Released: Apr 21, 2015
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Melodic Metalcore, Screamo, Symphonic
Label: Revival Recordings
Number Of Tracks: 11
As the final installment of Alesana's Annabel trilogy, "Confessions" is brilliantly intricate.
ConfessionsFeatured review by: UG Team, on may 05, 2015 5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: Though musically, Alesana started out as the many other bands of the screamo trend who emulated The Used a decade ago, the band would essentially excel in the lyrical department compared to their peers. Instead of writing boilerplate heartbreak songs or mosh-pit fodder of hardcore machismo, founding members Shawn Milke and Dennis Lee wrote their music inspired by the likes of revered literature - their debut album, "On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax," embedded itself in Greek mythology, whereas their second album, "Where Myth Fades to Legend," was heavily inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales.
After their second album, Alesana felt the desire to substantially up their game, both musically and lyrically. Their third album, 2010's "The Emptiness," would have the band reaching further towards a neo-classical rock opera mindset in their composition (progressive screamo, if you will), and would be the first concept album of a trilogy, inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's final poem, "Annabel Lee," of whom one of the main characters is named after. Like their other albums, "The Emptiness" as a whole was inspired by numerous themes of Poe's work, and the second installment to the Annabel trilogy, 2011's "A Place Where the Sun is Silent," would take heavy inspiration from Dante Alighieri's "Inferno." Sonically, it showed Alesana easing back on their old screamo elements and investing more into orchestral elements, with many considering it to be their most mature-sounding album of the band's catalog; albeit being the most long-winded album of theirs as well.
Though it took a lot more time to write and produce compared to their previous two albums, Alesana have now released their fifth album, and final installment of the Annabel trilogy, "Confessions." Musically, the band step away from the particularly tame post-hardcore sound of the previous album, and crank up the harsh energy back to the levels found in their earlier albums. Songs like "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night," "The Acolyte," "Comedy of Errors" and "The Martyr" wield the bipolar swapping between heavy sceamo sections and smooth melodic sections akin to the compositional style primarily heard in "The Emptiness," whereas the straightforward and tame "Fatal Optimist" and the jazzy interlude in "Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen" call back to the style found in "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent." Screamo-style tapping guitar melodies and breakdowns make a triumphant return in the album (both of which were substantially absent from the previous album), but if anything, the MVP of "Confessions" is bassist Shane Crump, who weaves the most active and interesting basslines found in any Alesana record, helping step up the band's polyphony levels.
Alesana have also toned back on the orchestral elements, wielding them with less heavy-handed grandeur than what was heard in their previous two albums, and the stark narration is also reduced to a minimum. Though these amendments of reservation are a plus, Alesana still throw some questionable curveballs - "Through The Eyes of Uriel" cribs the nursery rhyme melody of "Ring Around the Rosie" and brandishes a small but off-kilter doo-wop moment, and the penultimate vocal stanza of "Catharsis" has Milke singing in a monotone staccato - almost rap-like - fashion. And with Alesana adamant on stacking melodic hardcore choruses with metalcore sections, gentle interludes, orchestral breaks and so on, some of the longer-running songs come off a bit self-indulgent - both "The Puppeteer" and "Catharsis" run over the 7-minute mark, and both could've benefitted from slimming down. // 8
Lyrics: With "Confessions" being the final installment of the ongoing Annabel trilogy spanning through the last two Alesana records, the main goal for the story here is to tie up loose ends from the previous albums and conclude everything - of course, as each album prior has ended in "Inception"-style mindf--kery, "Confessions" wraps everything up with, well, even more mindf--kery. Primarily, "Confessions" has the main character, The Artist, traveling through time and space, revisiting several scenes from "The Emptiness" and "A Place Where the Sun is Silent," to try and save himself and Annabel from their horrible fate.
Apropos of Alesana's ongoing theme of paying homage to famous literature in each album, the concept of time travel in "Confessions" is inspired by Madeline L'Engle's first book of the Time Quintet series, "A Wrinkle in Time" - with references to the tesseract, the fifth-dimensional tool used for time travel, as well as using the keystone line behind its utility in "Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen" ("A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points"). However, plenty of other references converge here as well. Some are new, like the depiction of Annabel turning from Fatima (a synonym for the Virgin Mary) to Rusalka (a cursed sprite whose love kills a prince in the eponymous opera), and some are old, like the references to Poe that reprise the theme of "The Emptiness" in "Paradox" ("What's behind the bricks? / Who's rapping at my chamber door? / Pendulum, why do you torment me?"), as well as in "Catharsis" ("Your telltale heart is beating... Our love will nevermore attach your soul to mine"), and they even manage to call back to the theme of the band's debut album in "The Puppeteer" ("Spread your wings and grab the sun / oh sweet vanity, my favorite sin").
