Alexisonfire Album Preview: ‘Young Crows/Old Cardinals’ Track-By-Track
The first review of the new Alexisonfire album is right here!
So the Torontan screamo kids have grown older, wiser and taken their inimitable heavy metallic hardcore into the future!
Old Crows/Young Cardinals
A mid-tempo beat and Kyuss-y riff opens up just before screamer, George Petitt, joins the mix. His voice is somehow different, more distinctive, older, more worn, with a more road-beaten and more mature character. Dallas Green’s clean vocals interplay with George’s before Wade joins in with the refrain ‘we are not the kids we used to be’. Dallas’s vocals here seem less gentle and acquiescive and more assertive – dare we say – pissed off than previous AoF outings. Just like Alexis’ most powerful tracks, the three-pronged vocal attack makes the track jump with humanity, life-affirmation and buoyant energy. The middle eight is a Bronx-esque melee of distorted vocals before Wade’s refrain comes back in. It is interesting that as an album opener the band haven’t over-used Dallas’ vocals which many predicted would happen as the band’s ambitions grew. Thank god their ambitions are just to be an awesome band.
More up-tempo and back to the raw vocal aggression/heaviness of ‘Watch Out’/’Crisis’. Again, George’s voice is that of an older man – broader shoulders and deeper lungs. And again, Dallas’ voice joins the foray as the chorus announces the title refrain: ‘We are the young cardinals, hear our song’ at the end. The middle-eight is a lush trifle of layered ‘oooh-ing’ vocals and building drums. Actually a pretty straight-forward structure for the Canadian post-hardcore-ists who have always erred away from straight-forward verse-chorus-verse-chorus predictability.
Sons Of Privilege
Classic AoF drum roll and reverberating amp feedback, before exploding into another up-tempo belter. The riff is a fast-pace crunchy one-string punk rocker. The chorus is a sumptuous blend of both George’s and Dallas’ juxtaposed voices and the harmonies make the hairs stand up on your arms. George shouts ‘I don’t wanna be a slave to the sons of privilege’ and the punky gang vocal calls out ‘I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna’ in between – one of many anthemic shouts for their live audiences to enjoy. The middle-eight sees the drums stripped out and Dallas’ sweet velvetine voice pleading out as only he can: ‘In America, In America, In America…’ Definitely a track to be added to the band’s canon of all time bests.
Born And Raised
Great guitar solo/intro leads us through some ripping distortion into another great punky and crunchy riff. This track sees Dallas do a bit more than just call refrains or offer titbits of serenity – singing a large part of the tune. ‘I’ve lost all direction… I’ve lost all my direction… and now I wish would have believed… nature’s in different hands…’ More than any other song on the album we’d like to know just what the songs is about – suggesting misanthropy and destruction of our world. Dallas, George and Wade have really gone to town with the complexity of their vocal interplay – and the result is astounding – a barrage of different emotional suggestions that is hard not to love. A giant vocal hug.
What a riff! Simple and perfect! Structurally, this song is the one most similar to previous AoF – that high distorted guitar in the verse. The bridge explores some interesting discords and really serves to punctuate the sections in this track. Dallas’ voice seems almost absent from the track.
Opens up with that weird guitar sound from the beginning of Metallica’s Orion. A slower track, this one heads into an eerie Dallas vocal line with hints of eastern melodies (tonal shifts) – not a million miles from the good Chris Cornell solo stuff or Soundgarden’s more interesting material). A Deep Purple-esque organ whirrs away in the background, and the whole track builds before you know it to a crescendo of voices and instruments. The stripped section in the middle with only Dallas pulling the heartstrings with fascinating and emotive harmonies is truly haunting. As a man who is often compared to Jeff Buckley it will be interesting to see if anyone asks Dallas about his repeated refrain of ‘Hallelujah’ in this song. And just towards the end is a beautifully distant guitar-line that makes you wish the song wasn’t about to end.
Alexisonfire have clearly finally reached the place they have been driving to for so long: the perfect blending of hardcore, hard rock and the myriad influences that the quintet draw on – from Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley to Johnny Cash, Sigur Ros, Mogwai, At The Drive In, Radiohead and – to be honest – fuck knows what else! So much more than a good genre band: they truly own their sound. Two thirds of the way in, the track is really going for it with Dallas/George interplay and a gorgeously distorted guitar-line ripping through.
Back to the up-tempo, this one starts out with drums, and is followed by that classic AoF bass/guitar sound. While we’re back in familiar Alexis territory, there is still something that is forever changed in the band: on hearing the album, Olly from Johnny Truant said that it was as if they’d all been listening to Queens Of The Stone Age and Kyuss loads. And while it’s true that there is something of a more riffy, rolling, driving, element to the songs, the comparison doesn’t stretch much beyond that and maybe the more integrated and song-driven vocals. There is something dense and brave and ambitious, but also consummate – and it’s utterly irresistible.
Heading For The Sun
Based around a one-chord hammered riff the highlight here is Ratbeard’s perfect drumming, with subtle high hats twinkling through the mix and perfect fills cutting through it. More ‘ooh-ooh’ and a palm-muted simplicity in a wicked little stripped down middle-eight. The backing chords to the chorus here take a minute to come through but once there, it becomes the root of this song more than the vocal hook.
George’s vocals are more reminiscent of The Bronx or even Gallows Frank Carter. And the rest of the track has a more punk rock feel a la early Billy Talent or Rise Against. But still in AoF’s inimitably cerebral style – making the aggression and violence in their sound go to work for them – and not make them sound like petulant toddlers tossing rattles. AoF aren’t known for their solos, but here the short but perfect guitar solo is an awesome addition to the crashing cymbals and choral refrain.
And now the finisher. The eerie organ is back, here riding slow military-like drums. Beautiful guitar and Dallas’ voice at its most sensuous are the perfect bed-fellows and with layered vocal harmonies and gathering guitars the track builds and builds and builds. The track actually bares similarities to Boston electronica duo Certainly Sir (how’s that for an obscure reference?!). Despite being a structurally formless sprawl of a song, this Nine Inch Nails approach gives the track an intense and insisting feeling. Certainly another of many album highlights in the vein of the mellow section of ‘Happiness By The Killowatt’.
A dense and beautiful heavy rock album with as many hardcore influences as progressive ones, and a genuine grower: rewarding and utterly gripping.