On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax
On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax by Alesana
The debut album by Alesana is my first choice to review. I love this album I’ve heard it probably a thousand times, no exaggeration. No matter how many times I hear the album, I never tire of it. First of all, I’ll start with backstory on the band itself, then we’ll get to th actual album. :]
Alesana (pronounced Alice-Anna) formed in Raleigh, North Carolina with the band members; Shawn, Patrick, Dennis, Steven, and Daniel. Alesana was the first band to sign on with Tragic Hero Records in 2005. Later that year, Daniel was replaced with another member, Will, because of creative differences between he and Shawn.
By the time that production of “On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax” came along, Will was replaced as drummer as well by Jeremy and Adam was added to their line up. With this the band was complete and they released “On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax” in summer of 2006. Later that year they signed on with Fearless records, a more major label than their previous. Fearless re-released the album with a few bonus tracks (which will be included in the review 😀 ) and Steven left the band being replaced with Shane.
On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax
Even though I don’t normally do this, for this abum, I will go track by track simply because it’s too great not to. An important thing about this album, almost every song has a reference to mythology in some way. For example the title is derrived from the legend of Icarus and Deadelus.
This is the intro to the album, and also where the title is derrived from, the lyrics to it simply are “…black engulfs the dying light as he falls on frail wings of vanity and wax.. “ It’s obvious to me that refers to the myth of Icarus. Simple.
This is the second track off of the album and the only song officially released as a single, there is also a video of it if you would like to check it out. The lyrics of this song ellude to the myth of King Midas. For example, “once king of roses, now lord of gold/the Gods themselves envy my hand/blessed with the gift of gilded touch/fate wields its knife to cut the thread” obvious reference there to the King with the curse touch.
3. Pathetic, Ordinary
This song takes a lot of reading between the lines and stretching of myths in order to see the connection. At first glance, it’s about a man that longs for a women that either doesn’t know or simply doesn’t return his favor. Now applying that to mythology you end up with the myth of Hades who lusted for Perephone. In the myth it explained the Persephone’s abscence from the natural world caused autumn and winter, “I see her silhouette dance across landscapes of golden light and autumn” To me that sounds like it could mean that he sees Persephone, as she’s approaching the underworld and leaving the earth in a state of Autumn.
4. Alchemy Sounded Good at the Time
For this song I present to you, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. “My pale queen finally stands/To taste silent lips/Now cursed with her love/Cold flesh lends to me its secrets/Each day brings me closer to you/For a price too high/My tragic victory” This quote describes the climax of the myth, when Orpheus is allowed to retrieve Eurydice’s sould from the underworld and he i told not to look back until they are both safely. Being a fool, like most mythological heroes, he looks back and her soul is lost to him forever. That would be explained in the line “My tragic victory”.
5. Daggers Speak Louder Than Words
Not really a Greek myth but neither was Ambrosia. In fact this song isn’t based off of mythology at all, but Roman history. This song recounts the murder of Julius Ceasar. This, as well, is a stretching of the song and the story so that you can see the connection. “eyes open to splattered blood/cold tile mocks me as I arise to find the knife is still in my back” There you go, stabbing scene. “remembering times we have shared…my friend for life is gone/we’ll let the embers serve as the only memory of last days, so long ago/why would you leave me to die, turn, and walk away?/why would you leave me to die after you had buried the dagger hilt deep?” There lies another connection between the stoy and the song. In the story one of the ones who stabs Ceasar is his best frend Brutus. The only thing really that doesn’t fit the story is he fact that the speaker in the song is apparently still alive.
6. Last Three Letters
This is my favorite song off of the album. It tells the story of a myth not many are familiar with, Hero and Leander. “make it stop, make this pounding in my head stop/fill my lungs with air, give me one more day to make her dreams come true/she understands right? that I’m not coming back…/she understands right? that I’m not coming back…/make it stop, make the pounding stop/I’m not coming back, I’m not coming back, I’m not coming back…/I don’t know what happened…who would have thought my life would end up like this?/I didn’t mean to hurt her, not hurt her like this…I can’t feel my legs/I can’t feel my legs and I can’t even cry…how could somebody die like this?” That entire part right there describes perfectly the climax of the myth when Leander was on his way to see Hero again, and he meets a terrible fate.
