REVIEW: ASKING ALEXANDRIA – “Asking Alexandria”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Back on the digital airwaves with their signature brand of rock/metalcore stylings is Asking Alexandria with what could be their most important album to date being released on the heels of Ben Bruce’s foray into acting in Ash Avildsen’s cinematic venture, ‘American Satan’. Ben and the other actors did not play their own music in the film, opting to concentrate solely on their roles. So it’s no surprise that AA’s new music sounds little like what is portrayed on screen.
For pretty much their entire existence, Asking Alexandria has been both critically acclaimed and brutally panned by the general public. Fans of traditional rock tend to shy away from screeching vocals and blast beats. At the same time, traditional metal fans were put off by their pop metal sound, insisting that they weren’t true metal. Despite this tug-of-war, AA has carved out a niche following that has become huge over the years, likely inspiring many new bands that have come to exist over the past 8 years since their debut album dropped in 2009.
The next chapter of the book of Asking Alexandria is set to release in December, a self-titled 12-track opus of monumental proportion. It has everything one might expect from AA, thoughtful and deep lyrics, expertly produced vocals and stand-out musicianship. The album as a whole has a sort of subdued feel with low and slow vocals in places, accentuated by anthem-style choruses and frenzied solos. The album opens strong with “Alone in a Room”, a fantastic example of AA’s contemporary rock/metalcore sound with the addition of some acoustic elements and thoughtful lyrics, a staple of AA’s discography. “Into the Fire” is the first single released from the album so far which opens with a slightly odd vocal-esque “riff”, so to say, that repeats throughout.
This unique vocal element seems to somehow just not fit with the rest of the song which is another example of the overarching metalcore lean of this record. Continuing in the same vein is “Hopelessly Hopeful” which opens with an interesting sequence that sounds sort of like whale calls that, again, doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the song. Both pieces do even out and somehow balance the odd elements with enough finesse that the overall composition doesn’t really suffer. “Under Denver” has some subtle orchestral elements beneath a pulsating keyboard burst that’s slightly distracting. But, again, this doesn’t really detract from the song itself. “Eve” and “I Am the One” are the two heaviest songs on the record and “Empire” has a rap-style intro which can be slightly off-putting to the non-hip hop fans but is also an element that is very popular among the metalcore greats.
A lot of metal fans may disagree, but I think a standout track on this album is “Vultures”. It showcases a different aspect of the band with superb songwriting and arrangement. Danny Worsnop’s vocals are raw and passionate and accentuate the subdued feel of the song with power and force. The acoustic backdrop of Bruce and Cameron Liddell’s guitarwork is stunning behind Worsnop’s emotionally-charged vocal performance. It may not be a metal song by definition, or even a rock song, but it is definitely a shining star in this collection.
In all honesty, upon first listening to this album, I was completely convinced this was NOT Asking Alexandria‘s best work to date. The more I listened to it, the more I grew to appreciate and enjoy this collective effort. If it’s not their best work to date, it definitely rivals what could be considered their best work to date. A solid offering to say the least.