Alexisonfire – ‘Otherness’

By Dave Stewart

About ten years ago, Alexisonfire broke the hearts of the post-hardcore adoring masses all over the globe when they revealed that they’d be going on an indefinite hiatus. A band that had touched and inspired a generation of misunderstood and misrepresented youth, coming to a gut-wrenching halt in front of our eyes. With four golden albums under their belts and a glittering live reputation, it really felt like the post-hardcore scene was being robbed of one of the greats far too early.

The band started making a few noises in 2015 with a number of one-off shows, special deluxe boxsets and surprise singles making their way into existence, but it always felt like a band prolonging their goodbye, making sure they’d said their every single one of their farewells before shuffling into the shadows. Now, though, with the eagerly anticipated brand new album ‘Otherness’ becoming reality rather than hopeful rumour, those farewells now feel more like reassurances that they were never going to leave. It is so good to have them back.

There’s something so uplifting and evocative about Alexisonfire making a proper return, and all those feelings are amplified tenfold by the album being as wonderful as this is. Reunions generally go one way (the good way) or the other (the “maybe you shouldn’t have gotten back together” way), and it’s genuinely heartwarming that a band that so many hold so close to their hearts has returned to release an absolute blinder of a record that doesn’t just pay homage to their legacy, but extends it.

Opening number ‘Committed To The Con’ brings you right back into their inimitable world, with George Pettit’s vicious snarls laid bare over velvety grooves to be later joined by the voices of the gritty Wade MacNeil and the angelic Dallas Green to elevate the chorus into the stratosphere. Following track and first single ‘Sweet Dreams Of Otherness’ continues those vibes, turning the distortion up as far as it can go as those grooves swell into walls of sound, with the whole band showing that they haven’t lost any of their power whatsoever.

Long term fans will be pleased to know that there’s a whole host of classic Alexisonfire material here to tickle your nostalgia bones in all the right places. It doesn’t sound like they’re just rehashing old ideas, though – far from it. It all sounds fresh and new, yet manages to retain that ever-desirable quality to push the buttons in the deepest parts of your brain, sending fiery signals through your body to make your hairs stand on end in sheer ecstasy. There’s the menacing and eerie tones creeping throughout ‘Survivor’s Guilt’, the infectiously fizzy punk vibes spilling out of ‘Conditional Love’, the soaring rock anthem that is ‘Reverse The Curse’ and so much more – no box has been left unchecked.

There’s some really wonderful epics on here too, all beautifully dotted through the record to compliment its flow. The almost hymn-like ‘Blue Spade’ really spotlights Green’s soulful tones, almost taking on a gospel feel as the lead guitar lines scream and wail beneath him. ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’ starts off in the same manner but quickly shifts gears and becomes a moody and spacey opus, driven by Chris Steele’s slick bass lines and Jordan Hasting’s dynamic and tasteful drum work.

The final track, though, is the real show stopper here. ‘World Stops Turning’ is an eight-minute-long slice of heaven, essentially serving as a masterclass in everything this band is capable of evoking. The sweet subtleties of their softer moments and the beauty in their calmness, their innate ability to turn up the intensity so gradually that it happens with you noticing, the undeniable power of all five members firing on all cylinders to erupt your senses – it’s easily their longest song to date, and it might also be one of their finest moments, closing out one hell of an album.

After your first listen of this record, something should be blatantly clear to you, and it’s this; ‘Otherness’ is the natural next step from where they left off all those years ago. It may have taken thirteen years to take this step, but they’ve planted their collective foot exactly where they wanted to and there’s a real confidence and aplomb that radiates from the print it leaves. This looks back fondly to ‘Old Crows / Young Cardinals’ in places and expands their sound into realms that it looked towards in others, and the end result is their most well-rounded and bold work yet.

They experiment with new sounds and textures, but not so much that it takes away from their charm. They dip their toes in other worlds, but not for so long that they lose their way. They’re a little older now – and you can definitely hear that maturity in the songwriting – but have they lost even an inch of their edge? Absolutely not. Alexisonfire are a fine wine and if I had a cellar I would fill it to the rafters with this. One of the most stunning and emotionally charged returns that you’ll ever witness.

DAVE STEWART

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