Review Summary: Below The American Average.
I could begin this review with a long rant about Asking Alexandria’s career and discography, but to be entirely honest, that just isn’t necessary. All you really need to know is that they went from being a bizarre, “crabcore” band in the vein of Attack! Attack! (Stand Up and Scream
) to a generic Bullet For My Valentine clone (Reckless and Relentless
) to a slightly less generic BFMV clone (From Death to Destiny
). Then, their vocalist Danny Worsnop ended up ditching the band for a different project, leading them to pick up Denis Stoff as their replacement. Now, in 2016, Asking Alexandria have released their first full-length LP since Worsnop’s departure, titled The Black
, and it ultimately ends up being an average metalcore album from an average band.
Kicking off with “Let It Sleep”, we have all the basic components that go into Asking Alexandria’s songwriting process: perpetually chugging guitars, a ludicrous amount of vocal layering for both harsh and clean singing, very out-of-place electronic elements thrown in, and of course, breakdowns galore. “The Black” and “I Won’t Give In” are significant improvements despite the heavily simplified guitarwork, mostly because Denis Stoff’s clean vocals actually stand out in the choruses, and the band tries to become a bit more subtle by adding in a decent piano melody towards the end of the former track. In general, Denis Stoff’s vocals are fine for what they are, but the ear-grating amount of gang vocals combined with these annoying “stutters” that get shoved in throughout the music get very tiring very quickly. The production has marginally improved here from the compressed sound of From Death to Destiny
, but the mixing feels off due to the irritating amount of vocal layering that takes precedence throughout. Predictably, Ben Bruce’s guitar compositions are more or less identical to those from basically any Asking Alexandria album post-Stand Up and Scream
, with the same repetitive, stripped-down melodic death metal-influenced riffs being grinded in alongside a myriad of chugged breakdowns. With all that being said, the slower, less heavy tracks such as “Here I Am” and “Gone” are actually quite pleasant to listen to, with the piano dominating the latter song for maximum effect.
The main problem with The Black
is Asking Alexandria’s unwillingness to take risks and go for something substantially different. For all their faults, all three of the band’s previous albums were recognizable and stood out in some way. Here, you have songs like “The Lost Souls”, which sounds like a poor man’s Avenged Sevenfold, and “Send Me Home”, which feels like a rehash of “Someone, Somewhere”. There’s almost nothing here that distinguishes the music from something that you’d hear off of an album by Bring Me The Horizon or Crown the Empire, and that ends up seriously hurting the album in the long run.
Asking Alexandria have always been a pretty controversial band in the metalcore scene, and that isn’t bound to change anytime soon. However, The Black
feels like a hugely missed opportunity for the band to move forward and at least try to break the mold that’s been holding them in for so long. Instead, there’s a decent but ultimately unfulfilling album that serves as a final middle finger to their previous vocalist for running out on the band. On the bright side, though, it’s still light years ahead of whatever the hell it is that Danny Worsnop’s been working on for the past year.