York-based metalcore band Asking Alexandria are back with a new lead vocalist and a familiar approach. The era of Denis Stoff has begun, and it’s time to check out just how much the band has progressed, or maybe how much they’ve regressed.
‘The Black’ opens with a solid fan-pleaser ‘Let It Sleep’, built on the standards and clichés of the metalcore genre that the band had dabbled with in the past, and boy, was that some hefty dabbling. The majority of the album follows suit, the distorted, down-tuned guitars are present, as are the vocals that often roar and scream, but also melodically resonate, in supreme over-the-top style. The emphasis on riffs and breakdowns and run-of-the-mill lyricism remains also, and said opening track really gives the listener a huge glimpse of what’s in store.
Very few actual wordsmiths have come out of the 2000s metalcore boom, and while it’s probably likely that very few lyricists who are involved in the genre really want to be classed as poets or philosophers, surely one can do better than nonsensical attempts at visualising dark atmospheres and a weird overuse of swearing. Seriously, whether it’s “I feel like I’m fucking drowning” from ‘The Black’, or that moment in ‘Undivided’ where Stoff shouts “fuck off” a few times, it all seems pretty silly and unnecessary. Okay, the band’s music is aggressive, it’s in-your-face and the crassness is intentional, but arbitrarily throwing in curse words just makes things more cringeworthy than they already are. Even without the cursing, the lyrical content is still head-scratching and clichéd.
There is so much on ‘The Black’ that you’ve definitely heard before if you’ve listened to metalcore, melodic or otherwise. The chorus of ‘I Won’t Give In’ has that dumbfounded, contrived, anthem-like touch that might inspire some excitement in a heavy metal bar. ‘The Lost Souls’ is similar, in fact, that song manages to mix in almost every trope that Asking Alexandria seem to run with throughout the record.
On ‘From Death to Destiny’ – Asking Alexandria’s previous album – the band at least tried a few new things, even slipping into more a classic rock style in the process, with some half-decent balladry. The attempt at branching out can be applauded, but now it seems like the band have acknowledged said attempt as a failure and it’s back to simply nodding towards the fan base by making the music they’d been making prior to ‘From Death to Destiny’, in other words, it’s same-old, same-old. The fast-paced, brutal material is the piece of niche that the band runs with, much like ‘A Prophecy’ from ‘Stand Up and Scream’, but without the moderately enjoyable first thirty seconds.
It looks like the emphasis is on regression, thanks to even tackier lyricism, even more repetitive approaches to songwriting, and an overall unattractiveness. If there’s one positive you can give to Asking Alexandria, it would be the fact that it’s fairly evident that these guys are talented musicians, but on this worn-out batch of metalcore afterthoughts, that doesn’t amount to much.
‘The Black’ is out now via Sumerian Records
This Asking Alexandria article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Fraisia Dunn.