Concept albums: I have to admit they are, by far, my favorite albums to write about. If done correctly, a concept album can wrap you in the story woven by the artists, both musically and lyrically. What’s more… concepts that span several albums are even more fun because you get to the end of the first chapter, having all of these thoughts of what could happen next and it makes you excited when some of those thoughts come to life. Raleigh, NC’s self-proclaimed “Sweetcore” band, Alesana has created one of the most immersive, beautiful and deranged stories in musical history, starting with 2010’s The Emptiness, continuing on with 2011’s A Place Where the Sun is Silent and recently concluded with this year’s Confessions. In it, we were introduced to a character by the name of Annabel who, it seemed, was “The Artist’s” one true love… only to find a major plot twist by the end of it all. The band has referenced different mythological concepts with past albums, but these albums are the first to centralize on linked thematic elements. Confessions is an emotional roller-coaster with twists and turns around every corner… but how does the ending to this phenomenal trilogy fair against its predecessors?
Confessions was inspired thematically by a series of books called The Time Quintet, written by Madeline L’engle. If you lost hope after hearing, A Place Where the Sun is Silent was released (as many, for whatever reason, seemed to)… you’ll be plenty surprised by the incredible display you hear throughout this record. This album took the better part of 3 years for the band to finish, releasing an EP titled Decade and recording their first-ever live album in the midst of it all. Every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that was poured into the creation of this incredible opus shows in full force. As “It Was A Dark and Stormy Night” begins, we automatically learn that the world we’ve learned of through the Annabel Trilogy was just a figment of “The Artist’s” imagination. This is, by far, the most theatrical of their releases and shows an entirely new side of the band… showcasing both what we’ve loved about them and some new elements along the way. Maturity is definitely a theme in both the lyrical content and the instrumental portions of this album, as the band has created their best work yet. This sextet takes pride in everything that they do and it clearly shows throughout anything they release, whether it be a music video, a single or an entire album/EP… they strive for nothing but the best for their fans. Confessions is a musical & lyrical culmination of everything you’ve loved about the Annabel Trilogy previously, violence, destruction, utter confusion, complete chaos… it’s all here in spades. Fans were first introduced to this thrilling conclusion with the first single, “Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen” in which we begin to learn just how connected Annabel and “The Artist” are, citing the lyrics “Panic sets in as I start to question, why I see you standing there beyond the glass”. The biggest element of this album is time travel… and it begins to come into play with “Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen”. “Who said that we never would touch the speed of light? So far behind me, understanding. Stars become rivers flowing backwards, when did my heartbeat start to echo?” As our main character begins to travel backwards in time, replaying the seemingly real events that have taken place throughout the story, the biggest plot twist in the story is quickly approaching. As this chapter in the story continues, we see our main character begin to fight with reality, being driven absolutely mad by the things that he’s known all along. Traveling back in time, he begins to see all of the things that he’s done… all of the things that his world has created and he fights as hard as he can, screaming… but imprisoned in a wall of spacetime, doomed to relive what he’s done until he gets to his destination.
It isn’t until we get to “The Puppeteer” that we begin to learn the horrible truth, as “a mountain of filth, haunted by tortured shrieks of the dead” stares our main character in the face as he arrives at the end of his journey through time. We hear a gut-wrenching scream of “I WELCOME YOU TO PARADISE” which, admittedly, is one of my favorite points in the album. “Why?”, you may ask? Simple: What do you think of when you hear the word “paradise”? It’s usually going to have something to do with something peaceful, absolutely mind-blowing and indescribable in the best of ways, right? Well, this is the “paradise” of “The Murderer”… who, we learned in The Emptiness went on a killing spree, leaving everyone in his path to perish by his hands. This is the point where justice is served, he’s forced to relive those horrified screams, the horrified, mangled expressions on each and every one of his victims’ faces. The ultimate case of karma.
