The Emptiness represents album number three for post-hardcore outfit Alesana, and you might think that their choice of album title to be a little too self-reflexive. Although there is an improvement in the songwriting compared to 2008‚??s Where Myth Fades to Legend, this album is an empty listen; there still is not a single positively remarkable quality about the band and the arrangements are muddled and stifling. As song titles like "In Her Tomb by the Sounding Sea" and "Annabel" indicate, the inspiration for the album's content comes from Edgar Allen Poe's haunting final poem, "Annabel Lee." When you take inspiration from such canonical source material like Alesana have, all kinds of problems arise, and it is quite obvious that their ambition exceeds their talent. 'E' for effort, though.
It appears as though very few musical artists can pull off spoken-word well on an album--Arab Strap, the Van Pelt and Adam Gnade spring to mind. Alesana are not one of these bands, as the album introduction on "Curse of the Virgin Canvas" shows. The end of that song sounds like a sound bite from The Little Mermaid in the worst possible way, and the band sees fit to not stop there. I understand that it is done in the name of cohesion and not to annoy the listener, but in the end all they have done is annoy the listener in a consistent and thorough way. There is nothing particularly engaging, interesting or revelatory about these passages; they sound like someone who has never read any poetry's approximation of what a poem should read like. The album would improve immediately without these inclusions.
As usual, there is a lot of different vocal styles at play here that range between a soft near-whisper to a bridge-trollian growl. Some of it isn't half-bad, but it appears as though no one in the band has any clue about dynamics and how to properly play these different styles off each other, as more often than not things just end up as one hot cacophonous mess. This lack of coordination spills over into the overall experience of the album. "The Artist" is a fun rhythmic bouncy number for a few seconds, then it is all about cleanly strummed guitars and soaring vocal melodies, and then before you know it breakdowns come out of nowhere. Even if there is anything to enjoy in this song, I couldn't tell you because the band insists on some kind of sensory overload for the listener when they--and this is just a suggestion--should focus on composition instead.
There are bits and pieces throughout where the band shows their talent with some nice metallic riffing or a melody that sticks, but taken as a whole it is quite bland and forgettable. The album closer "Annabel" sums up everything wrong with the album: It has a some great guitar parts throughout but with a runtime longer than seven minutes the song, more often than not, concedes to clich√©s and verbosity.
If you were a fan of the band before their last album it might serve you well to check out The Emptiness, but the improvements aren't enough to change the minds of anyone who has already written them off. However, hearing this, you can imagine the possibility of great things if they tightened things up, keep taking chances and quit running over each other.