There’s no real logic behind how Asking Alexandria have managed to stay this big for this long, given that the timeframe of their career doesn’t make all that much sense. It’s still up for debate when the exact moment was that they transitioned from scenecore forerunners to modern metal mainstays, but it just kind of happened, and the brief period in which Denis Stoff replaced Danny Worsnop as frontman barely seems like it was ever a thing nowadays. Indeed, a good portion of that can be attributed to how haphazard their musical output has been, and how it’s never felt in service to a wider career arc. From Death To Destiny remains their best album but that’s still wildly uneven, and while Reckless & Relentless is arguably their signature, the exact same thing can be said about that. Even going as far as 2017’s self-titled album, supposedly designed as a reaffirmation of strength with Worsnop back in the band, that’s barely a blip on the radar now because of how fragmented it was, and not helped by a mid-December release date. It doesn’t look to be improving with Like A House On Fire either; there’s been next to no excitement for it with its release just effectively coming around as if it was nothing, and a rather poor reception to the singles has only seen the rubberbanding qualities of Asking Alexandria tested once again. It’s the sort of sign that’s directly indicative of a band really running on fumes, and while that could be said for a fairly solid portion of Asking Alexandria’s career overall, this is probably the most profound it’s felt to date.
And the key thing to note about that is Like A House On Fire is Asking Alexandria’s first album to date without any sort of hook to it. Regardless of any opinion on them, they’ve always been a band who know how to drum up controversy or talking points on pretty much everything they’ve put out, yet Like A House On Fire appears to be going the opposite way by design. It’s easily the safest and most boxed-in an Asking Alexandria album has probably ever been, something which, by itself, is pretty much a death sentence. But even then, this is beyond just a lackluster album; it’s barely even a metalcore album anymore, as Asking Alexandria shoot for lukewarm, overproduced radio-rock that’s clearly looking to wring out whatever they can from said trends, but at the same time is so dated and worn-down. It’s a shell of what this band has the potential to be, bloated up across fifteen tracks to really exacerbate how much of a tedious slog it is.
It’s the severity of that U-turn that’s the most alarming, and how seemingly eager Asking Alexandria have been to throw away anything even remotely interesting about themselves. The ready-for-radio nature of it all looms over heavily, and though that can yield some choruses that could gain some legs in that environment like with Antisocialist or Take Some Time, what’s been sacrificed to get there feels like a much greater loss. For one, any ‘heaviness’ is tied down to the radio-rock approximation of that with lumbering progressions and unceasing volume above all else (and in the case of One Turns To None, a rigid percussive clatter that’s about a half-step from going full Imagine Dragons), and with no screamed vocals present whatsover. That would be more of an issue if there wasn’t a bit of personality in Worsnop’s voice that can tackle scope and vulnerability when it needs to, but he’s at his best in swaggering rockstar mode, and the closest this album gets to that is on the very last track Lorazepam. Otherwise, he’s allowed to go within some necessary boundaries, as restrictive as they may be given this is a clear play for mainstream rock dominance and is fully trimmed back to suit it.
And that says a whole lot when, by that merit, an Asking Alexandria album feels overproduced. This band, who were derided in their earliest days for wedging trance sections into their metalcore template, have never sounded more cold and robotic than they do here. Of course they’re ticking all the correct modern metalcore boxes – there’s not all that much weight in the mix which is upended even further by the chronic inability to leave any negative space for it to breathe – but thanks to the process of radio-metal suicide, it’s now all crunched down and compressed within an inch of its life, with a number of moments that sound as though a human being had no hand in their creation whatsover. It’s such a tired technique that’s drained of even more life here, and highlights how dated it all sounds when there are clearly brostep drops wedged in the middle of Give You Up and The Violence, only masked by the clattering wall of noise and production thunder that smothers everything. At least on Down To Hell and Antisocialist, there’s not a crippling abundance of overworking to allow some quality to shine through, and even though it’s still blatantly synthetic and deep in mawkish pop ballad territory, I Don’t Need You is fine enough as far as a melodic piece is concerned. There’s not a lot else that stands out though; between messy drum mixing on It’s Not Me (It’s You) and a filmy, almost greasy quality that runs across pretty much everything, it feels as though a disappointing lack of care has been taken with Like A House On Fire, and when that’s across fifteen tracks that run up to the best part of an hour, any pockets of enjoyment are incredibly fleeting.
That just leaves the lyrics to salvage anything possible, and seeing that Asking Alexandria have never been good lyricists, that’s effectively as lost cause from the beginning. To their credit, it’s not like they’ve gotten actively worse in that area, though a handful of moments when they’re really hugging the wall of radio-metal cliché does bring that into question, like an ever-arthritic stand against haters on All Due Respect, or Here’s To Starting Over which does spur on a few chuckles for the line “Here’s to no compromise” on this of all albums. Beyond that, it’s basic, expected fare, slotting neatly between Five Finger Death Punch and hard rock’s newest flavour of the month on sentiments of standing up against yet another conveniently ambiguous force on They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care), reiterating how wild and untamed they are on One Turns To None (again, on this album), and even a bit of “no one understands me” prostrating to cap things off on Lorazepam. They’re all topics that have been worn down to nubs – particularly when still no one can come up with anything interesting to say about them – and it’s not like Asking Alexandria are changing that. They never have done, mind, but in the context of everything else here, it feels as though they’ve run out of steam even faster than usual.
The same sentiment can be applied to Asking Alexandria on the whole here, in fact. To put it plainly, they just sound fed up, churning out an album with no spark or life to it, and where it just comfortably goes through the motions to court some vaunted airtime and keep chugging along. It’s understandable, especially from the perspective of a band for whom interest has been dwindling and they’ve struggled to leave any impact on any scene recently, but there’s surely a better way to get around it than with this. Like A House On Fire is emblematic of all the worst parts of Asking Alexandria congealed into one overstuffed, leaden mass, without even the good grace to be interestingly bad. Instead, it’s just predictably so, and because of that, like with a good amount of Asking Alexandria’s recent output, it’s pretty much destined to fade without a trace.
For fans of: Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, Memphis May Fire
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Like A House On Fire’ by Asking Alexandria is released on 15th May on Sumerian Records.