Sound — 10
It's difficult to even believe that Alexisonfire is even the same band as the one that first came upon the music scene in 2001. While the music that the Ontario band churned out back then had its place in the post hardcore/screamo world, Alexisonfire's latest record Old Crows/Young Cardinals shows a shocking amount of growth. You can say the dreaded word maturity, but all too often that description is also associated with being boring. Old Crows/Young Cardinals is a multi-faceted album that is full of intriguing layers (both vocally and instrumentally), aggressive moments, and most importantly, strong and cohesive melodic structure.
There was certainly evidence on the last album Crisis that Alexisonfire was moving away from its use of high-pitched screams, but you'll find that theme is driven home even more on Old Crows/Young Cardinals. That's not to say that they've lost their edge. Replacing the shrills is what I would call a more manly, guttural yell that frankly works much better for what the band is trying to do. The opening track Old Crows is the perfect balance of George Pettit's shouts and Dallas Green's always-smooth traditional singing. The most infectious aspect, however, is the chorus, which could easily be called an anthem of sorts. With the repeating line We are not the kids we used to be chanted in furious fashion, it makes an instant impression.
The focal point of the CD is absolutely Dallas Green, who delivers novel and creative guitar parts along with his Bono-like (and at times perhaps, dare I say, better than Bono) vocals. Rich, heavily layered vocal tracks are scattered throughout the record, with Young Cardinals and The Northern being standouts. Although The Northern is one of the more low-key offerings on the album, it's consistently interesting because of its unusual percussion and lower-range vocals that are echoed by a subtle guitar line. The verse is engaging on its own, but the memorable, explosive chorus seals the deal.
Much of Alexisonfire's older material was saturated by screams that overshadowed other musical components of the songs, and that style certainly has its place in the rock scene. But the new approach by the band allows for a much more diverse listening experience. Between the Queens of the Stone Age-like intro in Accept Crime or the delay effects (a la U2) in Sons of Privilege, Alexisonfire shows they have entered a whole new creative phase in its career.
Lyrics — 9
It's hard for the lyrics to match the strength of the music on Old Crows/Young Cardinals, but they come close. There is no lack of descriptive content, with plenty of poetic aspects within the songs. Young Cardinals is a prime example with lyrics like, Nicotine babies will pull those vines; The god of the sea is swinging his trident; We soak our clothes with the sounds of violence; The sun, it retreats through the dust and the dead. While the other tracks have their own positive qualities, Young Cardinals simply has some of the most intriguing lyrics you'll hear on the CD.
Overall Impression — 9
Alexisonfire is rapidly showing that they cannot be confined to any one particular genre, and that relays the confidence the band has in its music. They may lose some of its early fans in the process, but those listeners will be missing out. There are still moments on the album that touch on post hardcore, hard rock, and everything in between, and they are obviously re-exploring some of the influences that shaped their music in the first place. Whatever their method is, it's working for them. Alexisonfire is one band that should move on to great things in the coming years.