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Alesana - On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax

Review By: Michael Meade

Friday, Sept 19, 2008

These guys stir the senses, make you think, and make you want to move! Their unique attack on the vocals gives them a sound of their own.

As I listened to this Alesana CD, I couldn't help but think that my brother would enjoy these songs more than I would, at least from the lyrics side. I'm not sure how he'd feel about the music anymore. When we were growing up, he would write all this poetry that was very deep, with philosophical references to obscure writings in some long dead language. He had strong visual content in long words that I didn't know the meaning of, much less the context of the meter and rhyme. He would tell me that they were love poems, and I would go back and read them again, hoping that this knowledge would somehow make the words more meaningful this time around, but it didn't. I just could not appreciate the depth of surrealism that he spun. He was on some higher level, a different plane (or is it plain?) and he was so much smarter than me. I was 12 years old and in the 6th grade, and he was 18, going off to college. The difference between us was huge, and I wanted so badly to be like him.

But where he traveled with flights of fantasy, my world was the logical patterns of reason. I never have been able to catch up with him. But the chase gave me an appreciation of the things that I don't understand. So while my firmly up front, totally logical brain can't comprehend the way Alesana speaks in such higher level prose, doesn't mean I won't shake my head to the beat and thoroughly enjoy watching and listening to them.

In fact, I can't help it.

Alesana is a "screamo" band (so my son tells me). This I guess comes from the way that Dennis screams his lines. But to me, I think the thing that really makes Alesana so unique among the screamo population is the interplay between Dennis and Shawn.

Shawn's voice is at a higher register and gives the impression of sweetness and light while Dennis seems to always have the "mad at the world" sound, and as they do the lines back and forth between them, and sometimes even sing lines together, you get caught up in the dissonance. The contrast between the pitch, the attitude, and power of the voices, all working together captures your interest.

But that is not the only place that you catch the contrast. The music has it's own mastery of dissonance. I think (and I may be prejudiced here, since I started in this mad industry as a drummer) that Jeremy's drums lead the pack. It seems like he has consistent beat with inconsistent rhythms. And while I know that Steven's bass has a lot to do with it, they work so well together; it's hard to tell where one ends and the other starts.

The guitars and keyboards bring in a full sound as well. I hear influences from bands of my day in the overall presentation of the songs. I'm talking about bands like The Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd. Sort of the light mystical sound and then BOOM you're into Rock and Roll.

Over all, "On Frail Wings" is a great CD with heart and sound. You won't be able to listen to it and not move to the beat. I'm glad I have it in my collection.

Michael Meade is a singer songwriter for Lackawanna Rail. He has been performing music since 1970. He is also an author and poet. He loves to perform for people, and has a strange sense of humor that can sometimes catch you off guard. Having been a part of the Music Business for quite some time he has been able to spend time with many of the great musicians, and has many great stories to tell.



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