Review Summary: Stand up (you look like a crab when you do that) and scream (a lot better than before).
Let’s go back one year from today. I was in my junior year of high school, in the height of my “scene” music craze, listening to every breakdown band I could get my hands on. I would play Asking Alexandria’s debut album, Stand Up and Scream
, several times a week, and rave to all of my friends about their synth-oriented br00tal-ness. One year later, looking back and feeling like an idiot, I come across their latest release, Reckless and Relentless
, and in my newfound elitism and hypocrisy, I decide to check it out. As it turns out, Asking Alexandria managed to abandon a good portion of the gimmicks and monotony that held them back on their debut LP.
The album opens as one would expect, with a faux-orchestra and some synthesized drumming, but as opposed to their previous album opener, Alerion
, the explosion into screamed vocals is immediately grabbing. So with the intro track, Welcome
, down, I already had relatively high hopes for the rest of the album. There was some screaming about AA being “back again” which could have been spared, but on the bright side, that’s one track down without any forced breakdowns. The next track, Dear Insanity
, continues to impress. Although it appears at first to have the typical screamed verse-clean chorus song structure, there is a cleverly placed interlude as well as a much less obvious breakdown than the band is used to, and Danny’s layered screams make it work quite well.
The album has more than a few standout points, the most noticeable of which being Someone, Somewhere
, described by guitarist Ben Bruce as “A straightforward slab of radio rock that’s free of breakdowns, screaming and synth breaks” (AP Mag Interview). The song, although holding on to the power chord chugging that AA is known for, highlights Danny’s cleans and features an old-school guitar solo complete with wah-wah, which is, admittedly unimpressive, but ends up working well. The chorus in the fourth track, A Lesson Never Learned
is another highlight of the album, where Danny’s cleans are backed by a very uplifting synth section and some “whoa-ohs”. The Match
is another track that stood out with a chugging breakdown reminiscent of something Counterparts would do, complete with artificial harmonics.
However, after positive moments like these, AA always seems to resort to the clichés that plague them. Several tracks, The Match
included, are well on their way to being completely solid, but randomly transition (if you could call it a transition) into synth breaks that simply have no place. Closure
, for example, after a very above-average breakdown (for AA’s standards), returns to a synth section with a techno lead, that eventually builds up into a poppy, melodic chorus. It’s a shame to see the band, who appear to be on to something, throw it all away for decisions like these.
If Asking Alexandria can, in the future, avoid the boring structure of songs like Breathless
, and steer clear of cheesy, transition-less synth breaks and continue to improve on the positive aspects, such as Danny’s vastly improved high screams (e.g. Morte et Dabo
), they are well on their way to breaking free of the scenecore label and regaining respect in the metalcore community. Reckless and Relentless
is one huge step in the right direction, with a couple baby steps back along the way.