Sound: "A Place Where The Sun Is Silent" is Alesana's 2011 release, follow up to their 2010 release "The Emptiness" and their first release on Epitaph Records. "The Emptiness" was a concept album that revolved around the ideas of Edgar Allen Poe and this new album is actually based on Dante's "Inferno". The ideas of this album and the band in general might come off as a little pretentious, but what comes off as pretentiousness actually amounts to being overly ambitious, and even that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The album is divided into two "acts": "Act I - The Gate" and "Act II - The Immortal Still".
That being said, Alesana is a post-hardcore band. This is their fourth album. Their last releases were, "The Emptiness", "Where Myth Fades To Legend" and "On Frail Wings Of Vanity And Wax". While some bands reinvent their sound with each release, I like to think that Alesana is more or less honing their sound. As a fan of them for the past almost three years, I've heard their evolution and their biggest step in changing their sound was between "On Frail Wings Of Vanity And Wax" and "Where Myth Fades To Legend". After that, they've been fine-tuning themselves.
The band makes use of a lot of strings in this album, as well as piano and horns. It's a refreshing change from their past releases, which relied more on overall heaviness of the songs and some acoustic/piano tracks. They've really diversified. I'm also happy to hear several guitar solos that show Patrick Thompson's skills. I love a guitar solo now and then, and this album definitely doesn't disappoint.
Shawn Mike's clean vocals, which guide you through the vast majority of the album are rough. But he has an instantly recognizable voice and it suits the genre. Dennis Lee's screams can go from sounding like a choke to a growl and it sounds great, especially in a genre like this that's saturated with such a generic sound.
These are my thoughts on the album track by track:
01. "The Dark Wood Of Error" This is an intro to the album. It's not very musical, but a lot of concept albums have sound snippets like these so it's excusable. It's really just a male and female singing on top of each other and a creepy voice talking in Italian. Also some pretty piano playing.
02. "A Forbidden Dance" One of the first songs I heard from the album. It's refreshing to hear horns in the song and it gives it kind of a ballroom blitz kind of feel, very upbeat and energetic. I like this one a lot.
03. "Hand In Hand With The Damned" Sounds like a typical Alesana song, nothing extremely special here, but it's a solid song. It's heavy and fast, but so are most of their songs.
04. "Beyond The Sacred Glass" Clocking in at six minutes, this is the longest song on the album. Some nice vocals intertwined with the beat at the beginning of the song, it's pretty infectious. There's a cool breakdown halfway through and it really slows down and goes into kind of a blues break with a really nice solo. It really shows Patrick's guitar skill and shows that he is kind of reserved about it, since Alesana isn't really known for their guitar solos. It's a real treat and a highlight of the song as well as the album.
05. "The Temptress" It's a really refreshing song, especially in the first minute. The guitar's pounding rhythm really brings it home, there's a female spoken word part halfway through. After this, though, the song picks back up and is very enjoyable.
06. "Circle VII: Sins Of The Lion" Another song that leaked before the album came out. The vocals and lyrics don't impress me in this one as much as the instrumentation. The guitar and drums are heavy, pounding and relentless. It's definitely something that I bobbed my head to. Other than that, it's a forgettable song in Alesana's typical style.
07. "Vestige" A very nice piano ballad with strings in the background as well, it also has the female singer that has been in quite a few songs on this album and in several of Alesana's other songs spanning their four-album discography. The horns are back as well, and it's an extremely fun song to listen to.
08. "Lullaby Of The Crucified" - Awesome sounding guitar harmonics in the background and chugging rhythm. It's very catchy, and it even has another solo. About three fourths of the way through, clean vocals stop and it becomes a fiery wall of sound with the guitar solo continuing past the minute mark as well as some strings. It's a very enjoyable song.
09. "Before Him All Shall Scatter" Just an interlude in Italian. I don't see the point in it other than to remind the listeners that this is all a reference to Aligheri.
10. "Labyrinth" Opens up with piano and a drum-roll and evolves into another one of their catchy songs. I'm even hearing bells in the background at certain points, which is awesome. The buildup halfway through brings yet another slow break in the song that gives way to yet another guitar solo and more horns. The end of the song is a treat, with more chugging guitar, some cool snare drums that you want to clap to, and clean vocals.
11. "The Fiend" Kind of boring until halfway through when the strings come in, there's not much more to say about this other than the fact that it falls into the "typical Alesana song" category.
