Ingelevics, shortly after the release of their sophomore album, "Watch Out!"
. Since then, the band has brought on former drummer of Jersey, Jordan "Ratbeard" Hastings. Jordan brings a very different style of drumming to the table than Jesse. Jordan is a much faster drummer than Jesse, which allows the band to play much faster and livelier songs, such as We Are The Sound
. Jordan also brings a more punk-style drumming to the table. Unfortunately, that's also one of his greatest weaknesses as a drummer. He tends to stick to a more rigid style of drumming, unlike Jesse, who was a far more creative drummer. While Jordan is no doubt a better drummer, it still remains question whether he is the best choice of drummer for the band.
Another major change is the vocal focus of the album. On the s/t, George dominated on vocals, with support from Dallas, and on occasion Wade. On Watch Out!, Dallas took a more central role with vocals, while George's role was slightly lessened, and Wade's role in vocals almost forgotten. Once again, the band has changed their vocal stylings, and let George regain the spotlight, but this time with almost equal support from Wade and Dallas. Wade has been given a large part of the vocals in the album, and his rough shouted singing style adds even more to the punk style already developed throughout the album. Who knows? Maybe next album, Steele will be singing?
As for the songs themselves, one of the best parts of the album is the fact that there is absolutely no filler material on the album. On both previous albums, there was at least one song I was not a fan of. However, this time each of the songs is good in its own way. They are all strong, and have a better collective sound then AOF's previous ventures. However, there is always a downside. One of the best parts of Watch Out! was the variety of song styles. This time, almost all of the songs tend to stick towards a more punk-oriented sound, which reduces the variety. Still, the album seems to be going for that more of a "whole-sound" then a variety of different sounds, so that's acceptable.
Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints
wastes no time dragging you headfirst into the album, and within the first ten seconds, you can hear the difference in the band. The album begins with George’s empowering scream of "ALL RIGHT!", and Wade’s opening vocals, which are some of his strongest energy-wise on the whole album. The song is very high-energy, and makes for a fun opener. And it performs its most important job as an opener, which is setting the mood for the rest of the album. The next track, This Could Be Anywhere In The World
, is the first single off the record, and was also the first song to be leaked by the band. It is very similar to No Transitory from the last album in style. It's a much more emotional song, which is conveyed beautifully by the lyrics. The lyrics paint a picture of a ruined city of ghosts, and add a haunting note to the song. Dallas gets a lot of vocal time in this song, and I'm not complaining. He's a much better singer than Wade, and he steals the show in all the songs he is present on. The song is dark, beautiful, and a real standout.
Coming in from the fast drumline, Mailbox Arson
begins with the infectious chant of "You're never safe in this town!" George mainly dominates the song, with his brilliant lyrics about getting revenge on a city by setting mailboxes on fire. Dallas once again provides us with a stunningly beautiful chorus. This song actually isn’t nearly as dark as the last two songs, and is more of a high-energy toe tapper. Following Mailbox Arson, we get the album's main punk anthem. In every previous album, there has been one song that captures the punk vibe perfectly. This time, it's Boiled Frogs
. It's amazing that a song about cheating workers out of their pensions could be so upbeat and bouncy, especially considering the lyrics refer to real incidents that happened to George's father. Boiled Frogs is probably the most commercial friendly song the band has ever released. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. Boiled Frogs is probably the most likely candidate for second single.
We Are The Sound
is a concert song. Plain and simple. I doubt it will ever be a single, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Like Polaroids Of Polarbears, this song doesn't need to be a single for the fans to erupt when the band starts playing. This song isn’t quite like anything the boys have ever released before. Sure they've had fast and high energy songs before, but never like this. The sheer speed just makes you want to get up and dance/mosh, and make you forget entirely about the fact the song itself is fairly simple. George’s rapid-fire vocals set the crazy tempo for this song, and the whole thing functions like one big rock-fest. Toe tapping is not mandatory, but you won't really have much of a choice in the matter.
Now we have reached the middle of the album, and it's time for a drastic mood change. That change in mood can only be described as You Burn First
. This is possibly the most controversial song the band has ever released. The whole song is sung almost entirely by guest vocalist Gared from Planes Mistaken For Stars. He is one of the most flexible singers in modern rock, and shows just how flexible he really is, with his growling, moaning vocal presentation. The vocal performance is the heart of the controversy. Some say his vocals fit the song well. Others say he sounds like a dying horse gargling gravel. In my opinion, both are true. Yes, the vocal performance would, in any other song, make me ask if the singer was having an exorsism performed on him during the recording of the song. However, his singing perfectly fits with the overwhelming darkness of the song, and by the time the song burns down to its climax, you feel like you are being drawn into a den of nightmares. This song may well haunt my nightmares forever afterwards. And I’ll be loving every chilling second.
The next few songs vary wildly. We Are The End
is a fairly standard song from the boys, and nothing revolutionary. It's still a good track, just not as good as some of the others. It sounds more like something that would have come from Watch Out!, which isn't a bad thing, just seems to be a small step back. Crisis
, the album’s titular track, makes up for everything, blasting in with a fevored energy and rage. It’s raunchy, it’s dirty, it isn't friendly, and you'll love every minute. This is one of best tracks on the whole album, which makes me sad that it'll never be a single. Yes, the mainstream has accepted AOF, but they aren’t ready for this kind of song yet. Maybe next time. Finally, Keep It On Wax
is another one of those songs that are totally solid, but just don’t stand out. This is a very good song, but it’s very borderline. It's punk, but not as punk as most of the album. It just seems separated from the album.
Finally, the album starts to wind down. This is the point in most (good) albums where things get slower, and the band draws the album to an emotional climax. Alexisonfire does just that. Starting with possibly one of the most emotional and beautiful songs on the entire album, To A Friend
. Starting hard and loud, the song swings through so many different states, ranging from rage to emotional strumming, all wrapped in AOF's multidimensional style of music. With the majority of the album dedicated to George and Wade, this is Dallas's time to shine. Dallas gives one of the greatest performances of his careers, and the emotional finale makes you want to tear up. You'll definitely hear the City And Color influences in the ending, and, hey, no one's complaining.
And, at last, we reach the conclusion. Rough Hands
. The beginning is mostly Dallas singing and providing a beautiful melody on the piano. When George enters, the track doesn't lose its beauty. In fact, the beauty almost emerges from the clash in vocal styles. George proves his adaptability on this song, showing that his screaming can be just as powerful on slow tracks as blaringly fast songs like We Are The Sound. He also does a bit of actual singing, which fits surprisingly well, and is a nice treat to fans. The albums ends on a powerful note, with Dallas belting out the chorus while George cries "Rough Hands!", before the song fades out to a piano, playing the last notes of the album.
Overall, the sound of Crisis
is a much matured Alexisonfire
. They hit all the right notes, and prove their skill again and again. True, it's much simpler than previous outings, but this album is going for a punk sound, and, in the end, simplicity is all it needs. While just barely behind Watch Out!, this album still delivers, and proves that AOF are out for blood. I sense that this is just the beginning of what could be a golden era of Alexisonfire. An era where hardcore music slips its way into the mainstream, and takes over, creating an age of power and rock. Sigh... Oh well, it's nice to dream.