Alexisonfire - Old Crows / Young Cardinals (Cover Artwork)


Alexisonfire: Old Crows / Young CardinalsOld Crows / Young Cardinals (2009)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

You didn't think you'd still be hearing about Alexisonfire in 2009, did you? To be frank, I didn't either. I've followed the St. Catherines quintet since ".44 Caliber Love Letter" first overpowered the speakers on the relic of a computer I had back in 2002, and I loved every second of the brash, .
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You didn't think you'd still be hearing about Alexisonfire in 2009, did you?

To be frank, I didn't either. I've followed the St. Catherines quintet since ".44 Caliber Love Letter" first overpowered the speakers on the relic of a computer I had back in 2002, and I loved every second of the brash, screamy hardcore that George Pettit and co. brought to my life. But it never occurred to me they'd be a band with staying power. A band who could adapt to the changing of the musical times and their own growing influences.

Color me wrong. So very, very wrong.

Alexisonfire is back with Old Crows, Young Cardinals -- their fourth full-length -- and they're writing songs with staying power. With passion. With gravitas. With a renewed sound and sense of songwriting. This ain't your daddy's (er, older brother's) Alexisonfire.

Apparent from the get-go is the band's increased punk influence. The guitars are muddier, the vocals -- from Pettit, Dallas Green and Wade McNeil -- more scratchy, the drums louder. The album's leadoff, "Old Crows" is a ravaging three-and-a-half minutes that balances Wade's low, gruff screams, Dallas' incredible vocal range and an unbelievably diverse rhythm section. It's a more complex sound than they've attempted before, and Pettit says as much himself; "Now, we are not the kids we used to be."

Across the entire album are themes of transition, as Pettit eloquently suggests on "Young Crows":

Old crows ride in the mouth of the beast, sleep beneath its tongue, cradled by its teeth / We roam from shore to shore, from the open sky, to the ocean floor / The more we move, the less we are ourselves and when we finally stop, we've changed to something else."
Part of that transition, besides adopting a more punk-based sound, includes balancing the melody of Green's impassioned vocals and the manic screams of Pettit and McNeil . The band started down that path on Crisis with songs like "Boiled Frogs," but many of their new songs see them perfecting the craft. "Born and Raised" is a rollicking, up-tempo song that kicks off with gruff vocals and short, choppy chord progressions before Green swoops in and lays down gorgeous vocals that happen in time with McNeil's background screams. As the progressions lengthen out and the clean guitar underneath comes to the forefront, Green breaks out and completely takes the song over, letting no one question his talents on the mic or the six-string. This is the new Alexisonfire. This is perfection in balance.

Much of that balance is achieved by juxtaposing McNeil's aggressive delivery with grandiose choruses, a tactic seen on "Heading for the Sun" that brings new meaning to the phrase ??flawless execution.' The first verse is one of the band's most aggressive; McNeil digs deep to dredge up every bit of fire he's got and the instrumentation is dark and laden with distortion. The second verse is Green letting his vocals rise fully above some slick guitar work, and just when things quiet towards the end, McNeil re-enters the fray with ample distortion before Green swoops in one last time to take the track out on a plateau.

Fans of the band's previous albums can also feel relieved knowing that Pettit's scathing vocals haven't been forgotten; they bookend the powerful "Sons of Privilege" and punctuate the rhythmic peaks and valleys of "The Northern." He may not be the face of the band as he was on Alexisonfire, but his voice has matured and his timing has improved to the point where every appearance he makes on the album comes at an absolutely perfect point.

There's something so satisfying about listening to a band you've followed from the beginning grow into such a dynamic and talented outfit. I don't know where Alexisonfire is headed musically or how long they'll be around for; I don't know if the lineup will stay the same or they'll get bored of writing this kind of music and switch to pan-flute music tomorrow.

What I do know is decidedly more concrete -- this is one of the best bands currently making music, and if you're late in finding out, there's plenty of room left on that train.

All aboard.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
samthecritic (June 20, 2010)

Good album with quite a few hits and a small number of misses. Thanks to their structured songwriting in their newer albums though, they can never touch their debut.

