Alesana - On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax [reissue] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax [reissue] (2007)


Dante is stoked. Now that the awkward inside joke is out of the way, it's all downhill from here.

Like so many post-hardcore bands in the midst of an emo boom, Alesana shows skill while misusing their talent. Interesting time signatures, weaving guitar patterns, and tumultuous crescendos make it hard not to like this band, but not hard enough.

On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax isn't actually new material from Alesana, but rather a re-release of their 2006 sophomore effort on Tragic Hero Records. And to be cynical without contempt, it's not hard to see why Fearless thought they would be a good signing. Theoretically, Alesana could draw fans from both the emo and post-hardcore persuasions (as if the two weren't already like peanut butter and jelly), as well as a more elegiac goth nuance. As goes the latest adage: If the Misfits shirt fits, wear it.

While it's far too easy to get lost in the inundated web of screams and wails, there are some very cool things going on in a number of Vanity and Wax's tunes. Though "Tilting the Hourglass" clashes Thursday and Avenged Sevenfold with a brief Dashboard interlude, a measure of hostile spoken word is layered underneath the melodic cries of vocalist Dennis Lee, breaking for a split second as a solitary bass pluck sounds like the ringing of a fight bell, igniting the assembly into a double-bass choir. The pairing of raw screams with labored melodies falls well only once on Vanity and Wax, in the gallingly catchy "Sirens Soliloquy," which also bears the mark of the album's most uninhibited punk drive.

Judged temperately, about half the disc is salvageable. The other half is a trove of recklessly insipid drama and noise. As if over five minutes of the hackneyed "Apology" wasn't enough, an even worse four-minute remix brings up the rear, while the dreadfully overdone piano balladry of "Third Temptation of Paris" digs deeper yet into the proverbial hole. And while we're on the subject of digging holes, if there's one thing that really grinds my gears, it's Christian bands that part ways with their integrity for attempted (and failed) badassery. It's fine if you're gonna play the Cornerstone Festival and pander to that audience, but don't go naming your songs "Congratulations, I Hate You" and "Daggers Speak Louder than Words." You're not fooling anyone.

The undeniably talented post-hardcore of Alesana was most likely meant to replace the Fearless-departed Fully Down -- much like Brazil was brought in to fill the giant moonboots of At the Drive-In -- and like Brazil, Alesana comes up short. For even though the band had no problem crafting intricate and well-composed music, the nausea factor trumps all. As long as Hot Cross records are still being pressed, there's little reason to seek post-hardcore nü-screamo that's as histrionic and saturated as Vanity and Wax.