ASKING ALEXANDRIA – ASKING ALEXANDRIA (Sumerian Records)
Metalcore/Pop metallers Asking Alexandria released their self-titled album on December 15th courtesy of Sumerian Records. This is their fifth studio album and their most adult offering to date. Asking Alexandria carved their own niche when they released their first studio album, Stand Up and Scream in 2009. They weren’t really metal, but also not rock. So where exactly did they fit? Nowhere, so they did the smart thing, they didn’t worry about that petty genre bullshit and just built a following that was all their own.
I will come clean by saying I’ve never been an AA fan, not because they aren’t talented, simply because I’m quite a bit older than their fan base and I tend to like heavier music than what I have heard from them. So going into this review, I was about as closed minded as one could possibly be. Admittedly when I initially listened to Asking Alexandria for this review, I was extremely negative. Honestly, I was a complete jerk; I huffed, puffed, sighed, and rolled my eyes a lot the first listen. The second time around, I found myself a bit more open, definitely more ’emotionally available’ to the album. By the third listen, I found myself tapping my foot to the beat of several tracks and by the fourth listen, I found myself actually enjoying the album. By the fifth, I became an Asking Alexandria fan girl.
After all of that, I should probably explain my process for completing album reviews; I listen to an album at least three times, each listen I do different activities (driving, cleaning, working, etc). Doing this allows me to really develop my opinion on whether or not I truly like or dislike an album. It also allows me to make a determination whether my feelings about it are situational or legitimate. Meaning, I only like (or dislike) it during one activity but it doesn’t have the same effect during another. For instance, Am I paying attention or is the album just background noise while I’m driving? Do I feel like throwing up or is my jaw on the floor because I am so impressed while folding laundry? Hopefully that makes sense.
So let’s jump into Asking Alexandria’s review, shall we……..
Funny enough it was with the first track, “Alone in a Room”, where I found myself enjoying Asking Alexandria after I gave it a fair shot. The first 20 seconds give the illusion that you are about to hear a ballad, but then the heavier guitars and Danny Worsnop’s vocals kick in, and it is very apparent that this is definitely NOT a ballad (thank goodness). Worsnop’s vocals are very crisp, they almost have a hip hop feel because of the rhythmic structure in which he delivers them, they ebb and flow with the beat of the drums. That is until the chorus, which is so damn catchy that it gets stuck inside your head and you can’t stop hearing it. It is during the chorus that his beautiful tone shines through and his lyrics speed up. This song was released as a single just before Asking Alexandria hit store shelves and it is obvious why that is, it is extremely radio friendly and very, very catchy. This particular track would fit well on pop, alternative rock, or even a metal station because of the variations, it is immensely versatile in that regard.
The third track, “Hopelessly Hopeful”, has a very alternative feel with a slight ambient electronic mix layered underneath. “Rise Up’, reminds me a little bit of Nothing More mixed with a touch of Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) and is another radio friendly track chocked full of energy and depth. “When the Lights Come On” is a combination of Fall Out Boy and The Used, I actually double checked to make sure that Patrick Stump or Bert McCracken weren’t special guests because the vocals were so different than the first five tracks that I didn’t think it was possible that it could be Worsnop….but it was him. Quite impressive.
“Under Denver” is another favorite on the album, it has a great beat subtlety laid down by James Cassells on drums. Although it isn’t extremely heavy, the chorus has some electronic mixing that reminds me of one of my favorite bands, Within the Ruins, and that makes it stand out to me. By this point in the album, you have an appreciation for the wide range of Worsnop’s vocals, as I said I actually thought there was a guest vocalist because he is so utterly talented. “Eve” begins similar to an In This Moment song (strangely enough), that is until the clean vocals start and then it is uniquely AA. This particular track has a ton of style transitions; one moment there are ITM screams and guitar riffs, the next techno beats, and then some metalcore thrown in for shits and giggles. It is a mish-mosh of styles and it somehow works, I cannot really explain how it does, but it does.
This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion but frankly, I think “Empire” is the weakest track on Asking Alexandria. This is where hip rock makes it’s appearance. I initially thought it was Worsnop rapping and was like ‘wtf is going on right now’, but it is Bingx. Bingx’s flow is awesome, but it is just weird…it doesn’t fit. I don’t know, maybe it is just me and I’ve grown old and crotchety now that I’m in my 40’s. I’m sure this type collaboration appeals to teenagers, but the main reason it was a disappointment is that the rest of the album seemed so much more mature, like AA had grown up, and this just seemed to be a gigantic leap backwards. Almost like they were trying a little too hard to appeal to 13 year old kids. With that, guitarist Ben Bruce’s vocals are impeccable and the chorus is absolutely beautiful. So that should tell you how impressive this album is, THIS is the weakest track and I just used the words ‘impeccable’ and ‘beautiful’ to describe portions of it. The album ends with “Room 138”, which is a very strong closer and almost makes you forget the entire hip rock thing just happened on “Empire”. Thank goodness, I needed to forget that hip rock happened.
Asking Alexandria is a more mature showing from AA; overflowing with deep and thoughtful lyrics, infectious choruses, immaculate vocals, and just enough poppiness to transcend genre barriers. Don’t call it a comeback (if you didn’t say that in the tone of L.L., then we can’t be friends…..seriously), the band never left, but it is a reawakening of sorts. Danny Worsnop was reunited with AA after a two year hiatus in late 2016; rejoining sober, more mature, and self-aware. This growth is VERY apparent throughout this release. While this may seem like it is simply ‘the band getting back together‘, it is much deeper than that. Asking Alexandria seemingly has renewed purpose and revitalized the hunger that once coursed through their extremely talented veins. Bottom line, AA is not just for the angsty, side swept bang haircut having, skinny jean wearing kiddies anymore; these guys put on their big boy manties and released an album that has some real grownup chops to it. Hell, they won me over and THAT is pretty impressive if you ask me. Bloodrock Rating: 4.5 out 5.0 axes
1. Alone In a Room
2. Into the Fire
3. Hopelessly Hopeful
4. Where Did It Go?
5. Rise Up
6. When the Lights Come On
7. Under Denver
10. I Am One
11. Empire (featuring Bingx)
12. Room 138
Danny Worsnop – lead vocals
Ben Bruce – guitar & backing vocals
Cameron Liddell – guitar
Sam Bettley – bass guitar
James Cassells – drums
Written by April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on January 23, 2018