Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green on breaking their rules, guitar dynamics and the triumph of screamo

(Image credit: Vanessa Heins)

In the 13 years since Alexisonfire released their last full-length album, much has changed. Screamo has gone from being a punchline to a beloved nostalgic era, as evidenced by the huge crowds jamming into Emo Nights across the continent. 

But when it came time to get back in the studio, capping off a reunion that until now has generated just a handful of singles to go along with regular touring, capitalizing on nostalgia was the last thing the Canadian quintet had in mind. The result of those sessions, Otherness, is a moodier affair. 

As always, the band are relying on singer/guitarist Dallas Green’s angelic voice for the hooks, punctuated by the demonic screaming of George Pettit and gravelly whiskey-and-cigarettes tenor of Wade MacNeil. But the album relies less on the fleet-fingered riffing of past releases and more on delay-drenched atmospheric electric guitar lines to complement the trio of voices.

“The approach over the years has changed to allow everything to have its own space,” MacNeil says. “I think that’s really important. It’s more to benefit the song – and finding the most important part that we want people to hold onto.”

Green, whose folky side project City and Colour released several albums during AoF’s hiatus, had seen his own guitar playing undergo an evolution. As the band began work on Otherness, it was agreed that for the first time he and MacNeil would split guitar duties along more conventional roles than ever before.

“On this record, I really became the lead guitar player of the band, just in terms of the way we were doing songs and Dal and my respective interests in guitar playing,” Green says. “He was like, ‘What I really want to do is play rhythm guitar and sing.’ And my interest in guitar over the last few years has moved more toward that kind of stuff anyway.”

To that end, MacNeil spent the past few years throwing himself into the works of artists that are almost never connected to post-hardcore, namely the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. While that inspiration is more evident in his own side gig, the psychedelic Doom’s Children, Otherness does have its jammy moments, albeit ones cranked to 10.

“There are a few places where we go absolutely fucking crazy. I think it’s a nice sign of where Alexis is at in our songwriting, allowing stuff like that to creep in. This record, I think, shatters a lot of the old rules we had for ourselves for what the band can be, what kind of songs we were writing. I really feel we can do anything at this point, which is a very nice way to feel upon releasing a record.”

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Adam Kovac

Adam is a freelance writer whose work has appeared, aside from Guitar World, in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Esquire and VICE. He spent many years in bands you've never heard of before deciding to leave behind the financial uncertainty of rock'n roll for the lucrative life of journalism. He still finds time to recreate his dreams of stardom in his pop-punk tribute band, Finding Emo.