The Emptiness (album)
|Studio album by Alesana|
|Released||January 26, 2010|
|Recorded||Fall 2009 Orion Studios, Baltimore
The Emptiness is the third full-length album by Alesana. It was recorded in the fall of 2009 and was released on January 26, 2010 through Fearless Records. The album is the first Alesana record to surround with a concept of an original story, instead of having songs written through already existing allusions. The album is considered that of a rock opera because of its in-depth story. Milke and Lee have both stated that the idea of writing an album based upon their own authored story has been present with them since the band's first release, Try This with Your Eyes Closed.
Background and concept
The Emptiness is unique in being the first work by Alesana to have official singles: "To Be Scared by an Owl" and "The Thespian". On November 23, after showing teaser versions of the song, the band digitally sold "To Be Scared by an Owl" on their website. The second single "The Thespian" was released two weeks later in the same fashion, shortly after the filming of its music video.
The album differs from the previous albums musically. After the line-up confusion of 2009, Adam Ferguson left the band and Jake Campbell, who had temporarily replaced Shane Crump on bass guitar, became the new guitarist. Though Campbell increased the amount of dual guitars played throughout the album, he did not provide any of the vocals Ferguson had in the past. However, the album features more guitar solos than that of their previous releases.
Although the former albums have references to mythology of different cultures, this is the band's first concept album where the story is not based on anything else. While touring in Europe, Shawn Milke and Dennis Lee decided to create a horror theme for their third album as well as using Edgar Allan Poe as an influence for their work—more specifically, the poem "Annabel Lee". Faint references are also made in the liner notes to "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado" in that it describes a body hidden under the bricks in the main character's basement, in comparison to the heart under the floorboards and the man behind the brick wall. In an interview, Milke included Stephen King, David Lynch, and the film Friday the 13th as further influences for the story.
The story that The Emptiness revolves around was written by Lee and Milke. It is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's last poem "Annabel Lee". The story is said by the band to be set in the onset of the 20th century and is expounded greatly in the liner notes album. The central character of the story, a sketch artist known simply as "The Artist" wakes up one day to find his lover, Annabel, dead, lying beside him. Heartbroken and terrified, he buries her in his basement and flees. He wanders aimlessly until he comes to a tavern, where he hears the sounds of merriment and laughter. He decides that if he can't be happy no one can and slaughters everyone in the tavern. After wandering through many places and finding Annabel's killer, "The Thespian", at the end of the story The Artist finally comes face to face with him to fight to the death. He is stabbed in his side with a dagger and finds himself in a room with Annabel holding a dagger in hand. From here on the story's point of view switches from The Artist to Annabel where she explains that The Artist had slowly been sinking into madness all this while, as he became more and more withdrawn and his sketches more and more violent. Though she loved him, in the end she had to take his life in the attempt to defend herself from him.
The track listing and album artwork was released on a bulletin from Fearless Records on punknews.org, and a news post on their official site. Their tour name "You'd be Way Cuter in a Coffin" was originally the title for their first track. The song "Annabel" is the band's longest song to date. Two string quartet compositions by Shawn Milke ("Interlude 3" and "Interlude 4") appear after tracks 6 and 10 and are available for individual purchase on iTunes.
Two singles were released for the album. "To Be Scared by an Owl" was released on November 23. "The Thespian" was released shortly afterward, on December 8. A music video for "The Thespian" was filmed during the winter of 2009 and was released on March 17, 2010.
Story behind The Emptiness
|Under the Gun Review||(7/10)|
Shawn Milke stated; "The Emptiness is an idea that my co-vocalist and co-creator Dennis Lee and I have had since the days of recording our first EP, Try This With Your Eyes Closed. We've spent our career thus far basing our songs and lyrics on the works of some of our favorite authors and literature of the past (i.e. stories in Greek mythology, fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm) and some chosen contemporary screenwriting (i.e. Heroes, The Princess Bride). However, even back when we first started writing together, he and I always talked about writing our own story that we could bring to life through one of our records. The Emptiness is that dream come true.
Writing a story has to begin somewhere, it has to have its roots planted in some sort of inspiration. For Dennis and myself, that inspiration rested within the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe. In hindsight, this was a match made in heaven. Poe was a master of weaving words that could be so horrific and yet eerily beautiful all at once, and his final resting place is in Baltimore--the birthplace of Alesana and where we relocated to write this story.