Heh. Well here’s a break from mythology for you. This song cannot be connected to a myth. In fact there’s really barely any meaning to it in my opinion, the begining is about sex, and the entire song is just about someone wishing to be over another person, possibly someone who lied and cheated, not sure though. But what I am sure of, is this is an amazing song. It’s beautiful really.
8. Tilting The Hourglass
Well well well, you get a lucky break, two songs in a row without mythological referances. Interperate the song as you like, but I say that it’s about someone who may have been a part of a war, possibly an ancient Greek or Roman one, and he had a woman that would love him if he were to return a hero. Well I think he ended up getting wounded but not enough to kill him and he was to return to where he came from. If that happened she wouldn’t love him, so he was longing for death. “you take my breath away…/but Ill never again taste your lips/as fate keeps me locked away/I must close my eyes to see your face/emptiness has darkened my eyes/ as I hopelessly beg for my life to end/…tell my why…/my iron eyes tell the tale/heroes always pay in their blood/I can be only this” There’s my proof of argument. He won’t ever be able to kiss her again, or see her for that matter. He’s obviously begging for death. Far stretch, but there it is for you.
9. This Conversation Is Over
The myth I find a connection in this song to is, again, a bit of a stretch. This song, to me, connects with the myth of Echo and Narcissus. “Take everything away from me silent angel” Yup, Echo there. “your empty words now drift away as fragile whispers/I saw the day when the fire left your eyes, your tongue fell still/your treason is silence…” This again reminds me of Echo, she was punished by the gods for thinking herself more deserving, hence the silence that is her treason. Actually, when I look closer and closer at the song, all I see is Echo, the only signs of Narcissus are the arrogant remarks.
10. Congratulations, I Hate You
Haha.. ok when it comes to this song, I have absolutely nothing to say. I really don’t like it, or the lyrics. I mean there is nothing wrong with it as an Alesana song goes, but, yea it’s not me. Sorry it gets omitted from my mythological dissection. I suggest that you listen to it regardless though.
11. The Third Temptation of Paris
Alright this one is the Trojan War. Simple as that. Start to finish nearly, at least Paris’ part. He stole Helen and Menalaus was determined to get his bride back from Paris “She is cursed/and tonight we die” The theft of Helen started the war, and the Trojan did lose it. If you don’t know anything about the Trojan War, just read the lyrics to this song. :]
12. A Siren’s Soliloquy
Well the fact that Siren is in the title should be enough to tell you that this song is seething with mythology. Briefly put, this song has to do with The Odyssey. “beautiful whispers leave one so far/chain these hands of ageless struggle” Oddyseus had to be chained to the ship so that he didn’t go to the Sirens when they began to sing, his men had to save him from that fate. “set loose so long ago by the foolish whim of Pandora/phantoms which shall forever prey on mankind’s weakness/the grains of time hold no bearing to those eyes/in pale moonlight she sings to the haunted sea/vile notes seduce old Cerberus to slake unholy thirst/left behind to fight the ruthless pawns of Eris” A lot to decifer there. Ok for starters, Pandora released all of the evils into this world, that’s common knowledge as far as I know. The Sirens didn’t age, that way they could always be alluring to men at sea. They sang to lure men away from safety and allow them to meet their demise. The Siren’s could seduce anything, even Cerberus if they wanted, and they served Eris. The rest of the song also is filled with references, these were just my favorites.
13. Nero’s Decay
The final song on the album is about the fall of Rome. Nero was there when the Empire finally fell to the Vesigoths. “our empire has fallen/the columns came crashing down” The entire song talks about someone, Nero in this case, watching as Rome falls. You can feel the sorrow and despair in the lyrics.
14. Apology (acoustic)
This song still gets the same meaning I gave it when it wasn’t acoustic. It’s still about sex and wanting to be over someone, though it sounds a lot prettier when it’s acoustic, really gives Shawn a chance to shine.
15. Early Mourning
Simply put, a beautiful song. My absolute favorite. I hate to sound like an emo kid, but sometimes this song reminds me of the situation that I happen to be in, seperated from a lover and not knowing how to live. This song is amazing, but it’s really sad as well. Anyways, with that I conclude my review, giving Alesana’s On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax a 9.5/10