Review Summary: Refusing to move on and trying to recreate a past that was already bleak to begin with.
Asking Alexandria, a band known for their edgy, teen fanbase and screamo rebellion make a return after the departure of their frontman and vocalist, Danny Worsnop. The Black
is Asking Alexandria’s first album without Worsnop and with their newest vocalist, Dennis Stoff. It’s also the band’s first album following any major lineup change period. So understandably there's bound to be some sort of stylistic or musical change with the departure of such an important band member and Asking Alexandria use this entire album to talk about how they’re stronger than ever and that they are eager to start a new chapter with the band while they distance themselves from Worsnop and their past. But do they accomplish what they claim to be doing?
Well, for as much as Asking Alexandria talk about moving on from their previous singer, they spend a striking amount of time insulting and mocking Danny Worsnop on this album. In fact, a number of songs such as “Undivided”, “I Won’t Give In”, “We’ll Be Ok”, and “Circled by Wolves” are devoted to the subject of their old vocalist and in nearly all of theses cases they heavily try to paint him in a negative light. This is clearly evident in the lyrics of the aforementioned track “Circled By the Wolves”:
Step inside ***er
You're next mother***er and you'll see mother***er
You can't *** with me, you're long dead to me
Our fingers raised in the air, So can you hear me now?
Say my name.
No longer wasting my time.
Your words don't bother me.
I don’t care.
I've come so far, I won't turn away
Let go of the past and live for today
Oh God. I can't believe you thought we couldn't see
You wanted closure - now it's here for you,
That’s not the only case of them harping on their previous singer’s departure. In the track “Sometimes it Ends” an entire minute of the song's audio is taken from an interview of one of the guitarist as he talks about how pissed he is at their lost band member as he then quickly changes his tune to say, “We need to not focus on him and leave him in the past.”
Their immaturity and consistent indignant nature is easily noticeable in these instances. It’s a childish contradiction to wildly throw stones at someone when the entire topic they’re discussing is distancing themselves from the person they constantly bring up. If they truly cared about moving on from their old vocalist, they wouldn’t find the need to go on these idiotic rants about him. At it’s core this shows a basic lack of fundamentally sound artistry and songwriting. These are less songs and more of a child throwing tantrums.
On top of this, Asking Alexandria show a complete lack of progression musically as well. The Black
recycles nearly every trope the band has already bled dry from their previous albums. The band tries too hard to emulate the sounds of their first two records, Stand Up and Scream
and Reckless & Relentless
in an attempt to recapture their past and make some sort of statement to their old vocalist and their fans. They even go as low as to hamfist in certain references to their old music. “We’ll Be Ok” reuses riffs, structures and vocal melodies from their old track “To the Stage.” “Just a Slave to Rock and Roll” recycles guitar structures from the song, “Not The American Average” and shares the lyrical foundation of the song “Reckless and Relentless.” “Let it Sleep” is the equivalent in sound and concept of “Morte et Dabo.” “Send Me Home” has the exact same message and meaning as one of their last ballad songs “Someone, Somewhere.” “Circled By the Wolves” even opens up with a completely out of place riff that is taken from “To the Stage.” Asking Alexandria seems more content with re-releasing their old albums than they do anything else here. Nearly every song on this record has the same chugging guitars, the same growling screams, and the same awkward synth-interludes that have been present since their debut, and it doesn’t help that their new singer sounds remarkably similar to their old one. They don’t do anything new or different with their music and it’s blatantly obvious that this is their idea of giving a middle finger to their previous vocalist.
There were only two instances where a song on The Black
didn’t sound exactly like what they’ve done in the past, the track “Gone” and the title song “The Black.” “Gone” is a poignant piano ballad that is the most musically diverse song on the entire record. “The Black” is a heavy synth-core track that’s more akin to a Bring Me the Horizon song than anything the band has ever released, and it gives a bit of a refresher for the remainder of the album.
Despite this, Asking Alexandria spend a majority of the time on this album acting like a fickle teenager being forced out of a relationship that they refuse to let go of. This entire act of drama they’re putting on is a cheap perversion of what really matters: The music. Lyrically, musically and thematically the band seems to care more about sticking it to their old vocalist than they do creating genuine art.
as an album is best summed up as a mediocre band covering a band that wasn’t great in the first place. It’s an album that represents Asking Alexandria’s insecurities and symbolizes their inability to actually do something new and different with their music. Their old vocalist leaves, they replace him with someone who both sounds exactly like him and has a similar stage name. They say they want to move on, but instead they copy and paste their previous albums’ sounds onto this one. Asking Alexandria have every right to say whatever they want on the subject of their old vocalist. The problem with The Black
is that Asking Alexandria throw in lazy, contradicting songwriting, uninspired melodies and reuse every idea they’ve ever made under the guise of something new.