Unpopular opinion time – From Death To Destiny was the best Asking Alexandria album. It saw them ditch their formerly generic electronicore sound for something much more in line with driving US radio metal, all tied together thanks to Danny Worsnop’s inimitable vocals. But now that Danny has left to fully embrace his love of rock ‘n’ roll with We Are Harlot, it seems as though all that character has been drained from Asking Alexandria’s sound, as fourth album The Black sees them revert back to another face in an ever-expanding crowd.
The Black is a gigantic step back for Asking Alexandria. For some reason, instead of progressing with From Death To Destiny‘s exciting, different sound, this is an extremely unwelcome return to metalcore’s most homogeneous form, all put together without a hair out of place. Joey Sturgis’s typical colourless production may make it all listenable, but it’s the actual music that sends it plummeting down.
Most of The Black is essentially a laundry list of every misused trope in the modern metalcore rulebook. Opener Let It Sleep and Sometimes It Ends chuck in more or less the exact same scream-electronics-breakdown formula that has been done to absolute death, and We’ll Be OK somehow gets through three-quarters of a track’s worth of genericness (especially in its horrible glitchy breakdown) before the bizarre decision to break into a power ballad. New vocalist Denis Stoff is at least somewhat of a saving grace – he’s undoubtedly a fantastic vocalist, and his knack for melody really shines through in the choruses of Send Me Home and the title track. But even his contributions aren’t enough to save The Black from sinking into its quagmire of plainness, and as great as he is, there’s more than a streak of a lot of other vocalists in the same scene in his vocals, only furthering the prospect of interchangeability that this album has cemented Asking Alexandria in.
It’s also worth bringing up the lyrics on this album as well, a large chunk of which (even though guitarist Ben Bruce claims they’re not in the vocal sample that opens Sometimes It Ends) seem to be about Danny Worsnop. It’s easy to think that, given that the likes of I Won’t Give In and Undivided outright state that “I gave you everything / I never thought we would end up like this” and make reference to a “self-righteous, sacrilegious fucking cunt” respectively. Petty, maybe, but at least the latter has some sort of bile and fury in its delivery – more than can be said for the others. For an album that relies as heavily on clichés this, and for a topic as overused in metalcore as a typical “fuck you” track, they feel flat, and overshadowed by the general dullness of the rest of the album. And even with there being an actual, tangible quality to the subject matter, that’s hardly a good sign.
But for everywhere that it falls down, The Black definitely has its moments of quality. The Lost Souls gravitates towards symphonic rock and Danny Elfman-style theatrics for a truly interesting, truly great track, while the aforementioned Undivided feels genuinely furious in the way it rages along with its savage broadsides. And in a way, that’s the worst thing about The Black – it shows that Asking Alexandria can still be a great band, but they’re so reluctant to show it, and The Black overall feels like an exercise in playing it safe. And it’s in that sense that this could easily be Asking Alexandria’s worst album. On their first two albums (less the second but it’s still there), such a generic standpoint could be forgiven, but at this point, Asking Alexandria are four albums deep, and making metalcore as bland and uninteresting as this is just inexcusable. The diehards and those who were lost by From Death To Destiny‘s more mature, organic fare will undoubtedly find a lot to love here, but at the end of the day, The Black feels like an album designed to appease those exact people in particular. And really, doesn’t that just say it all?
For fans of: Memphis May Fire, The Amity Affliction, blessthefall
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Black’ by Asking Alexandria is out now on Sumerian Records.