Album review: Asking Alexandria – Asking Alexandria
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As cool as it is among today’s hardened metalheads to mindlessly disparage Asking Alexandria, the band’s upcoming self-titled album is honestly a work of art. Since their formation just over a decade ago, the quintet have been hugely popular players in the melodic metalcore game, sharing their genre with such contemporary rock giants as Trivium, Bring Me the Horizon and Killswitch Engage. Taking just as much inspiration from modern rock as they do the heavy music world, Asking Alexandria hit newfound commercial and critical heights in 2013 with the beloved From Death to Destiny. However, they soon hit a huge speed-bump on the highway to stardom as their lead vocalist, Danny Worsnop, up and left to work on his rock supergroup We Are Harlot and, eventually, a country solo project. One poorly received album and one brief stint with fill-in singer Denis Stoff later, and Asking Alexandria now find themselves with Worsnop back in the driver’s seat once again, just in time for their self-titled comeback. And, from the start, Asking Alexandria establishes itself as a record with huge balls. Not only does it mark a departure from the band’s usual metalcore style in favour of a far more clean-cut and arena-sized approach, but for that change to happen on a self-titled album is a gigantic statement about these titans’ impending future. Lucky Asking Alexandria, then: turns out their new album is nothing less than a masterful return to form. After four prior full-lengths of undiluted metalcore, they have ruthlessly streamlined their approach to music, evolving into a new realm while still playing to their strengths; for those not in the know, metalcore as a genre revolves around an interplay between dissonant heaviness and enrapturing harmonies. On Asking Alexandria, the group – while staying true to their roots on cuts like ‘Eve’ – put all their chips firmly into the latter category. The end result is a disc that offers its listener mighty melody after mighty melody, with next to no filler in sight. Of the twelve songs here, all of them have either the energy or the soul to be an arena-filling anthem. Whether it’s with the operatic grandeur of ‘Into the Fire’ or the acoustic soul of ‘Vultures’, nothing falls flat and nothing kills the enticing energy that this record flawlessly perpetuates. No matter the tone, every track feels quick and memorable, meaning that Asking Alexandria’s greatest weapon is undeniably its unwavering pacing. Or, all of that would be the case. But then ‘Empire’ has to happen. Coming hot off the heels of the rousing rocker ‘I Am One’, the eleventh track on Asking Alexandria tries its damnedest to kill its parent album’s genuine, emotive and modern-yet-timeless aesthetic by incorporating a terrible rapper called Bingx. Make no mistake, the criticism of adding rap to this album is not a case of genre elitism: rather, it comes because ‘Empire’ is a complete outlier as a result of this choice, making it the one frustratingly irredeemable chink in the armour of an otherwise flawless ride. For being an enormous stain on an otherwise spotless release, this may be Asking Alexandria’s worst song to date. Powerful closing track ‘Room 138’ does what it can to claw back Asking Alexandria’s momentum, but the damage is done by that point. Yet, overall, despite leaving the listener with a criminally sour taste in the mouth, Asking Alexandria is probably the band’s greatest achievement thus far (if you take out ‘Empire’, it is easily their strongest album). This is a record that takes risks, which is always worth applauding, and 99% of them pay off. Some of the best rock n’ roll melodies of 2017 can be found here, as well as a solid handful of heavier moments to keep Asking Alexandria’s old-school followers satiated. Asking Alexandria have definitely made a loud and brash return with their new album. All that they have to do now to secure it is get Bingx in front of a jury for his crimes against rock music. Asking Alexandria will be available via Sumerian Records on 15th December.