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10 Canadian Artists Review Alexisonfire’s Otherness 

A peer review featuring contributions from Cancer Bats, The OBGMs, Bif Naked, Comeback Kid, and Fefe Dobson. 

by Yasmine Shemesh

Alexisonfire didn’t just break through the underground in the early 2000s as they brought post-hardcore to the mainstream, they left it as rubble, blown wide open to usher in a new era of Canadian music.

The band became fixtures on MuchMusic after “Pulmonary Archery” gained traction on The Punk Show. The gorgeous contrast of Dallas Green’s choral timbre and George Pettit’s ferocious roar carved a compelling emotive edge; soaring melodies and poetic lyrics had a similar effect to complement Wade MacNeil’s throttling guitar, Chris Steele’s moody bass, and Jordan Hastings’ pummelling drums. Four hit albums later, AOF cemented themselves as an influential force in the heavy music scene, even if they’ve always felt like outliers.

After a couple of breakups and tentative reunions, though, it seemed as if AOF were done, and for good. The band members fully dug into other projects—Green found massive success with City and Colour, and Hastings joined Billy Talent. 

But AOF has always charted their own course. Now, on the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut, and 13 years since their previous full-length, they’ve found their way back to each other, harnessing history, vulnerability, confidence, and a refreshed perspective to create Otherness: a triumphant return uniting the band’s signature sound with new textures—and the empowerment they’ve found in feeling like outsiders.  

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.

Listen to Cancer Bats’ new album, Psychic Jailbreak


Fefe Dobson

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!

Listen to Fefe Dobson’s new single, “FCKN IN LOVE”


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.

Read our interview with Tunic

Listen to Tunic’s new single, “Rituals” 


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.

Listen to The OBGMs’ new single, “Same”


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.

Listen to Mares of Thrace’s new album, The Exile


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.

Listen to Chastity’s new album, Suffer Summer


Bif Naked

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.

Watch the music video for “Prayer for the Mother,” Bif Naked’s recent collaboration with Toronto Tabla Ensemble


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.

Listen to Hotel Mira’s latest album, Perfectionism


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.

Read our review of Comeback Kid’s new album, Heavy Steps


Scarlett BoBo

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.

Listen to Scarlett BoBo’s latest single, “C.E.O.”