Beyond all these references, though, the best way to summate what's going on in "Confessions" is the famous quote about insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Because the storylines in the past two albums were just dreams, The Artist isn't traveling back in time, but rather, relapsing in psychosis. Compelled to replay the horrific scenarios he had dreamt before in an attempt to reshape fate - "Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen" reprises the scene of the "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent" song "Beyond the Sacred Glass," "Through the Eyes of Uriel" reprises the scenes of "Welcome to the Vanity Faire" and "The Wanderer," and "Paradox" puts a spectacle on the moment before Annabel stabs The Artist in the side in "The Emptiness" - ultimately, The Artist renders himself to relive these past atrocities without any ability to change them, falling into the exact same emotions and behaviors as he did the first time around - like his spiteful but unwavering lust towards Annabel in "The Goddess," and his begging for the mercy of death in "Through the Eyes of Uriel."
As several lyrics throughout the album allude to The Artist's entire world being an illusion, the big reveal at the end is that there was no actual person named Annabel who existed. Just like the dispute of Poe's "Annabel Lee" being unclear as to whom Annabel Lee actually was or whom she was inspired by, the physical manifestation Annabel in Alesana's concept could be a past memory of a person constantly projecting in The Artist's head, or perhaps was just a manifestation of The Artist. It's more likely that the answer is the latter, though, because foremost, Annabel represents an ideal - an unattainable one, at that. In "The Emptiness," The Artist's sanity spins out of control when Annabel's life has been taken from him, acting in derangement in the interest of keeping her memory alive and getting vengeance upon the killer - this establishes The Artist's inability to function properly without a grasp on his ideal. In "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent," The Artist is in constant pursuit of Annabel, enduring horrific scenario after next all in his desire to have Annabel - this articulates The Artist pushing himself to every limit in order to attain his ideal. The shared theme between these two storylines is that The Artist is driven to madness because of Annabel - more specifically, that he can't have Annabel. The Artist blames Annabel, the ideal, for his flawed behavior; he cannot have this ideal, so he is driven to destroy. "Confessions" connects these two poles of destroying his ideal (in "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent") and being destroyed by his ideal (in "The Emptiness") by revealing that it was he who created all of these events, showing the psychotic instability of The Artist, and his mental and physical breakdown being his own doing - as the final line of the album articulates ("Did man even notice as he was erased?"). // 10
Overall Impression: As susceptible as Alesana are to being brushed off as sophomoric screamo/metalcore, their conceptual ambitions have proven that there's more going on underneath the screams and chugs, and with the completion of the Annabel trilogy, "Confessions" puts Alesana on a whole new level above the lot of bands that practice the same music. Compositionally, the album shows Alesana coming strong on all fronts with few drawbacks, but more importantly, the album's way of completing the Annabel story is an astounding head-trip. Not settling for a clean and tidy ending, it drums up several layers and themes that require an extensive amount of analysis to figure out, and the cross-referencing to earlier points in the story breathes more intrigue into the band's previous two albums of the trilogy. Whether you see it as a screamo album, a lyrically-heady album, or the final act of Alesana's concept trilogy, "Confessions" succeeds with flying colors. // 9
UnderTheGates, on may 06, 2015 3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Confessions" is the finale of the "Annabel Trilogy" Alesana started back with the 2010 release "The Emptiness" and followed up by "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent" in 2011 and along with its predecessors it's loosely based off of a story(s) they love and have integrated into their songs, "The Emptiness" was based off various works by Edgar Allen Poe, "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent" was based off Dante's "Inferno" and "Confessions" takes its inspiration from "The Time Quintet" series by Madeleine L'Engle.
