Review Summary: Unlike some of their peers, Asking Alexandria decides to mostly stick to their heavier roots, and it works out well for them.
Asking Alexandria has had a bit of an interesting career. They started off as sort of a twin to Attack Attack and The Devil Wears Prada, then graduated to a colossal assault of metalcore on their second album before scaling back the aggressiveness on their third album for a sort-of-hard-rock-but-still-metal sound--and also upping the maturity on the lyrics, a relief for many. And then their singer left, which made me wonder if this band would survive such a huge change.
I still wasn't exactly impressed when the first song with their new singer Denis Stoff came out ("I Won't Give In"). It's a song I've heard too many times--both literally and figuratively. It was overplayed on rock radio, and it's such a formulaic and cliched song lyrically and musically that so many metal bands have done in the last two years (Of Mice & Men, primarily). So up until more recently when more singles started getting released, my expectations were very low.
But now that I've heard the whole album, I must admit that I'm pleasantly surprised with the final result. For this album, they mostly go back to their metalcore sound (closer to Reckless & Relentless than anything); songs like "Let It Sleep," "The Black," "Sometimes It Ends," "We'll Be OK," and "Undivided" are typical AA heavy metal fare. For the most part, the sound of From Death to Destiny has been abandoned; very occasionally some hints creep in, but are really only noticeable if you're looking for them. As for Denis Stoff himself, he's actually a very good lead vocalist with quite a bit of range on both singing and screaming. He can go from super high-pitched cleans ("Send Me Home") to lower-pitched demonic screams/growls ("Let It Sleep").
There are quite a few good songs on this album. The first two songs on the album are some of the best the album has to offer; "Let It Sleep" brings back the heaviness of "Morte et Dabo," while "The Black" offers Denis a chance to showcase his screams and singing behind heavy verses, a strong chorus and a surprisingly amazing softer climax. "Lost Souls" is another album highlight, carrying a very creepy tone and good vocals from Denis behind it. "Just a Slave to Rock N' Roll" has rather ridiculous lyrics, but has a strong rhythm (even carrying some cowbell) and heavy enough music that it's easily overlooked. "Sometimes It Ends" and "Circled By the Wolves" aren't particularly anything new, but they showcase AA excelling at colossal metalcore, so they're also highlights.
The album still has its moments that don't hold up as well. Unfortunately, AA decides to experiment around a bit with rock ballads a couple times. "I Won't Give In" was already mentioned; there's also "Here I Am," which is okay at first but then runs out of steam by the end; then there's "Send Me Home," which is a misguided attempt at being a sentimental ready-for-radio song, but falls flat on its face. (The piano-driven "Gone" is much better.) Other problems revolve around the lyrics, which had actually matured on their last album with Danny Worsnop, but now have regressed again on this album. Some songs fare better than others ("The Black" is fine on the lyrical front), but some songs like "Just a Slave to Rock N' Roll" and "Undivided" (a clear diss song to Worsnop) are rather ridiculous. "We'll Be OK" even contains a random interjection of "Oh no!" before its second verse, which left me pretty speechless in a bad way.
Whatever problems the album may have, though, are mostly outweighed by the positives. While the lyrics are sometimes poor, the music makes up for it; this is for the most part a strongly-produced fun heavy metalcore album which is a refreshing thing in a time where all the metal bands are moving away from the actual "metal" of their sound. A couple bands actually pulled it off alright, but hearing every band do it gets annoying, and I am glad to hear at least one band go back to their heavier roots.
Song Highlights: "The Black," "Let It Sleep," "Lost Souls," "Sometimes It Ends," "Circled By the Wolves"