How do you follow up a defining album? Two years ago, Alexisonfire released Watch Out!, a record that for all intents and purposes, was miles and miles ahead of the self-titled released a year prior. Better music, better songs, better production, just better. Some people didn't see it that way, instead preferring the more forward hardcore sound of Alexisonfire, and this album will do nothing to bring those disenfranchised with the transition back into the fold.
For the rest of us, what Crisis will do, is impress. And it will do it in spades. Everything that made their last album so successful is improved upon here, also adding some new elements of songwriting to keep the sound from growing tired and stale.
Where you'll find the most improvement is in the vocal department. I've always loved George's screaming and Dallas' singing, but both on their own and together, they've truly never sounded better. Chalk it up to more time as a band, improved technique, or what have you, but the vocals truly make these songs what they are. The last album had George in somewhat of a reserved role, but the perfect balance has finally been struck between himself, Dallas, and rhythm guitarist Wade McNeil, who's finally afforded the opportunity to step into his own. Look no further than "Boiled Frogs" for proof of not only this, but George's ability to write some terrific lyrics. A song centered around the theme of George watching the problems his father faced in trying to retire, and the disloyalty in the workplace, it builds from a great clean guitar into George's quickly delivered raspy screams.
Old man sits at his desk, waiting for retirement, let himself overview / The question what to do, each passing year, the workload grows / Poor little tin man, still swinging his axe / Even though his joints are clogged with rust / My youth is slipping, my youth is slipping away, safe in monotony, so safe, day after day / â?¦ / So wait up, I'm not sleeping alone again tonight / There's so much to dream about, there must be more to my life / Can't help but feel betrayed, punch the clock every single day / There's no royalty, and no remorse, your soul for a pension cheque / That makes me fucking sick, he's sick of [it], he can't say no.The chorus combines some vibrant clapping and Wade's vocals, adding a bit more of a punk rock feel to things, until Dallas comes in with his gorgeous, sweeping voice, really taking this already stellar track full circle. All eleven songs on the album provide a great mix of George, Dallas, and Wade, a combination that any band would salivate over the chance to have. "We Are the Sound" follows that up with a much faster hardcore approach, and while it does slow a bit for Dallas' verses, George's manic screaming can still be heard in the background, and the full, infectious gang vocal shouting of "We are the sound! We have no voice!'' just add to the energy and urgency of the song as a whole. "Keep It on Wax" is Wade's foray into handling most of the vocal duties, with George and Dallas coming in at various points to really add some dynamics to the track, as the rhythm cascades in and out with some great drum fills in opportune spots. With each passing song, it becomes more and more apparent how their songwriting skills have improved from their first recordings. Every song has unique structures, unique dynamics, and a plethora of vocal deliveries.
Much the same way Watch Out! did, Crisis closes in fine and dramatic fashion. With minimal instrumentation, Dallas' beautiful vocals glide along, until the guitars start to shimmer, and take on a very post rock-esque quality, and George's vocals couldn't fit it more perfectly. Settling into a more sing-song style of screaming, the raspy delivery compliments the delicate guitars to a tee, and his interplay with Dallas sounds as crisp and lively as ever.
I'm plenty aware as I write this that, inevitably, this review will cause me to receive a lot of shit. And frankly, that's fine. This band has progressed light years ahead of what I'd have thought possible when I first started listening to them, and it's both refreshing and rewarding to see they've found their niche. Powerful, dynamic, and unwaveringly entertaining, this stunning display of poise and ability is an album that I hold in very high regard. If some of you have your hang-ups, drop them, and sit back and enjoy the multitude of things this band has to offer. You can line up to thank me later.