A hush fell over the packed house. Anticipation grows with each passing moment as all eyes remained glued to stage right. Just as the silence became unbearable, Alesana took the stage unleashing a musical microburst that spread through the crowd like a speeding bullet. With no prompting from the artists, the crowd clapped, sang, and danced together from the first to the last note. Sweet, haunting guitars by Jake Campbell, Shawn Milke, and Patrick Thompson transform into relentless chord progressions as the music builds to a climatic conclusion. The narrative, provided in powerful vocals by Milke and Dennis Lee perfectly contrast the conflicting emotions of each character. Shane Crump adds bass that reverberates dark and light sentiments, while Jeremy Bryan’s drums maneuver through the songs like rolling thunder.
Real lives are messy. The characters in the Anabel Trilogy are modeled after real people, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Milke and Lee write in a stream of consciousness style that allows the reader to experience thought processes of each character in real time. The principle in writing the trilogy is, as Milke explains, “The whole idea was the ‘rabbit’s hole’. I wanted the first two records to bring everybody down that hole, just to realize there was nothing in the hole”. Or is there? Only time, and the last album in the series, Confessions, will tell.
The heart of music is passing it on. Milke is not only part of the driving force behind Alesana, he is also the Director of Band Development at the Let There Be Rock School in Durham, North Carolina. Milke is responsible for putting the right students in the right place. His eyes light up and a smile spreads across his face when he talks about his experience. For the first show of the tour, Milke says, “Out of all the bands I work with, I found the one suitable (student) I thought exhibited the most desire to perform, not just sing and play well, but to perform, and invited her and her mother out to the first show. They got to watch us play”. The young musician was undeniably inspired and Milke says, “I could see it on her face, and her mom’s face after I played”. The student’s mother shared her daughter’s enthusiasm, telling Milke that she knew he was a professional, but never imagined the full scope of his live performance. It was a touching moment indicative of Milke’s dedication to mentoring budding artists.
What in the world is PMA? PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude. It was never intended to be a slogan, catchphrase, or movement, but is a promise the members of Alesana made to each other years ago. No matter what happened, good or bad, they would approach each challenge with a positive mental attitude. PMA is a way of life that has served Alesana well over the last decade. They have endured hardship and sacrifice, celebrated success and fame with absolute determination to focus on the affirmative aspects of every situation. PMA is a statement of fact that resonates with fans, because it works.
The end is near. Years of hard work went into Alesana’s Anabel Trilogy, a set of three concept albums based on classical literature. Signed to Revival Recordings, they will release “Confessions” on April 21, and followers will discover the fate of the characters they have grown to love (or hate). However, Alesana is not done with Anabel and her cohorts just yet. They are considering a series of single releases designed to tell the back-story of selected characters from the trilogy. Also in the works is a new project that will weave a musical tale influenced by contemporary literature. It may (or may not) be the end for Anabel, but Alesana has more stories to tell and music to play.