Experiencing their share of turmoil in recent years, with ex-frontman Danny Worsnop‘s ongoing alcohol/substance abuse problems and departure from the band, it’s certainly fair to say that ‘The Black’ has seemed a long time coming from Asking Alexandria (especially given the release of lead single ‘I Won’t Give In’ back in the summer of 2015). Ushering in a new era by harking back to their formative metalcore stylings, this fourth full-length from the UK bred five-piece marks a largely triumphant attempt to recapture the youthful clamour of their early years.
Indeed, whilst not totally abandoning the state-of-the art hard rock of 2013’s ‘From Death To Destiny’, ‘The Black’ feels like a bid to erase what came before with a surprisingly visceral, pissed off assault. The likes of opener ‘Let It Sleep’ and a particularly vicious ‘Undivided’ (not to mention its gratuitous F-bombs) are as punishing as AA have sounded for some time, new vocalist Denis Stoff impressing with guttural, death metal inspired menace.
Familiar fare it may be, yet the band sound not only wholly re-energized in terms of balls-out aggression and huge chorus hooks, but also manage to retain that sense of songwriting sophistication which has steadily filtered into their sound, be it from the richly melodic strains of ‘Sometimes It Ends’ or the rabble rousing, Linkin Park-isms of ‘I Won’t Give In’. Couple this with a host electronic touches ala ‘There Is A Hell…’-era Bring Me The Horizon and some fantastic vocal trade-off moments from Stoff and ringleader Ben Bruce, and ‘The Black’ gives us much to be excited about.
It’s not all good news, however, the record taking a noticeable dip as we enter the syrupy stodge of ballad territory. Although buffered by the irresistible swagger of ‘Just A Slave To Rock ‘N’ Roll’ or the traditional Asking clamour of closing track ‘Circled By The Wolves’, it’s all to easy to forgive the album’s shortcomings and delight in the rebirth of one of our shore’s leading metallic exports. Asking Alexandria 2.0 sound better than ever.
Written by Tony Bliss (@TBliss88)