To celebrate the release of Otherness, RANGE asked 10 Canadian artists to help us do a deep dive into the new record while also reflecting on what Alexisonfire means to them. From fellow hardcore heroes Cancer Bats and Comeback Kid to Fefe Dobson and punk humanitarian, Bif Naked, these are artists whose own work have made an indelible imprint on Canadian hard rock and pop culture.
Liam Cormier, Cancer Bats
Track 1: Committed to the Con
My ears perk up with clanks of angular guitar, like someone rhythmically sounding an alarm from out in the darkness, layered on top are siren drones of a guitar warning my impending doom. The hairs stand on my arms as the thundering slabs of bass and drums start to push and pull over this moody musical landscape, all made clear with George Pettit’s signature howl: “GET THE FUCK OFF MY LAWN!” The St. Catharines punks are back and from the sounds of it they are PISSED! The heavy churning pace of the verse toils forward until the chorus rings loud with the question, “Which side are you on?!?” Line drawn in the screamo sand and my obvious answer is, I’m with you.
Track 2: Sweet Dreams of Otherness
Welcome back to the era of post-hardcore rock and roll! After a hiatus of over a decade, Alexisonfire is back, baby! I can definitely relate to taking some necessary time away to get back into that creative space where you can unabashedly submit to your consciousness and pour yourself into your art. This new album was definitely worth the wait.
“Sweet Dreams of Otherness” is the contemporary anthem for the outliers. Dallas’ voice is so entrancing as he navigates from the subtlety of the verses into that climactic payoff of a chorus. I connect with the sentiment of the song and the conviction of fully embracing my own “otherness.” In today’s world where everything is about sameness and subscribing trends, this type of song feels both sobering and empowering. I’ve always been a fan of this band’s perfect blend of poetic lyrics and adrenaline triggering musicality. This is the type of angst we all could benefit from ridding ourselves of after the past 2 years.
Shoutout to Jay Baruchel for directing the music video for this song. That’s the type of Canadiana I need in my life. Most importantly, I’m thrilled to have some great fuckin bands back on the scene with real instruments!
David Schellenberg, Tunic
Track 3: Sans Soleil
Alexisonfire was the first band I ever heard or saw that made heavy music without a gimmick or some sort of tough guy bullshit. I turned on the Wedge on Friday night in the sixth grade and there were these 5 young dorky guys throwing their bodies around and screaming, and since I saw the video for “Pulmonary Archery” that day I’ve been a fan ever since.
“Sans Soleil” is a pretty rock song that heavily features Dallas’ vocals and only uses George’s iconic scream at the climax of the track. This song straddles a post-rock/shoegaze line that has the band sounding like a modern day hybrid of Explosions in the Sky meets Slow Dive. It’s drenched in reverb and has a memorable repeating vocal line that hooks you in and calms you before the album continues with the band’s signature sound.
Denz McFarlane, The OBGMs
Track 4: Conditional Love
Alexisonfire has walked back to the post-hardcore throne and dusted off the crown like they never left. As we dive into the heart of the track listing, “Conditional Love” bats clean up and with a banger that slams the tone of what’s coming home. With grit and melody, the band showcases lyrical prowess deep-cut lovers will do their best to dissect. “Cosmically linked with a war of attrition, I’ve got a love but it comes with conditions.” Preach.
Gospel-like anthems sweep listeners to the heights of their salvation before they get plunged into the sweet waters of the pit. These words were meant to be sung back. And the chords you ask? Shawty’s thicc.
This is music for the outsiders. AOF strolls heavy through the pavement. This album isn’t for skipping. Just sit down and listen to the movie.
Thérèse Lanz, Mares of Thrace
Track 5: Blue Spade
Alexisonfire’s 2002 self-titled record was a huge deal to young me making my first awkward stumbles into the hardcore scene; I like a sizeable helping of melody in with my brutality, and few bands juxtaposed the two better in that era.
Right off the hop on this track, my head is banging to that thunderous slow-to-mid-tempo groove. The thunderclouds part on a melodic verse with haunting choral clean vocals and acoustic guitar strums that distill many of my favourite of the prettier moments of their old work. It’s anthemic, certainly more accessible than their old stuff, but still very artful. The hardcore screams finally come in, but they take a backseat; they’re just a dash of a spicy condiment, if you will. The spastic turn-on-a-dime songwriting has matured into something cohesive and thoughtful that still has plenty of ferocious teeth.
