Kris Crummett has produced some of my favorite bands in Emarosa and Dance Gavin Dance, and has done well with Alesana's The Emptiness. Now he's charged with calibrating A Place Where The Sun Is Silent and it would be a high order to reproduce the notes of albums past, especially the likes of On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax.
"The Dark Wood of Error" is akin to Davey Havok on Sing the Sorrow, but a few piano notes and a sultry voice is less than what's needed to open the album with a bang. It's a decent intro as fans anticipate the conceptual theme of Dante's Inferno that the album plays on, and fans of the poem, game and anime, such as myself, were eager to dissect the path the band took. "A Forbidden Dance" plays off well, akin to old school Silverstein, as the band does find a nice balance of screamo and clean vocals, something they did well in the past. But there was some clamor for a more distinct and raw vibe under Epitaph, which allows creative freedom a lot. Fans of Bring Me the Horizon, Circle Takes the Square and A Skylit Drive would appreciate a faster pace, but this change isn't apparent much as the band fleshes out transition and expository arrangements to highlight the spot-on voice of Shawn Milke. He's in top shape and pretty much a safe bet when ringing "Infatuation has strangled me again / There's no resisting the tangled web of your secret fantasy / A strange sensation is falling over me / I may be blind but I can see your kiss will punish me."
"Hand in Hand With the Damned" doesn't manage to set itself apart from the predecessor track however, as there's too much of the same sound coming through. It isn't distinguishable and this tone doesn't bode well for expectations ensuing on tracks hereafter. "Sweet temptress / I can see it in your eyes / You're moving on without me and so it ends tonight / I guess this is goodbye" is elementary to some but as Shawn usually spews, it's unbridled honesty and questions of faith and fate. It's well conveyed, this feeling of loss and separation. "Beyond the Sacred Glass" utilizes well-drawn power chords and as rational and logical as much of the guitar-work seems on the album, there's a sense of panache here. They seemed to tone the metalcore factor down and maybe this was done to accentuate the masterful vocals? This reminded me much of Emarosa's last album when Jonny Craig was highlighted more than the Emarosa-sound. Not bad an experiment but I'd rather not see a band's sound compromised as much. Either way, these records still sound good. Alesana crafts well with pen to paper, but that raw, hard-hitting, in-your-face flow seemed mired at times, and if I seem nit-picky, it's because this band has always managed to forge ahead and separate themselves from the other bands.
"The Temptress" seemed better set as an acoustic ballad, as the feel of piano set in a bit too much, and while not monotonous, it would have been nice to break the mold with a set of strumming, as Vic Fuentes usually depicts. The haunting feel of piano felt a bit much on a lot of the songs but may have kept with the album's theme. Still, a bit of wilding out by switching up instruments would not have done harm. That aside, there is a hint of chaotic rendezvous and a one-sided romantic tryst that the boys construct well. It's evident on the album and while the sense of wooing and structural integrity on the more prominent songs may feel a bit formulated, Shawn leaves his words as an open book. The instrumental drive, among a few other things, are amiss and indeed, truer fans may notice them absent, but his lyrical offset is minimal as seen here. "Are you happy now that I've figured out I was just the victim / In a game of lies and lustful tension?" He brings his A-game on the storyboards.
"Circle VII: Sins of the Lion" ionizes for me what the album should have captured. It's powerful; poetic justice is further done in Jeremy's emphatic double-kicking. It's aggression to the fullest. It's alarmingly soundproof and well-strung together to alleviate signals of distress as it pounds as the album's salient song. This is what Alesana represents on this track. This burning is coaxed to a candle light on "Vestige" as it seems a respite just when things are picking up. Such an interlude throws off the laminar vibe to the flow and here, the haunting melody just doesn't cut it. Something is missing, left to be desired and the timing is off in the song's placement. The passion of Avenged Sevenfold and Dillinger Escape Plan was one that influenced these new metalcore bands and losing some metalcore steam isn't the best direction to route. "Lullaby to the Crucified" isn't bland, but it just isn't the rapturous post-hardcore notes we saw this band hit already.
The album rounds off with songs that decree an orchestrated sound which seems to fear experimentation and breaking loose. It's riveting but not constantly. The record isn't watered down but the guys feel like they're holding back when they should just rock and let go. The dramatic and profound effect that could have resonated throughout the album is found on "A Gilded Masquerade," which proves pivotal and exquisite a go, but it seems that this album kept slight constraints on and didn't want to box without gloves. While the intensity is gagged a bit, Place is still worth a listen.