This was always going to be an interesting release. As underwhelming as the Denis Stoff-helmed ‘The Black’ was, there’s was always hope that, with Asking Alexandria reconvening with Danny Worsnop, any subsequent album would at least be interesting or have more personality. After all, just look at ‘From Death To Destiny’, which actually took risks with a clearer hard rock influence that wound up being their best album.
It’s a similar approach taken on this self-titled album, but there are a few caveats this time around. For one, any cohesion has been promptly ditched in favour of a genre-clash approach that takes parts of their entire career, makes an attempt to fashion them together and leaves a lumpen, divisive end product in its wake. The ambition on show is certainly ballsy, and they really can’t be faulted for that, even if sometimes it doesn’t exactly materialise in the best way possible.
But on the whole, this is a big improvement from ‘The Black’, with more identifiable personality and thematic breadth. That’s established right from the off with ‘Alone In A Room’, where Worsnop takes himself to task over his vices that may have caused his split with the band in the past. It’s not a constant narrative, but in tracks such as ‘Into The Fire’, and particularly ‘Where Did It Go’, there’s a sense of repentance and ultimately rebuilding that works well, especially when ending on the swelling apology of ‘Room 138’.
As far as album construction goes, this is quite clearly a labour of love; probably explaining why it’s being released so late into the year. But it could definitely use an editor at points, particularly when it veers off into wild, new directions that feel somewhat uncomfortable. ‘Vultures’ is definitely an exception in its rugged country-rock tones, but then there’s ‘Empire’, with a pop-rock / nu-metal instrumental canvas that sees rapper Bingx given two verses that couldn’t feel more out of place. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about this album – Asking Alexandria get so close to hitting something really great so often, but there’s often an extraneous factor that holds them back. Just look at the unimpressively synthetic production that severely neuters what could have real bite, or the dull take on older metalcore on ‘Eve’ that feels like something of a regression.
It’s certainly not ideal, but at the same time, the fact that Asking Alexandria are embracing some weirder, more creative impulses is a step in the right direction. Even if they are a bit bloated or don’t always connect. That’s definitely an issue, but at its best, their self-titled album reveals a band who’ve regained their drive again, and for where this will undoubtedly lead in the future, that’s definitely a good thing.
‘Asking Alexandria’ by Asking Alexandria is released on 15th December on Sumerian Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)