It’s been said many times before that most of the very best acts in rock music have found fame in part thanks to certain musical pairings within their lineups that bring out the best in them – the ROLLING STONES have Jagger and Richards, GUNS N’ ROSES have Axl and Slash, and since their inception, British metalcore titans ASKING ALEXANDRIA had Danny Worsnop and Ben Bruce until the sudden departure of the former in January 2015. The rest of the band soldiered on, creating solid-if-not-hugely-memorable fourth album The Black with Ukrainian vocalist Denis Stoff, but the magic wasn’t fully there anymore. Needless to say then, fans were ecstatic when it emerged in mid-October of 2016 that Worsnop had returned to the fold and the band were setting about creating new music – a collection of songs that would come to be revealed as their self-titled fifth record.
What quickly becomes apparent from listening to the record is that ASKING ALEXANDRIA‘s self-titled affair is quite the departure from the heavy-as-balls metalcore that its’ members made their name with. In much a similar way as fellow Brits BRING ME THE HORIZON seemed to veer away from metal and explore a far more electronic-tinged and straight-up rock sound with flourishes of pop on 2015’s That’s The Spirit, so too have ASKING ALEXANDRIA looked to explore more diverse territories. Opener Alone In A Room highlights this new approach well, opening with a stadium-sized riff and blasts of synth, before giving way to Worsnop crooning across a minimal electronic riff. It’s a fairly strong opening salvo, and one that’s fairly indicative of the kind of sound the band have generally strived to create across the record’s twelve cuts. Where Did It Go?, for example, takes a similar approach and melds melodic almost-pop sounding verses underpinned by electronics to a massively anthemic chorus that gives guitarists Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell chance to channel some real 80s style arena rock. Elsewhere, Vultures sees Worsnop take centre-stage for an acoustic ballad that not only harks slightly back in part to what fans heard on his solo album The Long Road Home earlier this year, but also proves one of the emotional peaks of the entire record.
That’s not to say the band have completely abandoned their metalcore roots however – tracks like Rise Up and Eve in particular providing flourishes of meaty riffing tucked in amongst all of the towering electronics and massive choruses. On the whole though, this is very much a big stadium-rock album in terms of sonics, and when the experimentation works, it’s simply a joy. Admittedly, not everything ASKING ALEXANDRIA try lands with the greatest of impacts; in particular, their foray into mixing rock with rap on Empire (featuring guest vocals from rapper BINGX) doesn’t exactly really work that well, but it’s by no means bad enough to write off everything else on offer here.
For hardcore fans of ASKING ALEXANDRIA who were hoping to find a straight continuation from the band’s previous efforts with Worsnop, this might not be exactly what they’d hoped for. Those willing to deal with the divergence in tone however, will find quickly that this newly-reinvigorated ASKING ALEXANDRIA still more than possess the ability to create songs capable of conquering the biggest of venues, and appear to be more keen to do so than ever before. It’ll be a hugely exciting prospect to see just how far they can get along that journey with this album, and if the quality of this record is anything to go by, we can more than likely expect to see ASKING ALEXANDRIA aiming for the crown of British metal bands once more before long.
Asking Alexandria is set for release on December 15th via Sumerian Records.
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