The last time Alexisonfire released a full album was in 2009; the last time they released anything other than a single was in 2012, and even that was just an EP of reworkings. In other words, since reforming properly in 2015, they’ve been hard on the path of resurrected acts for whom name-brand appeal and tried-and-true hits are all they have to offer. In itself, that could work for one of the most influential and consistently excellent post-hardcore bands of the 2000s, but it also doesn’t feel right either. As each member’s bounty of side-projects in the interim has shown, the converging musical threads and angles that Alexisonfire bring to the table leaves no reason to sit completely beholden to the past. That’s probably why Otherness feels as radically shifted as it does, a far weightier, far more hulking beast of an album that acts as a definitive page-turn for Alexisonfire’s current phase. But at the same time, there’s just so much to it that captures the original Alexisonfire magic in a completely fresh way. Committed To The Con is ideal as an opener in that sense, almost verging on stoner-rock in its slower, hazed-out tempos and grinding basslines, but with George Pettit and Wade MacNeil’s screams and especially Dallas Green’s cleans overlaid into a thick, raw miasma, the original component parts are integrated masterfully. Without question, this is the work of a band rejuvenated and reassured post-hiatus; not a beat has been missed in terms of power (Conditional Love and Reverse The Curse even move the needle back towards the old sound with roaring success), just as with the vitality and emotion baked deeply in. The biggest moments of shine are Green’s, the lynchpin in Alexisonfire’s melodic brilliance who makes the simmer of Sans Soleil and the stripped-away aches of Mistaken Information and World Stops Turning borderline flawless. It’s emblematic of Otherness’ focus on some slower paces and indulgent lengths that never buckle under themselves, instead being used to empower some really standout instrumental and compositional choices.
It’s an attention-grabbing album in practically every way. The heavier tone comes most readily, in how the churn of the guitars is thick and meaty in a way that Alexisonfire aren’t exactly known for to this extent. It can be reminiscent of their Dog’s Blood EP in spots, honestly, though a lot more fleshed-out and consistent in how it’s executed. Where that could be seen as a jump-off, Otherness is the leap exuding confidence at every turn, with every reason to be as such. Alexisonfire have never been a band tied inextricably to post-hardcore boundaries, but here, they’re arguably even more pliable again; in the strictest sense, it’s not a genre that plays much into what Otherness shapes itself into. As previously mentioned, there’s more in common with stoner-rock in how Alexisonfire wrench and writhe within their own terraforming grooves, topped with the occasional synthwave buzz on Dark Night Of The Soul and Survivor’s Guilt that’s probably the most disparate piece, but isn’t wholly unwelcome. At least it’s a bit more texture that fits Otherness’ umbrella motif of Alexisonfire touching upon new or refertilised ground, and a bit more distinction does come from it. Otherwise, it’s a small factor that’s easy to ignore when there’s barely a bad or even underwhelming moment here. Alexisonfire have wrung out every drop of inspiration and potential they have for an album that’s worth the decade-plus wait and then some, a revival in the truest sense of the word that places them right back on top as if they’d never left. That’d most likely still be true if reverted back to their classic sound, but the fact that Otherness not only strikes new ground but makes it a priority feels truly indicative of a band not just dropping a perfunctory new album to re-grease some old wheels. This is exactly the sort of album that Alexisonfire deserved to come back with, and the fact it surpasses all expectations even then is a sign of the masters back and firing on all cyclinders.
For fans of: Funeral For A Friend, Saosin, Thursday
‘Otherness’ by Alexisonfire is released on 24th June on Dine Alone Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall