It's finally here. Our thoughts on 'The Black'.
So, here we are. A full year after the departure of vocalist Danny Worsnop, the time has come to unveil Asking Alexandria 2.0 to the world. It’s an unenviable task, not just because of such monumental change but because of what came before it. In 2013’s ‘From Death To Destiny’ they created a genuinely great album; one born from tension, struggle and resentment. It was by all accounts a nightmare to create, but the result was an album unlike anything they’d made before. Crucially, it gave them an identity, making ‘The Black’ an intriguing, critical proposition.
Reuniting with early producer Joey Sturgis, the results are very much a throwback to the Asking Alexandria of old, harking back to the type of metalcore clatter dished out by a group of chancers who blagged their way to relative stardom. The opening one-two of ‘Let It Sleep’ and the album’s title track boast riffs that pummel, while drummer James Cassells finds a higher gear than he’s done in some time, and all of these components are held together by Stugis’ signature, dense production.
Sounding like a continuation of second album ‘Reckless & Relentless’, the likes of ‘We’ll Be OK’ feature the grinding, charging riffs long-term fans will be accustomed to, while the string-littered ‘The Lost Souls’ harks perfectly to their delicate flourishes of the past. It’s largely familiar fare, though there are moments that simply do not sit well, most notably the Attila-esque swagger of ‘Just A Slave To Rock ’N Roll’ and the downright odd, symphonic influences of ‘Send Me Home’.
This review originally appeared in Issue 211 of Rock Sound. Want the whole magazine? You can...
The elephant in the room though, is new vocalist Denis Stoff, and the questions over his ability to replace a gifted albeit difficult frontman.
Largely, his quest is a triumphant one, and he turns in an admirable performance; growling his way impressively through the vicious ‘Undivided’ and ‘Sometimes It Ends’, while on ‘Here I Am’ he’s at his melodic best, stealing the show in a way that has to be applauded. If nothing else he has what it takes to help Asking Alexandria move on, which is handy given ‘The Black’ often feels like an attempt to erase what came directly before.
Everything about it points to a band keen to suggest that this is their true third album, and in pure sonic terms, it’s an intentional exercise in regression. Whether this is wise only time will tell, and for a band previously fuelled by turbulence and drama, the reality is that peace and unity may not suit them long-term. After all, sometimes the best sex comes after the most blazing of rows.
For now though, ‘The Black’ has given them a chance to live on, to live well and to once again find their own way through the mire. And as history shows, a chance is all Asking Alexandria ever need.