The Poe piece that stood out to us the most was actually the final composition ever published in his career--a poem called 'Annabel Lee.' Some believe that his wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, inspired it but that has never been verified. The key point that we found interesting in 'Annabel Lee' was its theme. It explores the death of a beautiful woman and follows the thoughts of a narrator who retains his love for her even after her death. We decided that this theme would be the basis for The Emptiness. We were going to tell our own horrific love story. We showed our love, respect and thanks to Poe by naming our female lead character Annabel, and the ninth song in the story 'In Her Tomb By The Sounding Sea,' was the final line published in the famed career of Poe."
The Emptiness: A Story Told Through the Eyes of a Sketch Artist
- Curse of the Virgin Canvas
(based on the prologue: I Handed You A Knife And My Heart, and Chapter One: Empty Eyes Accuse A Face So Evil) "The dawn is approaching the small town of Slough in England during the year 1898. A local sketch artist, known to us simply as "the Artist," lies in a bed next to the woman of his dreams, "Annabel." As the first rays of sunlight pour through the window, he rolls over to wake his lover with a kiss. Her cold lips reveal a lifeless body once so beautiful. His one and only love has been murdered and nothing is what it seems. When it is revealed to him whose hands may be responsible, he begs for the whole thing to be a horrible nightmare."
- The Artist
(based on Chapter Two: Sweaty Hands Will Fail To Lock The Door) "The Artist, overwhelmed with panic and paranoia, is convinced that he is being watched and that someone somewhere knows what he's done. Just the sight of Annabel's body begins to blur the lines of fantasy and reality. He controls the urge to run and leans down to kiss her one final time, closing her eyes with the gentle touch of his blood-soaked fingertips. His tortured goodbye plagues his mind and allows the madness to come pouring back with a vengeance. The Artist accepts his fate, hides the body and sets out into the night."
- A Lunatic's Lament
(based on Chapter Three: It Was Your Poison Kiss That Turned Me Into This) "In an abashed state of mind, the Artist begins to blame Annabel for what he has obviously done to her: his depression and paranoia have turned to rage. He moves as quickly as his feet will carry him toward the center of town. Not only is he running from the grisly murder scene, but he's running from the ringing of Annabel's voice in his head. It's as if her spirit is chasing him, torturing what little sanity he has left. He cannot look her in the eyes, he knows it will weaken his anger and he simply cannot allow that to happen. Not now. The Artist begs and pleads with her to leave him be as he sprints toward the town, his intentions still unknown even in his own mind. There's one crippling thought that the Artist cannot seem to escape even in madness: Annabel is the only girl he has ever loved."
- The Murderer
(based on Chapter Four: My Thirst For Blood Turns Me On) "The Artist finally makes it into town and, at least for the time being, sheds the haunting voice of Annabel. He wanders past a tavern to the sounds of laughter and drunken piano playing and becomes uncontrollably enraged. If he is not allowed to be happy, then no one shall be. The Artist enters the tavern and bolts the door shut behind him, unbeknownst to the patrons inside. His thoughts are racing, his adrenaline is pumping, and he takes a drink to steady his nerves. He glances up from his glass only to find a blood-covered, screaming Annabel in the reflection of the mirror behind the bar. He finishes his drink, stands up, approaches the poor soul closest to him and utters five macabre words: 'Are you ready to die?'"
- Hymn for the Shameless
(based on Chapter Five: I Immerse Myself In Sick Reflection) "Following the massacre and armed with a complete lack of guilt, the Artist finds a sick pleasure in the deception of his ways. He begins to feel invincible. Relishing his victory and overcome by his own satisfaction, he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath as he ponders his own insanity. The Artist fantasizes about Annabel's voice and questions whether her love could save him from what he's become. He snaps and curses all who thinks he will even consider stopping now."
- The Thespian
(based on Chapter Six: Her Somber Silhouette Dances For Me) "As the sun sets, the Artist cannot seem to escape his own imagination. Completely lost in self-indulgence, he begins to see Annabel's face everywhere. The visions of her usher his wandering, delusional thoughts back to the day when he first fell in love with her. He soon becomes obsessed with the fantasy that she could possibly still be alive. The Artist scrambles home in a hastened fury only to be stopped dead in his tracks at his front porch by a man who introduces himself as the Thespian--the man who killed Annabel."