Stenny (August 15, 2009)

I haven't listened to any Alexisonfire since 44' Caliber Love Song, saw this album at Best Buy for 7.99$ when it first came out, I figured "what the fuck". Turns out, this album has some killer fucking songs

on a side note, in my opinion..... "44 caliber love song" has not aged very well, kind of like Identity Crisis. I know that comment will get some flack.

"Born and Raised", as this review mentioned: is a fucking amazing song. Not only that, it's one of those songs that makes you want to fucking crank the radio, and go 110 in your Ford Tempo. In case your a dumb ass, that means the song's one mean mother fucker. (this applies to the great songs on the CD, which there's about 4 or 5)

As a general review.....when the band is on, they display a stunning mix of raw rocking and big chorus's with a lot of space. However, the majority of this CD tends to blend into one another, with not to many identifiable moments - Screaming/intense verse --- into big/catchy chorus, possibly joined by group ups(a lot of "heys" and "ohhs").

The first time around this CD didn't really sound all that good. The songs sounded liked they rock, and the band obviously has their rock chops down.

Maybe they chose the wrong opening song???? No, the opener is a sweet slow burner with a thumping bass line. I hate putting bands in genres, but I don't know where these guys would land. Somewhere on the 21st century's side of rock and roll. Defiantly not your fathers music.

pmaxwel2 (August 12, 2009)

This is a great album and it shows how much the band has matured and progressed since their first CD. Pettit's vocals are something to get used to if you are a veteran AOF listener but after a couple listens you become accustomed. Dallas' vocals are amazing as always and they incorporated McNeil's vocals very nicely. There is a muc greater punk influence on this record than Crisis, and I think its a good direction for AOF.

bradc (July 21, 2009)

I definitely agree that they have found more balance in the band. Dallas is the obvious moneymaker for them but they don't overkill his parts like they easily could have done. Im more excited to see what i think of this album in a month or so with a few more listens

evildeadalive (July 19, 2009)

I like George and Wade, find Dallas real annoying other than their first album. Haven't heard this yet, will check it out.

damnitsderek (July 17, 2009)

I'm still getting into this album, but thus far, I really like it. It's got more replay value than Crisis in my opinion. Good to know there's still a little love for these guys on this site.

Blackjaw_x (July 16, 2009)

If HWM had screaming, metallic parts and an overall feeling of dark muddiness that makes the album exhausting to listen to, sure.

maverick (July 16, 2009)

This sounds like an Epitaph-era Hot Water Music record. It's not bad.


miniblindbandit (July 15, 2009)

i liked it. needs more wade though.

Anchors (July 15, 2009)

Perrone I like that I've done maybe, what, 10 reviews in the past two years and still you have so little going on in your life that you talk shit about my writing.

I'd have given you the benefit of the doubt in assuming you'd matured past the middle school level but clearly that's not the case.

thedude (July 15, 2009)

i've always thought watch out! was far and away this band's best effort, and never really understood how that wasn't the consensus with everyone else. i still listen to that album and get chills. i was a bit disappointed with crisis, but after this review i'm excited to hear this new disc.

Sliced-T (July 15, 2009)

I've never been much of a fan, but that is a great album title.

fattony (July 15, 2009)

I was initially let down by this after being knocked on my ass by Crisis. But after several listens, it's obvious that there's a much deeper album here. I still think Crisis is the superior album, but this is also pretty fucking great.

danperrone (July 15, 2009)

another review that reads like a movie trailer

HeresLookinAtYou (July 15, 2009)

Before even clicking on this review, I think most of us already knew who reviewed it and the exact score.

With that said, solid review and really good album. Still think WO! was by far their best work though.

LeightonESmith (July 15, 2009)

This album really disappointed me. It felt like they phoned it in. The soaring catchy melodies and shout along parts that made Crisis so good weren't really to be found. It seems like Dallas didn't really have a prominent enough role and all of the songs were a bit mid paced.....
I can see things to like about where they are progressing as a band and this review has given me a better angle to look at what they were trying to do. Kudos

scorpiondeathlock (July 15, 2009)

que 2 weeks from now when this is the number 1 album of july and everyone starts bitching.

vote for shit and you shall recieve.

ozmanx (July 15, 2009)

Only time i've heard anything by this band was live in 2004 and was not impressed in the slightest by these guys. Have no idea if they progressed since then but don't really care to find oot.

