Review Summary: Asking Alexandria's first album in their post-Danny Worsnop career is the best work the group has ever put forth.
When a familiar vocalist departs from his/her band, the general consensus is that the replacement will never be as good as whoever came before, and that stirs up more invocations of comparison than most would prefer. With this kind of standard, you could replace a singer with Jesus Christ, and fans of the former vocalist would still be dissatisfied. I don't think that will be the case with The Black
, the fourth full-length studio album from Yorkshire metalcore outfit Asking Alexandria, and more notably, their first without founding frontman Danny Worsnop. The question was could the group even continue, let alone make music that transcends the Asking Alexandria of old. The answer to both those questions is a resounding yes.
Leaning more towards their metalcore roots, The Black
has a head of steam from the opening seconds onward. Former Make Me Famous vocalist and guitarist Denis Shaforostov is making his recorded debut here, and he proves not only can he hang with Worsnop with both cleans and uncleans, he can even surpass the 'standard' (for lack of a better word) that Worsnop left behind. Shaforostov's uncleans are vicious, particularly on opening track 'Let it Sleep' and his ascending cleans are on full display on the title track. While the veteran instrumentalists behind Shaforostov are very much so playing metalcore, there are traces of other influence. The chorus on the title track sounds eerily similar to what you would hear on Bring Me the Horizon's 2013 album Sempiternal
. Shaforostov's exacting uncleans carry the verses and his superb cleans carry the choruses, as the song ends with a graceful piano respite.
Single 'I Won't Give In', the first taste listeners got of the new look Asking Alexandria, is a middle of the road track. Standard metalcore conventions are pretty prosaic here, but the execution is solid, and it's hard to argue with that. Not only is Danny Worsnop hinted at, his name is invoked to start 'Sometimes it Ends', as lead guitarist Ben Bruce discusses the musical input he gave to this record, before the actual song begins. Staying congruous with earlier tracks, we see a screamed verse, sung chorus pattern that once again is effectuated with great results. 'Send Me Home' opens with a mellifluous riff and Shaforostov's cordial performance with clean vocals. 'Here I Am' opens in somewhat similar fashion. One of just four songs off The Black
to not feature explicit lyricism, it opens with some resonant lyrical content ("I'm unashamed of my mistakes/I walked the path I had to take"), and Shaforostov does more wailing in the choruses. Furthermore, 'Here I Am' is probably my least favorite track off of this record, but the rest of the album collectively is nothing short of impressive.
Asking Alexandria's recorded debut without Danny Worsnop actually turns out to be better than anything Worsnop put out during his tenure with the group. The album sees a new vocalist conjure up the older roots of a group onced plagued by typical metalcore conventions holding them back. Now they've branched out, in more ways than one, and the end result is a very cohesive record. The bedrock and even the highlight of this record is Shaforostov's performance behind the microphone. Rather than trying to mirror or channel his predecessor, he sees fit to outstrip Worsnop, and because of it, he should soon be fully embraced as this group's future, by fans and detractors alike. In summation, The Black
is the best work of Asking Alexandria's career, and in retrospect, it's not that surprising.