I find this a most welcome evolution, and I’m delighted they’re back.
Brandon Williams, Chastity
Track 6: Dark Night of the Soul
The vinyl I ordered isn’t out yet but I’m picturing myself flipping the record to side B, only to be met at heaven’s gate by Dallas, George and Wade. Opening this up acapella for the first 29 seconds together, it feels like bright white light in my eyes, then boom, I’m back to some good hell. “Trembling hands, tender embrace, shadows merge from the fire, paint a skull on your face!”
I’ve got a pal with an Alexis heart-skull symbol tattoo. What Black Flag’s four bars mean to Los Angeles area kids in the 80s, those Alexis skulls mean to us around here today. They’re like identifiers of the ‘Otherness’ that George has talked about in interviews for the record, people who feel like outsiders being able to identify each other. This track, this band, this symbol, feels like us all going together, skulls on our fuckin’ faces.
I grew up going to church, and this kinda feels like it except only in the good ways—Gods crushed my soul with a well written Hymn, and I’m leaving a room of broken people still broken but at least together with each other. The effect Alexis has had on me, fulfilled in this song. So sick.
Track 7: Mistaken Information
Everyone’s been waiting for this record. I’ve been waiting my whole life for a song like “Mistaken Information.”
At first listen, I had to take my clothes off, I was sweating and over breathing. I became a puddle, and succumbed to the power of the song as it grabbed me in a typical AOF chokehold of my Most Recent Feelings.
“Mistaken Information” hits me hard. I laid down on the floor, listening again…
“So let me narrow my thoughts
and then I’ll bury myself
and if it’s devil may care
then let me care for nothing else”
I cried and found a renewed religious fever for Alexisonfire. This is the band that does it for me, the band I needed to become enmeshed in. It’s time.
“Mistaken Information” made me a believer. This entire record is a masterpiece and this song is special for me, to me. Make no mistake.
Mike Noble, Hotel Mira
Track 8: Survivor’s Guilt
Alexisonfire were a pivotal band of my youth. I’m positive seeing the “Pulmonary Archery” video for the first time in 2003 permanently altered my brain chemistry. The breakdown of “Accidents” was the first bass line I was proud of myself for learning, and I’m pretty sure I had the lyrics to “Rough Hands” as my MSN screen name for my entire Grade 12 year.
“Survivor’s Guilt” feels like Alexisonfire in prime form, but with a sprinkle of new flavours. The call-and-response vocals and energetic guitar riffs feel right at home, and the synth intro is an unexpected yet undeniably cool way to kick off the song. It’s hard not to picture an arena of people screaming back “not enough Survivor’s Guilt.” This track, and the album as a whole, feels like Alexisonfire haven’t missed a beat in 13 years, and I’m so happy they are making music again.
Andrew Neufeld, Comeback Kid
Track 9: Reverse the Curse
“Reverse the Curse” lands in a space that I feel like AOF have been moving towards for quite some time now. Unapologetic dual guitar solos using the signature pedal soaring that they are known for but harnessing a bit more of that southern twang that we’ve seen them touch on before.
We (Comeback Kid) just did some tour dates with Alexis in Texas a few weeks ago and I remember telling George as soon as I heard the song that it reminded me of Foo Fighters’ “White Limo.” Also a non typical FF song (way heavier) but the verse vocals and tempo have a pleasing resemblance if you put the two side-by-side.
Vocally, the harmonies are on point on this track and another real feature for me is the addition of Matt Kelly (City and Colour)’s organ parts which are showcased huge on this one and lend even more to the vibe that they are moving towards. Really enjoyed this one. It’s a rocker the whole way through.
Track 10: World Stops Turning
A passionate fuelled anthem that completes this hauntingly beautiful album; do I dare say masterpiece?!
Since I was a little queer punk kid in high school blasting “Waterwings,” AOF’s music has always given me the strength to conquer anything, and this album is no different. “World Stops Turning” feels so familiar yet so new, bold, and exciting.
Being the longest song on the album, it gives the track so much room to breathe and build into such a stunning sound. From the soft acoustic guitar’s entrance to the powerful message of love, pain and loneliness the song carries. The hook repeating is a lovely reminder to never stop moving forward, especially after so much pandemic woes and fear that entrapped the world. You can feel the love and passion so hard in the last minutes of the song until it dies out wonderfully, giving you the full AOF experience.