“Fatal Optimist” begins to unravel the biggest plot twist of the story… something that, for most, was probably a lurking feeling throughout the trilogy. As we get to the end of this track, we’re met with a female, spoken-word part that is as follows:
“I don’t know if I’m praying,
I don’t know if I’m begging
But I have to believe that someone, something out there can hear me
I have to know that there is a chance
I have to believe that I might escape this hell
I fear I’ve lost myself and I don’t know the way back the way back to what I once was
Am I Fatima? Am I Rusalka? Or am I just me? Sweet, innocent Annabel.”
You will find your mind begin to piece things together… but there is still a doubt in your mind, as “The Artist” and Annabel embrace in a war waged within themselves. Fighting harder than ever to accept the reality of their situation…
“The Martyr” sees “The Murderer” and Annabel conversing back and forth. While “The Murderer” wants to watch Annabel seduce and destroy “The Artist”, she begins to realize what she’s done and is fighting her hardest, telling “The Artist” “Don’t fall for me!”, warning him of his impending doom… should he accept her lustful offer. In the chorus of this chapter, we begin to put together the final pieces of the story “I think I like the fight, Wrong feels so right, baby! I’m flirting with lunacy, Nothing can stop me and my sinful obsession”. Have you figured it out yet? Even if you have, read on to enlighten yourself.
“Paradox” comes in and we see “Fatima”, the goddess of light slowly give into the evil… becoming “Rusalka”, a demon of night… destroying everything in her path (much like The Murderer). “The author lost his way again and he forgot to write the end…” what do you think this means? It means that “The Artist” has realized something… no longer writing the story, instead letting his imagination take over and enveloping himself in the world he has created… making his fantasies become reality. “The story is ending…” The plot thickens as we’re met with another spoken-word part at the end of this track:
“The night that I died I had become Rusalka. I was no longer me. I was no longer Annabel. The beautiful evil coursed through my veins and I saw so clearly what needed to be done. As you lay, fast asleep, I penned her farewell and kissed your cheek. The knife felt so light in my hand, so heavy in my stomach. There is something about this room…”
As “Through the Eyes of Uriel” fades away, where Annabel continuously fights to keep “The Artist” with her… the final chapter “Catharsis” begins.
Met with the lurking ticking of the clock that we first heard in “Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen”… the final chapter of this phenomenal trilogy begins. Let’s begin with the lyrics “I am the emptiness, our love will nevermore attach your soul to mine”… throughout this story, you can clearly pinpoint every single reference to the bone-chilling “Tell-tale Heart”, written by Edgar Allen Poe. This is our first confession, this world was created by The Emptiness within Annabel… the longing that she possessed for a love she’d never have. A Place Where the Sun is Silent sees many points where Annabel is sitting, alone on an island, reflecting at everything she’s done… peaceful in her endeavors. As the spine-tingling whisper of “You can’t be me! I can’t be you!” rings in… the biggest plot is finally revealed. Throughout this deranged, beautifully orchestrated tale…. Annabel created/was each and every character in this twisted tale… starting with “The Artist” and ending with “Fatima and Rusalka”… each of these characters was a reflection of the stages of feeling she experienced throughout The Emptiness as she sat there and let her imagination drive her insane, leading to her inevitable end.
So, there you have it… one of the most hauntingly beautiful, destructive, fun and twisted tales in musical history has come to an end. It’s a bittersweet feeling because, as man does, we began to embrace the chaos within these pages. Did you become as addicted as I did to these albums? Did you find yourself going back and replaying your favorite chapters? The best part of these albums is that, while telling a story, they found a way to relate the lyrics to the listener, in one way or another. There’s something for each and every fan to take away from this tale… as you await the full story to be posted here, be sure to go pick up each part of the Annabel Trilogy, celebrate the ending of an incredible part of Alesana’s history by picking up Confessions, out on Revival Recordings now!
Confessions (Official Album Stream)
Catch the guys on their “Confessions” tour:
Read my interview with Shawn Milke & Dennis Lee here
Check out my review of the 4/22 date of the “Confessions” tour here
Dennis Lee – Vocals
Shawn Milke – Vocals/Guitar/Piano
Patrick Thompson – Guitar
Jake Campbell – Guitar
Shane Crump – Bass
Jeremy Bryan – Drums