Release date: June 8, 2004 | Distort Entertainment | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Alongside nu-metal, post-hardcore was *the* dominant force in guitar-driven music in the early ’00s. Many of the flagship bands are still trudging along or, after having broken up along the way, are now getting back together, so it’s an exciting time to look back at the achoevements of that emotionaly charged scene.

Among the big, household names from back in the day, you can’t deny the claim to fame Alexisonfire have. They’re arguably one of the key acts to emerge from post-hardcore this side of the new millenium, and their sophomore release Watch Out! a beloved touchstone and early career masterpiece.

Adam Parshall Terry

Twenty years ago Alexisonfire were edgy, hard-hitting, and profound. The band was at the peak of a rising wave of Warped Tour Hot Topic mallcore. Looking back now they owed as much to rock and pop as they did to punk. Watch Out! shares just as much DNA with power pop and grunge as it does with post-hardcore.

A diverse mixture of genre influences, emotion you can feel in your heart, and passion that resonates in your bones gives the album a staying power that has been as lasting as its legacy. Alexisonfire sets the tone right out of the gates. “Accidents” has to be one of the all-time great openers. A dramatic guitar riff and drum fill ushers in AFI-like chants of ‘woah woah woah’ with the spellbindingly eternal line ‘We wouldn’t need to be hooked up to these machines’.

By softening the rough edges and raw production of their self-titled album they allowed Dallas Green‘s vocals to truly shine, while maintaining a core heaviness that would be lost on later albums. With a delicate balance of elements Watch Out! hits the sweet spot. His cleans are especially highlighted on “No Transitory” (‘If everything goes wrong / If it’s one more endless night / You know there’s always tomorrow / and tomorrow and tomorrow…‘), “Control” (‘You say that you’re in control / You say that you are / I can’t think of a time / When you looked less alive’), and “That Girl Possessed” (‘We won’t forget you!’).

My all-time favorite Alexisonfire songs have always been “Counterparts and Number Them” from their self-titled album and “This Could Be Anywhere in the World” off of Crisis. But a very close runner-up is “Happiness By the Kilowatt” the epic closer to Watch Out!. The song is essentially a piano-driven rock ballad about suffering and false happiness backed by a pulsing almost wave-like drum beat.

A core memory of mine from high school took place shortly after this record came out and the band was blowing up in popularity. We were laughing amidst a heated debate over whether the band was called ‘Alexis on fire’ or ‘Alex is on fire’ when someone interrupted saying, ‘Hey! That’s not funny dude, Alex died!’ For a silent moment we all stared at each other in shocked disbelief before breaking into another round of laughter.

Beyond sounding significantly better, seriously the difference in production on this record is night and day compared to their self-titled. Watch Out! departs slightly musically as well. They were much more interested in exploring melodic landscapes and ethereal sounds than simply jamming together chaotic guitar and drum barrages. The band explained that they were listening to a lot of ambient and post-rock at the time, bands like The Appleseed Cast and Mogwai. Instrumental bits continually creep into screamo and post-hardcore records playing on a quiet/loud dynamic that dramatically builds and releases tension.

However the real sonic evolution was in perfecting the dynamics between George Pettit’s screams and Dallas Green’s singing. This would become not only Alexisonfire’s defining sound, but also the inspiration for countless bands. Watch Out! was the album that launched a thousand post-hardcore ships. Admittedly some for better and some for worse, but there’s no denying the album’s lasting impact. To this day George’s sludgy distorted screams and Dallas’s angelic cleans remain iconic and instantly recognizable.

With Watch Out! Alexisonfire matured a bit while maintaining their youthful energy and enthusiasm. They polished their sound and kept the aggression intact. Even after exploring alternative soundscapes they remained catchy and danceable. So while my favorite individual Alexisonfire tracks might be from other records my favorite album of theirs overall has been and remains Watch Out!. ‘Maybe the music isn’t dead, maybe we all just forgot what it fucking sounded like.

Paul Williams

When I was a just a wee music loving boy I was desperate for new music. Outside of going through friends’ parent’s CD collections or religiously watching Headbanger’s Ball, there weren’t many other ways for me to come across new bands. However, one of the other main ways was hoping that a family friend would bring me a metal magazine from the UK for me to devour.

Now Metal Hammer, in particular, was a special magazine back in the day. That’s how I delved further into heavier music. What was really great though was the free CD that would include around 20 songs on it, all new music.

My initial introduction to Alexisonfire was through one of these CDs. They had just come out with Crisis and the single “Boiled Frogs” was my first experience of their emotion-ridden post-hardcore. I don’t think I’d even been introduced to hardcore at that point in my musical life so it was an intense and interesting experience. I replayed that song over and over again. It was so rough and aggressive but super high energy.

I quickly found a chance to head to a local internet cafe to sail the open seas and get my fill of Alexisonfire booty from the Ocean of Limewire. I remember quite vividly not being able to get a full album download and having to just grab a bunch of songs randomly over a couple of visits. All this being said, that was my first experience of Watch Out! — sporadically finding, downloading, and listening to random songs. All out of order and likely over a two-week time period.

All of this came flooding back to me during the re-listening of Watch Out!. It’s been years since I’ve revisited it and I’m happy that, for me at least, it just gives and gives and gives. It’s a rollercoaster of a musical journey and one that I was happy to explore again with fresh ears.

Ultimately, what is so appealing about Watch Out! is that it was created by a band who were so obviously passionate about doing things their own way and were lucky enough to have the right amount of talent, musicianship, and energy to put out a record that brought dramatics and emotion into play. Alexisonfire were still really rugged on their sophomore album, but they had a sound figured out. It’s all a great balancing act of emotive, melodious clean sections and furious hardcore that drips with passion.

With Watch Out! the band created more room for Dallas Green to let his lovely voice fly high which was, ultimately, a game changer for the group in regards to filling out their sound and becoming the Alexisonfire we all know and love. George Pettit, who in my opinion has some of the most recognisable screamed vocals around, is still around in abundance, but his performance helps punctuate Green’s gentle delivery.

From opening track “Accidents” it’s easy to see why many, I amongst them, fucking love this album. Within the first minute you get both a cool, little intro that is instantly memorable, and then just kickass, fast paced riffing backed-up by solid punky drums. This whole song showed the band wanted to do something different and not stay within the shouty, angsty box that they were in. That box is boring and smells funny.

Further into the album, we have “Side Walks When She Walks”, which at the time this came out, was the most un-Alexisonfire song the band could have written, At this point though it’s pretty much what you would expect of them. The band have mentioned that they were listening to a lot of Mogwai and ambient rock, and you can really hear it in those moments between the chorus and verses which the band comfortably fills with droning chords and twinkly strings.

While I could probably talk about every song on this album with great zeal, my favourite has always been “Sharks and Danger”. Funnily enough, I found it to be filler when I first started listening to this album but over time it really started to stick with me. From opening the song with a call to St. Catherine’s psychiatric hospital, through to the first soothing yet melancholic verse sung by Green, and Pettit’s ravenous and bitter delivery of ‘Anxiety chokes me like razor wire‘ at the end. Everything about this song is just so well balanced and is a great example of Alexisonfire’s ability to craft truly memorable songs with great feeling.

Really, this has been one of the funnest walks down memory lane that I’ve had in a while. Alexisonfire didn’t do it for me with many of their releases, especially more recent ones and that’s okay. They gave me some brilliant times as a teenager who was a bit of a loner and spoke to me in a way that not many other bands did at the time. With that said, I’m going to play this album one last time, dig my skateboard out of storage, and cruise the streets. Let’s hope it doesn’t end with me being beat up by youths for looking like a narc.

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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