- Heavy Hangs the Albatross
(based on Chapter Seven: My Feet Are Slipping) "Finding it nearly impossible to come to grips with the emergence and confession of the Thespian, the Artist gives up on his fleeting fantasy that Annabel could still be alive. Without his vengeance, his anger, his insanity and without the chance of Annabel coming back from the dead, he attempts to decipher a way to join her in death. With thoughts of suicide on his mind, the Artist contemplates storming the town with a rage unmatched by anyone. He must draw out the Thespian to die heroically as he avenges the death of his lover. Wandering the town as the feeling of defeat weakens his every step, the Artist falls to his knees in an abandoned alley. Mere seconds before his plan comes to fruition, she appears."
- The Lover
(based on Chapter Eight: Dead Girls Don't Just Appear Out Of Thin Air) "As badly as the Artist wants to believe that the girl who seemingly appeared out of thin air is Annabel, he knows in his heart that she is not. Despite this crushing realization, he is taken by her beauty and her sudden emergence in the alley where he was slowly dying. The mystery woman takes him in and cares for him, nursing him back to health. After several days of silence, she whispers to him, "I'll be your anchor, I'll be your lover." It is at this very second that he knows that she is indeed his Annabel after all. He leans in to kiss her soft lips, which sends him face first into the cobblestone of the alley in which he knelt. Awakened from his dream, the Artist is once again pained with the realization that his lover is gone."
- In Her Tomb by the Sounding Sea
(based on Chapter Nine: It's Happening Again, It's Happening Again) "The Artist finds his feet and trudges back out into the sunlit town. He rounds the corner and once again sees Annabel in the reflection of a window. However, this time she does not look angry or sad. She doesn't appear to him as the tortured and pained image he saw in the bar, but rather as the woman he had fallen so in love with during the past seven years. Suddenly, the Thespian appears in the reflection, standing behind Annabel with a knife to her throat. Fear engulfs her entire body as the Thespian slits her throat from ear to ear. The horrific image alerts the Artist of two things equally disturbing and harsh: the memory of Annabel is slowly disappearing from his mind and he must find and kill the man who has taken her from him."
- To Be Scared by an Owl
(based on Chapter 10: You Have No Clue What She Is Capable Of) "The Artist spends the day planning his attack and the evening hunting for the Thespian. A flash of light from the blade of the Thespian stings his eyes and the two engage in a fight to the death. Armed with only his hands and the fleeting memories of his Annabel, the Artist vows revenge."
(based on the epilogue: And Now The Dream Is Over) "The final piece reveals the climax to our story of revenge, love, lust, murder and insanity, but you must read the story to discover the conclusion. The emptiness will haunt you."
All songs written by Shawn Milke, Dennis Lee, and Patrick Thompson except where noted.
|1.||"Curse of the Virgin Canvas"||4:49|
|2.||"The Artist" (Milke, Jake Campbell)||3:46|
|3.||"A Lunatic’s Lament"||4:05|
|4.||"The Murderer" (Milke, Adam Fisher)||4:33|
|5.||"Hymn for the Shameless"||5:38|
|7.||"Heavy Hangs the Albatross"||3:51|
|9.||"In Her Tomb by the Sounding Sea"||3:41|
|10.||"To Be Scared by an Owl" (Milke, Campbell, Jeremy Bryan)||4:11|
- Gregory, Burkart. "Exclusive: Exploring 'The Emptiness' with Alesana". Fearnet. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
- The Emptiness Album Info. Billboard.com.
- Fearless Records posts on PunkNews.org
- Announcement on AlesanaOfficial.com
- Beringer, Drew (2010-02-01). Alesana - The Emptiness - Album Review. AbsolutePunk.net.
- Kelham, Andrew (2010-01-23). Alesana - The Emptiness | Album Reviews. Rocksound.tv.
- "Under the Gun review".
- The Emptiness Studio Update #1 on YouTube
- The Emptiness Studio Update #2 on YouTube
- The Emptiness Studio Update #3 on YouTube