Review: Asking Alexandria
It now feels like ages ago that the UK’s Asking Alexandria took the metalcore world by storm with their 2009 debut record Stand Up And Scream. Since that time Asking Alexandria has gone through a plethora of changes both stylistically and membership-wise with the departure and reformation with the group by lead vocalist Danny Worsnop leading to their shift towards rock with his return self-titled album in 2017. The groups shift towards a borderline pop rock sound has been met with harsh criticism from most long-time fans but the band has been unapologetic citing a lack of desire to make music similar to what they were creating in their earlier years. Personally, I’m generally very open-minded and understanding when it comes to bands changing their sound, it’s part of the maturing process and better than doing to same thing over and over. The problem with Asking Alexandria on Like A House On Fire is that despite their insistence on this being the style that they truly desire to play, I can’t help but feel a strong sense of soullessness from these tracks.
I went into this album with rather low expectations and through the first several tracks I was actually pleasantly surprised by some of the catchy hard rock riffs. They Don’t Want What We Want and Down To Hell have their brief moments and can certainly serve as radio rock staples for the following months to come but unfortunately the vocals ruin even the bright spots on these tracks. This is especially unfortunate because at a point I believe Worsnop was one of the very best vocalists in metal. The problem with his vocals on most of Like A House On Fire is how incredibly over produced they are. At times it doesn’t even sound like Worsnop.
Something I quickly pick up on is the use of female backing vocals on four straight tracks. I’m a major proponent of added female backing vocals, bands like Suicide Silence on The Black Crown and Harm’s Way on Rust made great use of female vocals but here they make all the tracks sound much too similar. Antisocialist continues the album, which leads me to the very corny and cheesy lyrics splayed all over this release. At points the lyrics make me chuckle out loud and that’s saying something for a band with the lyrical past of Asking Alexandria. Through the first four tracks or so the record was doing at least enough to maintain my interest but then things took a turn for the worst.
At about the quarter point of the record is when the realization that this band I once loved has full-fledged jumped the shark tryout set in. With tracks like All Due Respect and Take Some Time the band goes full on vanilla pop rock making music that sounds factory made for commercials or to be used as ESPN college football lead-in music. Like I mentioned before I think it’s perfectly fine for bands to get softer and it‘s been done extremely well before but here it comes off so excessively corporate and sterile that there’s nothing to enjoy. For a stretch of tracks you’ll find yourself forgetting this band even has guitars as part of their musical foundation.
It’s difficult for me to understand why a band would have any desire to play in this style. It pains me to speak so negatively of a band whose older material I still view so fondly but I have to be honest, a large majority of this album feels void of energy and emotion. Lead guitarist Ben Bruce is capable of much more of this with his abundance of talent making it all the more unfortunate that this is what he chooses to create.
In conclusion, there’s so much more wrong with this record than that’s right. Not to mention it’s completely unnecessary 52 minute runtime with 15 tracks, a complete head scratcher for a radio rock record. Like A House On Fire sadly officially closes a chapter completely on the past glory of Asking Alexandria. It’s all but final that the group has no possibility of returning to a semblance of their former musical capabilities. With it‘s squeaky clean, feelingless production and heavy reliance on rock cliches, the band has largely become a watered down Shinedown, something I never imagined I’d say not too long ago. There’s a few nice riffs on this record but that’s legitimately it’s only salvation. As much as I hate to completely dismiss something an artist may have worked hard on I really have no choice here. This was an absolute chore to listen to and I don’t plan on ever doing so again. Like A House On Fire gets 1 out of 5 stars from us.