By: Nick Villers
Release Date: June 24th, 2022
FFO: Post-Hardcore, Doom Metal, Neo-psychedelia
City and Colour, Doom Children, Thrice
I never thought we'd see the day. Thirteen years since the release of 'Old Crows/Young Cardinals', Alexisonfire is back in the post-hardcore ring and has graced us with their LP, 'Otherness'.
The idea that Alexisonfire would release another record felt like a pipe dream. The band broke up a little over eleven years ago with frontman Dallas Green leaving the band citing struggles to balance both AOF and his successful folk/indie project City and Colour. After a four year hiatus, the band reunited in 2015 going on to play selective festivals and shows worldwide with no indication they would be releasing new material. Between 2019 to 2020, Alexisonfire released three singles, their first new material in over eight years. Then in early 2022, the band announced a new record would be released and thus, 'Otherness' was born.
For those reading this who have skipped Alexisonfire since their 2006 genre defining album 'Crisis', this is not your post-hardcore/mall screamo AOF you were screaming & singing along to in your rec center tee shirt and sideways studded belt. Alexisonfire has aged with rock & roll grit, is rough around the edges, yet can buff out the polish where needed. Pour yourself a cup of black coffee, hold the sugar, and strap in for the ride.
Like a fine wine they've leveraged their years of experience and musical projects to create the latest iteration of Alexisonfire. For example, you can hear inklings of Dallas' project City and Colour, to guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil's project of Doom Children, BUT it is still Alexisonfire. 'Otherness' expands where they left off on 'Old Crows/Young Cardinals'. The vocals & melodies between singer Dallas, screamer George Pettit, and back up vocalist Wade are incredibly dynamic. Dallas and Wade's guitar work is drenched in rhythm & blues/southern riffs and solos. AOF prominently use haunting organs, keyboards, and synthesizers more than ever. This record scoffs at the idea of having a song under three minutes (only one track), with most tracks ranging from four to eight minutes in length. Alexisonfire has redefined what "heavy" can mean in the genre. 'Otherness' can easily capture new fans who never cared for their post-hardcore past as well as rekindle the flame for those who yearn for AOF nostalgia. One thing that still holds true is Alexisonfire's ability to walk the line between harsh and beauty, which continues to make this band so special.
Through the opening track "Committed to the Con" you can feel the energy and excitement back in the band. Through the opening heavy blues influenced guitar riff, George screams "Hey you, get the fuck off my lawn" while Dallas and crew bellows "which side are you on?!" The track indicates that AOF doesn't care what you think of them. They're here to be whatever the fuck they want to be. Alexisonfire is back.
A noticeable shift in the band is the level of musicianship they brought writing this record. AOF has always been talented musicians but their growth, experience level, and ability is felt. 'Otherness' displays Dallas' greatest vocal performance to date and the band wrote the most complete, melodic album with the expansion in their sound. Ballad tracks like "Sans Soleil", "Blue Spade", and "World Stops Turning" showcase this beautifully, as Dallas' vocals/guitar work are unleashed showcasing how City and Colour has influenced his incredible vocal ability and range.
Through their expanded sound brings moments of classic AOF. "Reverse the Curse" feels like a homage to 'Crisis' between George's signature scream and Dallas' singing with one of the best choruses/hooks on the record as Dallas sings "Beyond all pleasures and woes / Beyond this labour of love / We will find the world we wanted / And feel the current of life / Deep within our bones."
The track "Dark Night of the Soul" (my personal favorite on the record) kicks off with a massive group chorus that makes you feel like you're sitting in a humid church hall in the dead of summer as the band pours out their soul singing "We are not our bodies / We are not our minds / Halls of black mirrors / Struggling to find / If we could just witness / Some truth in it all / Under the cold moon / The dark night of the soul." The track sounds like a distant cousin of 'Old Crows/Young Cardinals' and "Crisis', expanding on haunting, southern influenced melodies from tracks like 2009's "Burial". As the track feels reminiscent to previous AOF works it all changes at 3:40 with an eerie 1970s prog-rock keyboard/synthesizer solo that takes you on a ride. What's most impressive is the track is over six minutes long but feels like three as AOF does enough to keep you wanting to go on the journey with them. This is one of the best examples on the record of what "heavy" can mean.
If you're looking for the best of both worlds, the album's lead single "Sweet Dreams of Otherness" is a culmination of Alexisonfire's sound both old and new, bringing heavy rock & roll to the forefront combining driving guitars & drums with the purity of Dallas' voice slicing through the grunge of George's screams. It's a track that undoubtedly will make your head move as Dallas sings the chorus "Sweet dreams of otherness / In memory of mankind / I am listening but I can't hear you / Well, maybe I'm losing my mind."
Here's what you won't get from this record: A recreation of 2004’s classic 'Watch Out'. Understand that version of AOF is 15-20 years ago! What you will get: Everything you love about Alexisonfire at their core, bringing a new meaning of what it means to be "heavy" and "beautiful" all at once at this stage in their career and lives. Alexisonfire is authentic and they're not afraid to be themselves through their music and write what they want to write. It's refreshing to see them playing together again and output the most complete songwriting they have done versus any other record in their well-decorated catalog.
And you know what? They’ve earned and deserve it. Welcome back Alexisonfire.