Review Summary: A bittersweet end for the only band ever.
Most fans of Alexisonfire
were delighted to hear the band's last EP, 'Dog's Blood.' It seemed to be a return to form, with songs that were energetic and raw in a way that had been noticibly absent from their last releases. It was urgent, like Watch Out! but still packed an emotional punch. It didn't seem like Alexisonfire was trying to be the band they used to be; instead they were finally drawing from all aspects of their sound. In short, it seemed like the band had finally found a comfortable place between their post-hardcore influences and their alternative rock sound.
None of this matters for the foreseeable future, as the band has now broken up. Alexisonfire leaves us with Death Letter, a six track release that doesn't feature any new material, but instead reworks several of Alexisonfire's tracks from three of their albums. The concept of Death Letter is a well-concieved idea; before the band calls it quits they give their fans a release that celebrates their work without just making a "Best of Alexisonfire" CD. However, as good as the idea is, the execution of it leaves something to be desired. Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green sound great on the EP; both singers give each other room to breathe and Death Letter benefits greatly from their interaction. The songs "Burial" and "You Burn First" offer some of the best moments on the album. "Burial" was the last track on Old Crows / Young Cardinals, but it felt more like the last song on a City & Colour
release. While the general structure of the song remained the same, the fuzzy distorted guitars give the song a completely different feel. As good a song as "Happiness by the Kilowatt" is, there isn't much to the version other than the additional vocals from Wade MacNeil.
Everything that you hear on Death Letter is very well produced, however the album is very light content-wise. While the songs that are on the EP are solid tracks, they do not properly represent Alexisonfire's entire discography. The majority of these songs come from Old Crows / Young Cardinals. 'Watch Out!' and 'Crisis' only contribute one song each ('Happiness by the Kilowatt' and 'You Burn First', respectively). The band's self-titled album and their EP 'Dog's Blood' were completely ignored. According to a press release by Dine Alone Records, Death Letter was created without the involvement of Chris Steele, Jordan Hastings and George Pettit. Death Letter is by all accounts an enjoyable listen, and an EP that I would reccommend to anyone wanting a somber soundtrack for a night drive. But I have trouble viewing it as a Alexisonfire release since it only had 40% of the band contributing to its creation. It's only a shell of what it could have been had the rest of the band been together. It would have been particularly interesting to hear Jordan Hastings take on 'Happiness by the Kilowatt,' as the drums for that track were originally performed by Jesse Ingelevics. Or to hear the band rework material from their self-titled album which was written over ten years ago. Given some of the information about the nature of Alexisonfire's breakup, maybe the fact that Death Letter feels unfinished says more than anything else would.