What do you get when you mix a little melody, a golden falsetto, scratchy punk vocals, driving guitars, screaming, and a strong rhythm? You get Crisis.
As the third release from Ontario’s Alexisonfire, Crisis is poignantly remarkable. In the two weeks since it’s release, the album has surpassed sales of the band’s first record. And with good reason.
Leading off the album is the driving ‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners, And Saints’. Anthemic lyrics, and guitarist Wade MacNeil’s scratchy vocals, partnered with screamer George Pettit and guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green’s harmony makes a perfect combination for the catchy lead-off. With lyrics such as ‘This is from our hearts/Sincerity over simple chords/We made some mistakes/We made some mistakes/But it’s a long time coming when you’re giving it everything’, it’s easy to see why this song was chosen as the album’s introduction.
Next up is the first single: ‘This Could Be Anywhere In the World’. With a smooth transition between songs, any Saturday Night Live fan will be ecstatic to hear the poignant cowbell on this track. The lyrics and transitions between Green’s clear vocals and Pettit’s screaming are expertly executed. With Green taking the vocal lead, MacNeil manages to compliment him almost to perfection.
Starting with intricate drumming, ‘Mailbox Arson’ is a unique perspective on abandonment and change. An angry back-and-forth between Pettit and Green is the backbone of this song, which relies entirely on tone to make it feel ‘complete’. The true meaning of the song is grapsed when Green sings ‘I’ll strike a match/And burn away/Every tie that binds/Me to this place’.
Following this is ‘Boiled Frogs’. At time of writing this review, this song is set to be the second single from the album, though a video is yet to be filmed. The song, whose lyrics do require a bit of explanation to grasp, is probably the most catchy on the album. In an interview, Pettit explained that the song was about workers reaching retirement age who are forced to quit in order to forgo their pension. Only Alexisonfire could manage to take a song about corporate dependency and layer it with aggressive screaming, hand claps, poppy guitar and solid vocal performances from both Green and MacNeil, to create something truly remarkable
One of the more anthemic tracks on the album, ‘We Are The Sound’, follows up Boiled Frogs. Starting with a harsh and intricately screamed vocal by Pettit, the song transitions nicely into an upbeat chorus from Green as he sings ‘We are the sound/We don’t belong/So raise up your hands/And sing-along’. It continues on with more laborious vocals from Pettit, of which very few are decipherable, which is reminiscent of the band’s earlier recordings.
The next track takes us in a drastically different direction. Instead of Green’s lively falsetto, we get MacNeil’s scratchy voice hauntingly singing over a simple guitar line. This song is one that you will certainly question the first time you hear it. ‘Is this seriously Alexisonfire?’ was my first thought. The song is very similar in style to MacNeil’s side project, The Black Lungs, but still bears some of the trademark Alexisonfire layering, and omniscient lyrics.
Following ‘You Burn First’ is ‘We Are the End’. Similar in style to ‘We Are the Sound’, the song is slightly less driving, and a bit more poppy in sound. Green’s vocals intro the song before Pettit’s screams overtake the song until the chorus. The chorus layers the two vocals nicely, much like older Alexisonfire material did, only it is executed much more smoothly this time around. The song has a solid and well-defined structure, accented by group chants of ‘We Are the End!’.
After this comes the album’s title track, ‘Crisis’. The song is based on the winter storm of 1977 that paralyzed the Niagara region. With the accuracy in the lyrics, one could almost believe that the songs lyricists had in fact been around to see the storm. This is not the case, though. The song has strong guitars, lots of screaming and an overall tone of urgency – very fitting. Green’s chorus is infectiously catchy, especially his decrescendo while singing the word ‘hands’. Overall, the song is definitely one of the album’s standout tracks.
Post-‘Crisis’ comes ‘Keep it on Wax’. I can’t pretend that I know what this means, and if you do, by all means fill me in… but the song in and of itself comes across strong. MacNeil’s vocals are performed with an almost bitter tonal quality, which really adds to the song’s overall theme. Green’s vocals are only used to compliment MacNeil’s throughout the chorus, and it offers something a bit different. Pettit’s screaming is less enunciated throughout, and more intense.
A bit of a change of pace, the song ‘To A Friend’ offers a powerful opening with Pettit’s screams and Green’s flowing vocal, but has an overall softer tone. My personal favourite part of the song is the final moments in which Green sings ‘I stay in time, and watch you pass by./I draw this line and hope you take my side/You shouldn’t have to fight alone/It’s nobody’s battle but your own’, and does so virtually a capella (simply a few lone guitar strums in the background), thus giving him a brief opportunity to show off the overall tonal quality of his vocals.
The last song on the album, in my opinion, is Alexisonfire’s best song to date. A different quality in both writing and recording than the rest of the album, ‘Rough Hands’ seems to be a taste of what may come in the future. The lyrics themselves are bitterly beautiful, and Green sings eloquently and with a perfect amount of emotion. Pettit’s screams are entirely decipherable, softer than most times and fit well into the song. The chorus is probably one of the best lyrics the band has written: ‘All my bones are dust/Two people, too damaged, too much, too late/And my heart’s sealed with rust/Two people, too damaged, too much, too late/These hands will always be rough/Two people, too damaged, too much, too late/I know this won’t count for much/Two people, too damaged, too much, too late.’ The song is a perfect retelling of the demise of a relationship, and a great look at the tribulations of love without being sappy in the least.
Overall, this album is most definitely Alexisonfire’s best piece of work to date. The guys that form the band have grown into themselves as musicians, lyricists, vocalists and have grown tighter as a band. The only thing that worries me is that they won’t be able to top it on their next release, but judging by the progress they’ve made so far, there is much to look forward to.
– Devin Henderson
1. Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints
2. This Could Be Anywhere In the World
3. Mailbox Arson
4. Boiled Frogs
5. We Are the Sound
6. You Burn First
7. We Are the End
9. Keep It on Wax
10. To a Friend
11. Rough Hands