When is a rock concert more than a rock concert? The answer is – when Alesana takes the stage. Combining elements of classic literature, theatre, and original music, Alesana provide an experience that is hard to forget. The Agora Theatre, in Cleveland, Ohio, long known for its history in the creative arts, set the stage for an Alesana production designed to please…and tease the audience.
The music of Alesana is based on the Annabel Trilogy, which was written by front man, Shawn Milke, and chronicles the descent into madness of a man identified only as ‘The Artist’. The story was created first, and the music was added later. Milke explains, “Generally the story (is set) to the music, because I write all the time. I’d rather the words and the prose be influenced by the music and not the other way around.” In ordering his creative process this way, Milke produces an end result that is cohesive and irresistible to the listener. In his own words, he describes Alesana as “a band that tells stories, not a story that plays music.”
To understand the incredible, and sometimes disturbing journey of “The Artist”, it is best to start at the beginning. The first installment of the story begins in the full-length collection titled, The Emptiness, released in 2010. Unlike traditional music albums, this one commences with a spoken introduction, ending with an eerie declaration that, “The emptiness will haunt you.” Each track on The Emptiness describes a character or scenario from the story that makes you want to know more. The melodies are indeed haunting and the heavy guitar riffs accent Milke’s vocals, creating a perfect blend of horror and intrigue.
It is difficult to determine where passion ends and madness begins. The tale of “The Artist”continues with A Place Where the Sun is Silent released in 2011, to mixed reviews. Still, a song from the album, “Circle VII: Sins of the Lion” was voted the best song of 2011 by readers of Revolver magazine. Milke explains how the story, fantasy or not, reflects everyday life. “The Thespian”, rumored to be an alter-ego of “The Artist”, but also thought to be an outside evil force, demonstrates how we all make mistakes. Milke said, “I think all of us, when we make poor decisions, we would like to think it is a different ‘us’ that is making those decisions.” So, are “The Thespian” and “The Artist” the same person or not? The answer lies in the next CD, which has Alesana fans speculating on what will happen next.
In the meantime, the band has just celebrated ten years in the post-hardcore metal scene by releasing a compilation album entitled, The Decade EP featuring music that spans the length of Alesana’s career. They are currently touring and will continue to work on the last part of the story which is influenced by The Time Quintet, by Madeleine L’Engle, and features bending time and time travel. Although Milke did not offer any spoilers to the next part of the story, he did remark, “The fact that The Emptiness took place in the nineteenth century should not make you assume that all characters are based in that time period.” It is another plot twist, or maybe a turn, that leaves followers of the Annabel Trilogy anxiously anticipating the fate of “The Artist”.
An Alesana show is theatre, literature, and music, but also a parable that sparks the imagination. It is not a show you simply walk away from with a t-shirt or a poster. The stage show is forceful and energetic, highlighting songs from their entire discography. Milke has a dynamic presence that allows him to connect with his audience and a charming demeanor that engages each and every person in the room. However, one thing you do not take away from an Alesana show is resolution, because the story has not ended yet.