2009 Called: It wants its Emo back. Asking Alexandria have got it.
The phrase ‘only a mother could love’ can apply to so many different facets, someone’s personality, their face, their annoying habits and, in the case of Asking Alexandria’s fourth studio album The Black, their music.
Ok maybe I’ve started off this review a little too harshly but there really is nowhere else to go with the state of the British metalcore outfit. It’s not that the music is particularly bad; it’s just outdated, uneventful and stagnant. So it is a bit bad. Also, we can’t leave out the elephant in the room that is the ex-vocalist and the fact that this record DEFINITELY IS NOT ABOUT DANNY OUR EX FRONTMAN WHO WE MENTION IN EVERY INTERVIEW AND ALLUDE TOO THROUGHOUT THIS RECORD A LOT – BUT WE ARE SO OVER IT. Half this record is like listening to a fifteen-year-old with a fringe moan about the scene girl who left him and about how he is totally over her. Half of this record IS listening to a guy with a fringe talk about an ex, so make sure you listen to their feelings they might get upset.
Opener Sometimes It Ends pretty much sums up this aspect of the record, the song is dead average, nothing really to grab onto, its class AA down the middle, breakdown, synth, scream chorus scream bridge, textbook. It could probably slot nicely into their second album but any redeeming features are ruined by the inclusion of an audio sample featuring guitarist Ben Bruce talking about ex-singer Danny Worsnop (yeah they are over it though promise) and how he is ‘p***ed off’ with his once ‘best friend’. He rounds off this diatribe by saying that he doesn’t ‘want the record to be about Danny’. Wow. Every heard of the phrase ‘The lady doth protest too much?’ Yeah, it applies directly here. Single Undivided reeks of the same bitterness with Bruce calling an unknown figure a ‘self-righteous, sacrilegious f***ing c**t’.
Much of the rest of this album encompasses a reflection of an Asking Alexandria which many thought had been put to bed. Bands evolve and grow, metalcore bands, with their techno infusions, mass breakdowns and whiney choruses, tend to evolve fast. Asking… seem to have taken a step back in this regard. The Black really is an attempt to throwback to their 2009 beginnings and it shows. The mechanised drumming intro to Circled By Wolves is a little too reminiscent of their old single Not The American Average whilst Let It Sleep is just an attempt to reinterpret previous hit Breathless.
Whilst these tracks feel like a throwback devoid of progression, any attempts made to evolve there are marred by new singer Denis Stoff. Let’s be honest he’s an alright vocalist, he can put in a few decent screams, he can bang out a classic metalcore chorus but he is not a ballad singer. He doesn’t have the range or power for the slow, classic rock inspired Send Me Home and the effect is one of disappointed expectations. Similarly, the unexpected piano led, string infused grandeur of Gone is ruined by Bruce’s vocal attempts. Once again, he can hold a tune but he can’t hit a song with real intent, probably best to stick to that guitar mate. Sadly it must be said that both tracks could have been vastly enhanced with you-know-who Mr Worsnop’s voice.
The only progression that seems to have been pulled off with success is track Just A Slave To Rock N Roll, a riff inspired banger which combines speed and metalcore brutality with the licks of classic rock. It’s a song which picks up where previous record From Death To Destiny left off, unlike the rest of the record and it genuinely reflects a mantel of some musical flare. Singles The Black and I Won’t Give In are probably the only other highlights, neither are particularly special but one must appreciate the irresistible catchiness of both tracks, with The Black promising to be a sure fire crowd pleaser. Even if it is overdone on the delayed synths and – no Dom that’s enough now be nice.
All in all AA can do better, some diehard fans may see this as a positive return to their roots, I see it as an attempt to find a safe form of music and to avoid being tarnished with the shameful ‘sell out’ label.
Let’s hope they can find their courage next time.
In one line: You need Worsnop mate.
Best lyrics: ‘Bury me, just leave me to sleep in the dirt, Finish me, I’m floating away’ (from The Black)