Review Summary: Finally a place where Alesana should not be silent.
I’ll admit, in the past I have enjoyed the odd song from Alesana. I honestly think they are not as bad as people say they are. The problem with them, however, is when they aren’t ok, they are totally awful. Take for instance the end of And They Call This Tragedy, from their second album. The ending, where a man simply cries “And you said this would be forever” twice, is possibly the most embarrassing moment in a post-hardcore song I can remember. If you haven’t listened, it’s worth hearing simply for the laughter factor.
Despite this Alesana are, to the horror of many, back for their fourth full length. Named A Place Where The Sun Is Silent, it is, like all their previous records, a concept album. This album is based on part of the epic classical poem "The Divine Comedy", specifically, The Inferno. Split into two parts, named The Gate and The Immortal Still, it is just over an hour in length. Considering most could not even stand 3 minutes of these guys, listening to this is a mammoth task.
Don’t get me wrong though, Alesana have definitely improved. As seen with The Emptiness, the band are heading for a more mainstream sound. The screamer has very little to do for most of this and thankfully it’s hard to see things changing in the future. Also gone are the three way vocals that simply confused. This time it’s limited to two at most. Despite that, it doesn’t stop them from managing to get themselves into their usual mess once or twice on the album. One of the biggest improvements comes from the much more prominent signs of decent musicianship. For instance, the 6 minute song Beyond the Sacred Glass includes a minute of interlude mid song which shows off one of the guitarists classical training, ala From First To Last’s Minuet.
After opening with the usual boring pretentious opening, we get the first song proper, A Forbidden Dance. At first you might think this was the same old Alesana, and for most of the song it sadly is, however about two thirds in the song changes and the melodic chorus totally takes over, with brass backing. This is completely unexpected and is the kind of thing Alesana should be looking to build on. The next track Hand In Hand With The Damned is a vast improvement. It’s far lighter for the most part and contains much less screaming. The chorus is also far catchier and while the lyrics are a bit cliche (I can see it in your eyes/Your moving on without me), they are certainly better than we have previously seen from the Baltimore sextet. The musicianship is there too, with a nice guitar run present from roughly half way through when the track gets heavier and faster.
The next few songs are hit and miss, Beyond The Sacred Glass is a good light song that succeeds in being catchy, and more radio friendly. The Temptress opens promisingly but soon degenerates into a rather poor song with a bad breakdown. Circle VII: Sins Of The Lion is one of the best songs the band has ever put out, containing a catchy enough chorus and just the right balance of heavy and light passages. Lullaby Of The Crucified manages to feature what might be described as a passable guitar solo if it wasn’t for the screaming hid low in the mix in the background.
As for the second act, the best song is Welcome To The Vanity Faire. It starts out like a fairly standard pop-punk track, with the riff sounding like it could be ripped straight from the All Time Low or New Found Glory textbook. Despite a rather poor bridge, this is actually one of the better songs and shows why the band are improving now they are taking a lighter and more mainstream sound. The next song however highlights what is wrong with quite a few of the tracks on this album. Named The Wanderer, it’s a piano based duet featuring one of the guitarist’s sisters, named Melissa. She is featured on four of the songs here, as more than just occasional backing vocals, and it manages to make every single one sound like a cheesy ballad. This song, ironically, seems to wander aimlessly, without ever capturing your attention and with lyrics too poor to ever work for a ballad.
Penultimate song, The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Maisonette’s is a more traditional post-hardcore song, like their previous material, however this track is actually pulled off quite well. It does contain a breakdown but its done far better than in their previous attempts, and just like the rest of the album, Shawn’s clean vocals have become far less cloying and whiny.
Despite this, possibly the biggest sin this album commits is in its ambition. It’s great that the band at least try to be different, but this is two albums combined into one overly long record that overstays its welcome. After the first “act” I was bored and this is simply not great enough to pull my interest back in. Despite still having it’s flaws, this is the best material Alesana have ever put out. Many will dismiss this without listening, but those do will recognise, if nothing else, that they are improving a little with each record, giving hope for the future of this much maligned band.