On this album Alesana bring back the "Emptiness" writing style but with a heavier sound, tuning the guitars lower and making harsh vocals more prominent than their previous releases all while still keeping up with their signature sound. The overall songwriting on this album ranges from very good to very bland all things considered, the two singles they released, "Comedy of Errors" and "Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen," being on the bad end of the spectrum.
The guitar work was one of "APWTSIS"'s crowning attributes but sadly are dull and lacking in this release being mostly compiled of generic and unimaginative chord progressions and riffs. The vocal work has a many ups and downs throughout the record but really shine in the heavier parts of the album with Dennis, Shawn and Shane complementing each other beautifully, but the clean sing-along sections on the other hand are disappointing.
Track by track:
01. "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" - This is how you start an album, this is the best song on the album which really sucks, to start off so strong and then go straight downhill is one of the saddest things about this album. Starting off with an intense piano driven horror movie like opening and then thrown into a groovy bass line under Dennis Lee's top notch screams, this song has everything that Alesana excel at with great instrumentation and vocal work alike.
02. "The Acolyte" - This track is reminiscent of "On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax" era Alesana which I usually wouldn't mind but it takes the worst parts of that album and bundles them up into one overwhelmingly average song. The guitar work is this songs only saving grace and even then it's still not impressive.
03. "Comedy of Errors" - As I mentioned earlier this was one of the singles released before the album dropped and when I heard it for the first time I was scared of what the rest of the album would sound like. Clocking in at just over 6 minutes this song is guaranteed to bore, it is at it's very core a bland and generic filler song. The chorus is the highlight of the song surprisingly enough.
04. "The Goddess" - Starting off with a fun and catchy riff into some of the better clean vocal parts of the album this track is a refreshing breather from the previous track and has the instrumentation the rest of the album really needed.
05. "Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen" - The title speaks for itself and yes I feel bad for saying that.
06. "The Puppeteer" - This one isn't that bad but its not that great either. It leads with a sorta hardcore punkish riff which is nice but doesn't fit the melody transition at all, other than that its your average Alesana song with the addition of a generic breakdown that gets improved later on in the song anyway.
07. "Fatal Optimist" - This is the track that attracts the teenage girls and if you're reading this review you probably know exactly what I am talking about, most generic -core bands have this track in their repertoire, but what separates this from the rest is the great guitar work.
08. "The Martyr" - Another one of the more disappointing and generic tracks on the record, there's not much more I can say about it.
09. "Paradox" - Typical Aleasana, Shawn's vocals shine on this one and I along with the rest of the dedicated fan base love the allusion to "Last Three Letters" from their first album.
10. "Through the Eyes of Uriel" - The beginning has more of a nursery rhyme vocal melody which I actually like for some reason, that along with the section at 2:20-2:47 are the highlights of the track the rest is easily forgettable.
11. "Catharsis" - This song is the spiritual representation of the album, a roller coaster of good and bland, most of it is good though. Onto my main gripe with this song, now this is a pretty biased opinion but it's one I feel I have to make. I don't dislike this song for what it is but instead for what it's not, "The Emptiness" and "A Place Where the Sun Is Silent" had phenomenal album closers, this one just pales in comparison.
While the album as a whole is just average, they continue to at least keep themselves apart from the other -core bands they are often paired with; the album production was fantastic as well. // 6
Lyrics: The lyrics have stayed consistent throughout the trilogy, when it comes to story telling they are good at what they do, however their are a few cringe worthy lines that just makes me shake my head in disapproval such as this gem from "Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen":
"A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points! I know that now! But I'm afraid it might be too late!"
One line from the album I love is: "The Artist screams and beauty dies, his canvas rends /While his easel burns / He's lost everything in but one cruel instant existence swept away / Did man even notice as he was erased?" because it ties in so well with the end of "The Emptiness."
The lyrics could be better but they have improved little by little from their past releases and hopefully will do so in the future. // 5
Overall Impression: The majority of the fan base will love this album to death and I can see why, but for me it just doesn't cut it, the album is promising though and I can't wait for whats coming next. I would recommend this record to fans Crown The Empire, Chiodos, blessthefall and other bands along those lines.
On its own it's not a bad album but Alesana, being one of my favorite bands, I have to compare it to the rest of the trilogy which is where it falls short in almost all categories.
Best songs: - "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" - "The Goddess" - "The Puppeteer"
It was a decent effort in my eyes but go ahead and tell me what you guys think. // 6