12. "Welcome To The Vanity Fair" It starts off very fun, it makes me want to clap my hands to it. The chorus stands out and it feels like a sugar rush compared to "The Fiend". There's a very cool evil sounding chuckle intertwined with the chorus. It makes you want to smile and laugh along with it. This is the kind of thing I like about the band, their attention to small details like these make their songs cool. It closes with strings and the chorus once more followed by a breakdown, screaming and a nice riff.
13. "The Wanderer" Vocals impress me immensely with this song. It's a short song with nothing but piano and snapping fingers. The female voice returns on this one. For what it is, a short little song, it's very fun to listen to.
14. "A Gilded Masquerade" Yet another song that leaked before the album released. It starts with sweet, almost tear-jerking vocals and strings at the beginning and picks up. It has a pretty cool riff, screaming and clean vocals. It really shines at about the two and a half minute mark which is full of staccato and tap riffs. There's even some gang vocals and another solo followed by more riffing. The song ends on a soft note.
15. "The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Marionettes" Opens up with strings and guitar riffs and heavy screams. There is clapping in the song and it really adds to the catchiness. I love the clean guitar riff throughout the whole song. There's another slow break at the end and a fun "woo!" that gives way to another solo.
16. "And Now For The Final Illusion" Starts with spoken words, which feels like a throwback to "The Emptiness". He even references "Annabel", who is The Artist's lover in their last release. The instrumental buildup is very cool. The song repeats "we are the crucified" with chanting underneath. Eventually the clean vocals stop and it's nothing but the chanting and instruments. Very intense. It ends with more spoken female words and soft piano as well as a dissonant screech that becomes more disturbing with cackling and haunting wails. This one's more for atmosphere and to provide closure, but it does its job.
Overall sound is crisp and refreshing and there are only a handful of songs that disappoint. This is being said about a sixteen track album, so the bad ones are few in number. It's a lot to digest, but it's a great listen. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics are centered around Dante's "Inferno". Being an English major, I did a backflip when I found out that they were doing this and jumped into it immediately.
That being said, even though I've read Inferno, it's hard to draw a connection. While "The Emptiness" and its Poe references were right in front of you, this album requires you to find meaning lyrically if you want to connect the songs to their subject matter. They can stand alone fine otherwise, which I think is important for a band if they want to put out concept albums. I'm, of course, referencing the great Coheed And Cambria.
Overall, the lyrics of this album can be made out to be whatever you want them to be. I bought it on iTunes, which kind of makes me feel like I'm missing out. "The Emptiness" came with a booklet telling a story and giving a narration of the songs. I'm sure I'd have a lot more to say if I bought a physical copy of the album and sunk my teeth into it a little deeper, since I'm sure the band is giving this one the same treatment.
Overall, though, Alesana's lyrical formula of writing songs about loss, heartbreak, sadness, insanity, etc is still intact, so I find nothing wrong with it, but nothing incredible about it either. I'm giving it a six, not because the lyrics are bad, but because they're stale. They work well with the instruments, though. // 6
Overall Impression: Hardcore Alesana fans are going to eat this up, no question about it. For them, this is definitely recommended, don't pass it up. Even the songs I didn't find amazing should impress you guys. Post-Hardcore fans will also find something to like here, especially if they've enjoyed Alesana's previous releases. This is an album for fans of Chiodos and A Skylit Drive.
I recommend this to anybody who wants to test the waters of this genre and try something new. I don't listen to much post hardcore and even this was a good listen for me. I'd definitely say that they've topped themselves with this one, it's their best album for sure.
What I love about this album:
The diversity. A lot of instruments are used in this. I love the horn sections of their songs. Guitar solos, thundering drums, infectious verses and lyrics, and even some theatrical fun. The vocals are an acquired taste, but don't disappoint.
What I hate/dislike about this album:
As said before, the lyrics are STALE. They work very well and do their job, but it's the album's major shortcoming in my opinion. There are a few generic, less appealing songs in this album, but it falls back on its own merits not to be completely hit-and-miss.
The five most impressive songs on the album in no particular order:
1. A Forbidden Dance
2. The Temptress
3. Welcome To The Vanity Fair
4. Beyond The Sacred Glass
5. Lullaby Of The Crucified
Overall, it's one of my favorite albums of 2011 and I'll be spinning it for quite a while. If it were stolen, or in my case deleted from my computer, I'd definitely buy another copy. // 9