Asking Alexandria – ‘The Black’ [Review]
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Asking Alexandria have never been my thing, as much as I’ve wanted them to be. To be honest, most modern metalcore bands send me rushing back to The End Of Heartache by Killswitch Engage. Until now, Asking Alexandria have always been lumped in with the others.
The Black is literally a whole other story.
With Asking Alexandria having parted from former frontman Danny Worsnop, his shoes filled by former Sumerian labelmate Denis Stoff, The Black naturally tends to focus on Asking Alexandria’s tumultuous recent history. Rather than take a negative tack, Asking Alexandria get plenty of shit off their chests while making it clear that they don’t intend to stay stuck in the past for longer than necessary. Makes sense.
Musically, The Black is way, way more diverse than Asking Alexandria’s previous efforts – and infinitely better for it. These guys have always written quality songs, but they’ve also been too easy to pigeonhole as “metalcore with a few electronic elements”. From a marketing department’s point of view, that’s not a negative point – all the easier to define a target market and sell a product to them – but from the perspective of a relentlessly hungry music fan, predictability is the death of enthusiasm.
Compared to Asking Alexandria’s earlier albums, The Black is refreshingly unpredictable. It’s not a prog monolith by any means, but you can tell just from a cursory listen that Asking Alexandria are actively enjoying the process of stretching their boundaries and testing themselves to a greater degree than ever before. Whether you’re talking about the balls-to-the-wall catharsis of Sometimes It Ends and Undivided; the churning signature stutters present and correct during title track The Black; or all-out anthems like I Won’t Give In, Asking Alexandria’s chemistry crackles with renewed and rejuvenated viciousness.
The Black has only one weak spot: Send Me Home. On one hand, it’s great to hear Asking Alexandria take on the pop-metal mountain with a soaring ballad, but ultimately Send Me Home is held back in stock territory by a whoa-oh overload and needless na-na-nas. In a live environment, there’s no doubt that Send Me Home will go over incredibly, but on record it’s the only track on The Black that I had to fight to not fast-forward. At the same time, the bulk of Send Me Home works really well, making it the most likely Marmite Track on The Black.
Overall, though, The Black is the Asking Alexandria album we’ve all been waiting for without ever even knowing it. Asking Alexandria have taken the ongoing story of their evolution, and added a triumphant transitional chapter. Nobody knows where they’re going to go next, but it’s doubtless going to be a better place than where they’ve been before.
TMMP RATING: 92%
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