Old Crows / Young Cardinals

Written by: PP on 16/07/2009 05:24:05

"We are not the kids we used to be, stop wishing for yesterday" scream Wade & George on "Old Crows", the opening track on the fourth Alexisonfire album "Old Crows / Young Cardinals". The following probably wasn't the lyrical intention of the band, but in my ears the lyric translates into a signal for all the older fans wishing the band would write another "Watch Out" or "Alexisonfire" - it's just not gonna happen. The band has changed, and so has their sound. Drastically so.

For starters, the guitars have moved towards a more rock and three chord punk base instead of the complex scales and melodic leads of their older material, back when the band almost single-handedly shaped the screamo landscape, indicating that Alexisonfire, too, has realized that screamo is starting to be history, if it isn't that already. But a more important change can be found in the vocal department. George's and Wade's vocals have become almost indistinguishable from each other. Now, either George's vox have become less clear (=worse) or Wade's have become much better since "Crisis", but I personally think it's a combination of both, but really, I'm not entirely sure it's for the better. It may fit the overall sound of this album, but don't you just miss those piercing, razor sharp vocal assaults from songs like "Waterwings"? I know I do. That being said, a song like "Young Cardinals", one that didn't really click with me when I first heard it on Myspace but has since grown immensely on me, displays just how fucking amazing Dallas has become on those wailing clean vocals. He just isn't matched by any other singer in the genre at the moment, he's completely in his own league. Just listen to the melancholy, the perfect pitch, his astonishing clean execution, and see how it contrasts with George's sharp (but no longer razor sharp) screams/yells, present in nearly every song on the record (strikingly so on "Heading For The Sun"). Great stuff really. No wonder he is in a much bigger role here than ever before. That's also the main reason why Alexisonfire are a much more vocally driven band today than when they wrote songs like "44 Caliber Love Letter", which is good in one sense (since Dallas is allowed to truly shine), but just think about how great it could've been had the riffs followed in suit? We'd be talking about a perfect ten album here.

The first five tracks are all extremely strong, but the hardcore-rooted fifth track "No Rest" in particular demonstrates the new Alexisonfire at their very best. Again, perhaps the band isn't at their most interesting instrumentally, but the clean/scream vocal dynamic and the high-octane pace is incredible. Then comes "The Northern", more of a balladic track, and although it's a decent one at that, there's just no way around that it's one of the weakest tracks on the record together with "Burial" (which is more of a City And Colour track really). It's the first one that breaks the flow of the otherwise awesome start to the album, and it's a shame that it's such an anti-climax after "No Rest" has blown away any critics still unconvinced. Luckily it's sandwiched in between "Midnight Regulations", which sees Dallas use a particularly chilled melancholy in his voice during the verses that should find a home in the hearts of all fans of older material, as it recalls songs like "Control" and "Accidents" in the harmony. Too bad George's screams are borderline annoying here, for else the song could've been one of the highlights on the record. Next up is "Emerald Street", which continues the hardcore punk stance of "No Rest". These are the two tracks where George's muddier scream (or is it Wade? I can't tell any longer) really comes to its own, even if it takes a good couple of listens to get used to. Similarly, "Accept Crime" is weird at first thanks to Wade's unusual shouting style, but subsequent active listens prove that the track is mad catchy to the extent of being almost annoyingly so.

Now im faced with a difficult choice here. Should I place this album in the 'great' ratings because the majority of it is really good? Almost every song leading up to the last quarter of the record is a huge grower and upon enough repeat listens they all prove to be among the best - artistically speaking at least - that the band has written. But at the same time, are the songs really as memorable (in the longevity sense) as "Sharks And Danger" or "44 Caliber Love Letter"? Will we remember a song like "Emerald Street" seven years later in the same way as "A Dagger Through The Heart Of St. Angeles" or "No Transitory?" The more I listen to this album the more I like it, but each time I play either of the first two albums before or after, I can't help but think those two records are just so much better. It's as if the band has gotten better at writing songs in an artistic sense, but have forgotten how to write unforgettable guitar licks. I'm swinging between 7½ and 8 here for that reason, but since it's Alexisonfire who have through their existence gained every possible ounce of respect from me, I'll round it up to an


Download: No Rest, Young Cardinals, Emerald Street, Accept Crime
For the fans of: Dance Gavin Dance, Alesana, A Skylit Drive, Vanna, Silverstein
Listen: Myspace

Release date 23.06.2009
Vagrant / Dine Alone Records

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