ASKING ALEXANDRIA (2017)
I had never really found Asking Alexandria very interesting. I was introduced to them at a Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in Massachusetts when I went to see Avenged Sevenfold in 2014. But after the concert, I couldn’t really get into From Death to Destiny. Aside from “Moving On”, their radio-friendly anthem, I found it to be fairly straightforward metalcore. It was a little bit after this concert that frontman Danny Worsnop left the band to pursue a more hard rock sound with less screaming (he'd suffered a torn vocal cord that needed surgery in 2012) and formed the band We Are Harlot. Meanwhile, Asking Alexandria got a new lead singer and put out the album The Black, which ironically had more of a hard rock sound and less metal anyway. This album had some good songs, such as “Send Me Home”, but didn’t sound much like Asking Alexandria. Worsnop’s voice and songwriting was fairly crucial to their sound.
After some tension and disagreements with the new singer, including accusations of lip-synching Worsnop-sung songs, he left and Worsnop returned in 2016. This followed the release of his country album, “The Long Road Home”, and will be continuing to perform and record with We Are Harlot. In an interview, Worsnop stated that he was excited to be writing and playing music again with the band he never expected he would.
The result of Worsnop’s return to Asking Alexandria is a new self-titled album, a new sound, and a rise high above the metalcore style of the band I didn’t used to find interesting. I heard their first single off the record, “Into the Fire” and immediately realized they had grown as a band. They retain some of the metalcore and screaming vocals but they are intertwined with much more powerful and smart songwriting, making the album a fascinating listen. What Worsnop showed he could do with both his voice and his songwriting with “Moving On”, as well as some of the We Are Harlot work, is truly unleashed in this new album. The fact that it is self-titled makes the statement that the band is starting over fresh.
The new Asking Alexandria certainly showcases the range of Worsnop’s voice better, which has a really good tone for rock and elevates the band above the more scream-oriented previous albums because it allows for a more unique sound. This album is more conscientiously produced and reminds me - in a good way - of a harder Fall Out Boy, especially with songs like “Into the Fire” and “When the Lights Come On”. Much of the lyrics deal with Worsnop’s rollercoaster journey of the past few years, beginning with addiction and sobriety, and rejoining the band, both of which are addressed in “Hopelessly Hopeful”. “Rise Up” similarly deals with the band persisting through hardship.
This new album shines at its most vulnerable. “Vultures” was written prior to Worsnop’s departure along with guitarist Ben Bruce, stuck with them through their hiatus, and was the first song recorded for the new album. It was recorded in a single take. Similarly themed to coincide with his departure, the song is about the music industry driving musicians into madness with pressure. On a different topic but still raw and personal, “Room 138” tells the story of Worsnop’s decision to get sober. “On my back, breathing heavy, staring at the light/Praying this ain’t the end but pretty sure it might be/On my back, got my heart beating out of my chest/I never thought, can’t believe that I’d go out like this.” Near death after partying in a hotel room, Worsnop managed to call the only number he could remember, an ex girlfriend, who raced to help him and take him to rehab. The song ends the album with “Please pull me out of this.”
From Death to Destiny’s “Moving On” told the story of Worsnop’s slide downwards into addiction and the life on the road, “I can’t believe I’ve come so far in such short time/And I’m still fighting on my own/If I stop to catch my breath I might never breathe again/So just know this, I’ve never been so torn up in all of my life/I can’t believe I let myself break down”. In many ways, this song was forecasting his departure from the band. Similarly, the highlight of the new album, for me, is the first song, “Alone in a Room”. Worsnop describes this song as the process behind writing his country album, The Long Road Home, but it’s bigger and stands as a sequel to “Moving On”. Where before he was saying “I don’t wanna do this anymore, I’m moving on”, now he has pushed past and found himself in a better place. “All I needed was the last thing I wanted/To sit alone in a room and say it all out loud.” A rallying cry for anyone suffering from addiction – or really any struggle - to pause and find themselves.
“I tried to own it, write songs about it/Believe me I tried, in the end I needed to breathe/Find inspiration, some kind of purpose/To take a second to face the shit that makes me, me”. “Alone in a Room” is also an excellent vehicle for the band’s new sound and to showcase Worsnop’s voice as he pours his soul into the personal nature of the lyrics. It’s a perfect opener for the new album, self-titled as a new start for the band, recovered and moving on.