A new lead singer often means the exploration of a different sound for many bands. However, long-time Asking Alexandria fans may be glad to know that this is not the case with their latest record The Black. Their fourth album since forming in 2008 and the first since Danny Worsnop’s departure and Denis Stoff’s recruit in 2015, the album channels the traditional electro metal core hybrid you would associate with AA.
Although Stoff and Worsnop have their own distinct vocal stylings, the new frontman largely sticks to AA’s traditional balance between clean vocals and deep growls. Firing off with Let It Sleep, the track introduces a song structure consisting of screamo vocal verses, clean choruses with a splash of electro and heavy breakdowns that persists throughout the 12 tracks. So it’s no surprise when the title track takes on a similar form of heavy vocals in the verses and a catchy chorus chant of “fade, fade, fade, fade to black”. However, it’s the bridge of bare vocals, a subtle piano melody and sweeping strings that gives The Black an edge.
Although the band’s sonic style seems relatively consistent at this point, the change of frontmen hasn’t left the quintet completely unscarred. While some bands sweep internal feuds under the rug, AA have worn their recent turmoils on their sleeve on the new album. Sometimes It Ends, especially, is more than a subtle nod to Wornsop’s exit.
Opening with a sound clip of (what sounds like) lead guitarist Ben Bruce saying “I’m fucking pissed off, man. The guy was my best friend and he kind of just turned his back on me and fucking bailed,” shows that there’s still a bitter taste in his mouth. This enduring resentment continues in the lyrics as Stoff screams “You’re going down. You’re on your own. This hate is relentless”. Finishing with another scathing soundbite about how the band is better off, you can’t help but think that while the song is supposed to demonstrate that the band as moved on, it achieves the opposite.
Things take a more upbeat turn on Just A Slave to Rock ’n Roll. Bursting open with heavy guitar riffs, the track is pierced by sharp pinch harmonics and ragged screams worthy of an 80s heavy metal tribute band. This fast-paced rock vibe soon takes a backseat though, with the next few tracks taking us down a slightly sombre path.
Send Me Home, We’ll Be OK and Gone are some of the only songs made up purely clean vocals and no heavy growls, making for a breath of fresh air in between the screams.
Undivided kickstarts the energy just in time for the album’s end. One of the catchier tracks on the album, the anthemic chorus “Take, take take all of your memories, because I don’t want them! I don’t need them!” and a series of “na, na, na’s” will make it an absolute cracker to witness live. The lyrical content presumably speaks of Worsnop’s departure again, but this time it focuses on the strengthened bond between the current band. “We stand together”, they chant.
Circled By Wolves acts as the album’s finale. “Fuck you! Our fingers raised in the air” yells Stoff. “No longer wasting my time, your words don’t bother me!” Closing the album with an explosion of chugging guitar riffs and distorted screams, the track is probably the closest you’ll get to a musical version of flipping the bird.
If you’re a fan of Asking Alexandria, but are worried about how Stoff will impact the band’s sound, you don’t have much to worry about. If anything, it would’ve been interesting to hear AA explore some new sounds with the introduction of the different frontman rather than sticking to the same guns they have since 2008.
The Black’ is out March 25th, you can grab it here.