Score was for that performance.

MN_punkmaster-skaman (July 15, 2009)

Really? Last time I remember, Alexisonfire was really bad. I doubt things have changed.

moneenerd (July 14, 2009)

"Album #4 keeps going in that 'musically muddy' direction but the songs come off surprisingly well and George's vocals aren't as unbearable, but then the Christian stuff kicks in, and Dallas' singing isn't very good."

'The Christian stuff'? Are you serious?

Just because it has religious references, it doesn't mean it's necessarily Christian at all.

Anyway, this album is the best since self-titled, but that's not saying much in my opinion as I thought LP's #2 and 3 were awkward. I love self-titled, and "Crows" is the next best. It's not a great record, but the first three tracks are unreal, and they haven't had a truly great track since ACCIDENTS, but that's just my opinion, which might not mean shit at all.

moneenerd (July 14, 2009)

Score is for the album. The review was WAYYYYY too sugar-coated. There is a lot of filler on this record. But whatever, AOF is the only legit popular Canadian rock band going right now, and I'll always have nothing but respect for them.

DougLife (July 14, 2009)

Great review and now that people are saying it's better than Crisis really makes me want to check it out.

blanktapesemptybottles (July 14, 2009)

the first song and second to last song are the best ones, other than that good just missing the urgency of those two

Piata (July 14, 2009)

I was waiting for this review.

This album has it's weak points, but it's better than Crisis and still shows Alexisonfire has lots of room to keep growing and changing.

I just read a big article in Exclaim about them and how much tension there was in the band when they finished their Crisis tour. I'm really glad these guys are still putting out music and I hope they never stop. City and Colour and Black Lungs are both alright, but neither measure up to the uniqueness of Alexisonfire.

ahopeagainsthope (July 14, 2009)

This is a damn good record by a band that only keeps getting better.

Also, Blackjaw_x, Christian stuff? I might be wrong, but I'm almost positive that Alexisonfire is not a Christian band and none of the members are into that Jesus dude. If you're referring to "The Northern," they just based the lyrics off a hymn they liked the sound of. They're not preaching anything with it. I do agree with you on the whole thing about Dallas and Wade singing George's parts, at least on their first two records. I enjoy George's new style of vocals a lot, and they just seem to fit on Crisis for whatever reason.

mikexdude (July 14, 2009)

For all the shit anchors used to get for his Alexisonfire reviews, I am glad he still sticks by it.

Wesley_Snipes (July 14, 2009)

George is almost non-existent on the record, time to kick the bitch out !

colin (July 14, 2009)

weird, i'll have to check this out. i wasn't the biggest fan of their first release and have ignored them since. perhaps ill-advisedly.

Blackjaw_x (July 14, 2009)

This band can't get it right.

Album #1 was the best instrumentally, but didn't make enough use of Dallas or Wade.
Album #2 had more of Dallas and Wade and less of George, but got worse instrumentally.
Album #3 got even worse instrumentally, and the songs were generally forgettable.
Album #4 keeps going in that 'musically muddy' direction but the songs come off surprisingly well and George's vocals aren't as unbearable, but then the Christian stuff kicks in, and Dallas' singing isn't very good.

And George just sucks overall, all the albums would be great if they were re-released with Dallas and Wade singing his parts.

punkengineer (July 14, 2009)

Completely agree on rating and review. Better than Crisis.

tenwestchaser (July 14, 2009)

Wow. Just...wow. You nailed my exact thoughts on this band. It's refreshing to see their reviews keep getting the credit they deserve because the elitist type around these parts certainly aren't giving any of it. Talking about this band can be tough for me because I love them as much as Anchors aparently does yet they seem to be a constant target for no good reason. I can't help but get defensive over the topic at times because any time they are mentioned I always know the inevitable shit storm is coming so I tend to not stoke the flames. But goddamn, Anchors, thanks for articulating how amazing this band is in a way that I never could without simply saying "How can't you like Alexisonfire?! those guys are fucking awesome!"

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