Of Mice & Men
The Mo Club, Southampton, UK - 16/4
A Place Where The Sun Is Silent
Written by: TL on 06/11/2011 16:20:55
After enjoying a number of years as young people's hip new genre of choice, the whole scene-/metal-/post-hard -core genre has been suffering a bit of a backlash in reaction in recent times, with prior pioneers of the style ceasing to apply screams and breakdowns according to formula, instead scrambling to push the genre's envelope to avoid getting stuck in a dead-end movement (see: what happened to nu-metal). While this is probably more true in England compared to stateside, with bands like Deaf Havana parting ways with their screamer, We Are The Ocean scaling back the use of their's and Architects going relatively clean and tidy on their last album, it might just be that we're beginning to see similar effects over in the US of A. At least if one is to judge by "A Place Where The Sun Is Silent", the fourth LP by North Carolina screamo/metalcore sixtet Alesana.
While it's more the norm than the exception for bands in this genre to spark controversy with their style, both in terms of sound and looks, Alesana have probably been an even bigger cause for division among listeners than most, with both their music and appearance being over the top and melodramatic bordering on the ridiculous. Hence, allow me to preface this review before I actually get on with it, by saying that I was initially one of the band's starkest critics. Only seeing the band live completely reversed my perception, as they actually appear as guys who indulge their fetish for gothic theatricality more due to nerdy fascination than because they want a gimmick to help them sell records, delivering their often corny material in a manner that is both positive, forthcoming and tongue-in-cheek.
The point here is that regardless of your view of this band, I have personally approached "A Place Where The Sun Is Silent" hoping to like it. Unfortunately however, after some ten listens, I'm not having quite as much luck as I could have dreamed of. As hinted by my first paragraph, this record sees Alesana scale down their heavy elements more than ever, trying instead to elaborate their melodic, theatrical and progressive traits on yet another concept album - the last bit of course being nothing new, with them having written albums inspired by Greek mythology, classic fairy tales, Edgar Allan Poe and now also by Dante Alighieri's "Inferno". The result is that while there are guitar parts and vocals that are meant to be heavy and harsh, these seem to have been left as an afterthought in the production, packing even less of a punch than they did on prior album "The Emptiness" (where this was also a point of contention for some).
Effectively, instead of providing a nice, crunchy contrast to the band's prettier parts, the heavy stuff just sort of blends in, leaving it to a myriad of classically inspired riffage, added theatrical instrumentation (see: loads of horns, keys and violins) and the clean singing of main man Shawn Milke to carry the listener through the album. And while I have as much respect as anybody for Alesana's skills at composition, and the flamboyant charisma of Milke's singing, those - to be quite blunt - are not enough to consistently get the job done. Especially not on an ambitious, 16-track, +60 minutes album.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that this is an all out awful album. On the contrary, it's quite the steady stream of blazing riffage, intricate arrangements and dramatic singing. This 'stream' however, is merely plagued by sameness and inconsistency (which sounds like a contradiction but isn't) to the point where it doesn't live up to its inherent level of ambition. To put it in plain terms, it's usually a good yardstick for an album how many songs or moments you remember and want to return to after a handful of listens, and after my +10 listens, I can still only really recall a few early streaks of brilliance in "A Forbidden Dance" and "The Temptress". That spells trouble, because even though the remaining material is still quite enjoyable, it's just not up on the level where you see yourself taking the time to listen to full album in the coming months or years. Hopefully then, Alesana will add those songs to their live setlist, and otherwise eventually recognise this album as a slightly flawed experiment and venture back in a direction where melody and 'heavyness' share prominence more equally.
Download: A Forbidden Dance, The Temptress
For The Fans Of: Chiodos (especially "Bone Palace Ballet"), Pierce The Veil, In Fear And Faith
Release Date 18.10.2011