“We are not the kids we used to be. Stop wishing for yesterday”. You can’t accuse Canada’s best export, St Catherine’s quintet Alexisonfire, of not being direct as any subtlety is clearly lost on the chorus of opener ‘Old Crows’, declaring the band’s intentions from the get go. However more surprising is that after 2006’s more commercial outing Crisis, Old Crows / Young Cardinals sees the band rediscover their earlier heavier work, sharing more in common with sophomore effort Watch Out!
Lead single ‘Young Cardinals’ is simply put, what Alexis do best; marrying their traditional hardcore sound in the verses, with more melodic choruses, creating the strong juxtaposition of styles that has always served them so well. The song also reflects the album as a whole; one that on a first run through does little to stand out, but with repeated listening becomes infectious. Whilst ‘No Rest’, ‘Sons Of Privilege’ and ‘Emerald Street’ provide OC/YC’s most aggressive moments, it’s tracks such as ‘The Northern’ and ‘Burial’ that impress the most; with much slower builds and organ use demonstrating this band’s confidence and eagerness to try something new. Equally as impressive is the balance of vocal duties shared between George Pettit, Dallas Green and Wade MacNeil. With both Dallas and Wade enjoying recent success with solo projects, City and Colour and Black Lungs respectively, there was a real danger of the album becoming a cluttered mess of egos. Instead, the Alexis sound is maintained with George leading the screams, Dallas providing the melody and Wade offering support; each satisfied with their contribution to the greater good.
Make no mistake, Old Crows / Young Cardinals is an album that will polarise Alexis fans old and new. Anyone expecting the hooky polish of their last effort will be disappointed. But anyone wanting a more mature, considered work will relish what OC/YC has to offer. Granted it’s not their most instantaneous work to date, but it is certainly their most ambitious. Credit to them for not taking the safe route of delivering Crisis Part II. Like the band, this is an album that will continue to grow with age.