Here is a moment of honesty. Before I listened to Alesana’s new album Confessions, I was not even aware they had released new music since I had last listened to them in 2009. I was still under the impression that they had only released two albums. At the time I thought these two albums were amazing, but I now know them to be rather mediocre. It was to my pleasant surprise when I found out that Confessions was in-fact their fifth studio album. I was slightly less impressed when I found out that it was the closing album in a trilogy of concept albums, and I had not listened to any of the other album in the trilogy – so the lyrical narrative was lost on me.
However, that was not my primary concern. My primary concern before listening to Confessions is whether the band would own their own against my musical taste which had evolved since I last listened to them when I was roughly 13 and just entering high school. That is probably the biggest risk when revisiting bands you listened to when you were much younger, and much more naïve – that they will not have aged well in terms of your musical taste. There is always the concern that the band in question would pull a Blink 182, and release an album that is wholeheartedly disappointing. For me, Alesana was the band that blended screamo (oh yeah, remember when that was a legitimate genre?), post-hardcore, and the angst of a thousand emo kids into singular songs as Shawn Mike and Dennis Lee screeched their lungs into microphones and fuelled my pre-pubescent angst. I am now 18, going on 19, and that angst is very much gone, so the question remains of whether the band would stand the test of time?
It would seem that Alesana has stood the test of the time. Like most post-hardcore bands from that era, they realised that their fanbase would be growing up with them and they perhaps needed to mature their sound in accordance to how their fans matured. Gone are the caterwauling screeches, and the ferocious shock and awe tactics that characterised On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax and Where Myth Fades to Legend. These aspects have been replaced by melodic clean vocals punctuated by harsh growls and rapid-fire screamed vocals. Their musical technicality has also improved from a blatant rip-off of the deathcore formula, with post-hardcore influences thrown in for good measure, to a sound that is rooted in melodic metalcore, with dashes of angst-driven post-hardcore and electronic sound effects thrown in just to give it a bit of variety.
The one thing that has not changed with Alesana, and that is their overwhelming sense of theatrics. Songs like “Comedy of Errors” blatantly go out of their way to encapsulate an essence of over-the-top theatrics – even if it means throwing an orchestra into the background of their music. Such things are expected from a concept album, but there is a certain point where it starts to feel contrived. After five albums, one would think that the gimmick would have gotten a bit old.
Alesana may have stood the test of time with Confessions, but that is not to say that the album was anything but mediocre. The theatrics felt drawn out, the angst felt out of place, and they almost sound like a band that is a bit tired of playing the same music repeatedly – but perhaps that is why they are concluding the “Annabel” triology. Confessions is not the best album that you will hear this year, but neither is it the worst.