ALBUM REVIEW: Otherness (ALEXISONFIRE)
ALBUM Otherness // ARTIST Alexisonfire
Everything that one knows and loves about Canadian idols Alexisonfire is taken to unimaginable new heights on the group's impending fifth full length album Otherness. A whopping 13 years since the release of Old Crows / Young Cardinals, Otherness ultimately celebrates a bunch of self-proclaimed outliers via the group's most tenacious and assured outing yet; a fluent, diverse and impactful delivery that fuses the sonically old with the new, Otherness is Alexisonfire at their utmost finest - and yes, this was entirely worth the wait.
Previously declared by Rolling Stone has having "put Canadian post-hardcore on the map", the blissful blend of light and aggressive shade throughout Alexisonfire's illustrious career since forming back in 2001 has been nothing short of astonishing. From the creamy croons of vocalist and guitarist Dallas Green, to the banshee-esque delivery of George Petit, the equally formidable Wade MacNeil and the ever-ready rhythmics of Chris Steele and Jordan Hastings, Alexisonfire rarely need an introduction to those with a heartbeat and a taste for heavier fare. Influential and, more importantly, entirely consistent, Alexisonfire's tenure as post-hardcore luminaries has been one us mere mortals could only imagine in a fever dream, even with a devastating hiatus between 2012 and 2015. Unveiling their fourth studio album Old Crows / Young Cardinals back in 2009, Alexisonfire snagged their highest-ever album chart in the US, sneaking in to #17 here in Australia and ultimately setting the bar raucously high, even by AOF standards, via its complexity, sonic evolution and downright badassery. But cue 2022 and its unique place in several uncertain surrounding global narratives, and somehow Alexisonfire have exceeded even their own lofty earlier heights, delivering an absolute knockout via their fifth full-length Otherness. Yes, the strident rowdiness and swooning melodics are all here to play, but there's zero stylistic stagnation as AOF collide their various strengths into something uniquely fresh and familiar that will leave you reeling in ecstasy.
Erupting with desert rock haze and fiery swagger, Otherness kicks off with the mouthwatering Committed To The Con; a crushing and adhesive opener that perfectly cleaves Green's crystalline clean vocals amongst a maw of churning guitars and belting rasp courtesy of Pettit and MacNeil. A truly perfect introduction to the ongoing perfection to follow, and an extremely fluorescent insight into how much fun the group are having back together, Committed To The Con seamlessly flows next into lead single Sweet Dreams of Otherness, a Green brainchild that also formed the foundation for the overarching album.
Up next, the bewitching Sans Soleil busts out enough melodics to make a brick wall weak at the knees, while Conditional Love ramps up the fervour, harking back to the more riotous AOF stylings alongside sparkling performances across the board. Grungy anthem Blue Spade fluidly bewitches next with hypnotic drawls and soaring choruses, while Dark Night Of The Soul welds thumping grooves, seamless oscillations between rasp and rawer vocals, and a particularly potent outing throughout from Hastings.
And from the growls and grooves to synthy bliss, Mistaken Information kicks off with shimmering ambience before building into an utter heartbreaker and firm showcase for AOF's ability to craft beauty just as powerfully as brutality. But where Mistaken Information was gilded in glassy tones, its successor Survivor's Guilt dives deeper down the aural rabbit-hole, complete with an unexpected buzzing synthwave and AOF gleefully unleashing the beast with one of the most emphatic and elegantly ferocious moments on the album.
Exploding into some Kyuss-worthy riffage and pounding beats, Reverse The Curse is a stunning throwback to earlier AOF sounds and a significant standout on Otherness; no mean feat given the near-perfection on display throughout the ten tracks, But it's no coincidence that there's earlier flavours at play here, with the show-stopping riff on Reverse The Curse tracing back to the original version of Young Cardinals. Explained by Petit in the official AOF 2022 bio, the band at the time were self-editing and self conscious, and chose not to include the riff on the eventual track. "We thought it was maybe a step too far out of our lane. The riff is great, and we found a way to make it us," says Petit.
Somehow ten tracks whip by and we find ourselves already at the end of Otherness, but, unsurprisingly, it's yet another sweltering charmer, with World Stops Turning kicking off via an acoustic intro and flourishing into a textbook Alexisonfire slow burner. The pace may be slower but there's no weight lost as the group stoically power through an oscillating masterpiece, complete with sharp guitars, splashy percussion and textures you'll want to lose your soul in. It's here we are resoundingly reminded that while AOF are masters at the brawl, they are truly also a band of imposing composers as much as they are a band of superhuman performers.
Otherness was always destined to be something remarkable, simply for the fiercely cemented reputation of Alexisonfire as a collective and as individuals and the fact it was the band's first album release in over a decade. But the true centrepiece of Otherness goes beyond the insatiable talent overflowing at every corner of the AOF family, and instead emerges triumphantly via the band's ability to remain stylistically malleable without sacrificing their trademark sounds. From the searing stoner rock moments to the behemoth grooves and stripped-back bliss, no moment is wasted on Otherness, and the album truly showcases the painstaking love and care poured into releasing something worthy of its own hype. Produced by the band themselves in approximately a week and kept as a strict "family affair" during production, Otherness isn't just a rehash of what we'd all already come to know and love about Alexisonfire or a flippant money-grab. It genuinely feels like Alexisonfire never left while you're experiencing Otherness, and their love letter album to the outliers of the world, themselves included, is genuine perfection. Summed up perfectly by MacNeil himself: "“The strangest thing in the world, to us, is any interest in normalcy".
ALEXISONFIRE'S BRAND NEW ALBUM OTHERNESS IS OUT THIS FRIDAY 24 JUNE VIA DINE ALONE RECORDS & COOKING VINYL AUSTRALIA. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER