I’ve often heard that the number five often symbolizes grace, and there was a lot of that needed for Asking Alexandria’s fifth album to see the light of day. Members had to forgive one another, and in a very open manner, prodigal son Danny Worsnop had to learn to forgive himself in order for bridges to be rebuilt; the incredible and captivating opening trio captures this sentiment better than I could. After a few years and records (two for Worsnop, one for the rest of Asking Alexandria with a different vocalist), the group’s fifth self-titled release serves as a commanding, emphatic ode to reconciliation, ownership, and grace. Asking Alexandria is also one massive comeback, and an unexpected contender for record of the year.
The choice to go the self-titled route feels intentional, as Asking Alexandria somehow embraces the spirit of the band’s past records while blazing a much different (and more powerful) path forward. It will certainly make believers out of the unexpected, including me. The band’s shape-shifting metalcore was always interesting, but it felt lacking, not quite vapid, but there was a definite focus on being big, bold, and loud over anything deeper. That’s certainly not the case here, though these songs are often massive and incendiary – “I Am One” is a chilling ode to self-empowerment, and “Where Did It Go?” is the funniest song the band have ever written.
That’s really where the focus should be: how immediately and forcefully these tunes grab you and stick with you. Aside from a minor misstep in the rap/rock “Empire”, this record features the band’s strongest songs to date. There are certainly bits of the band’s metalcore past on here (“Eve” might be the best heavy song the band have ever written, and “Room 138” is truly sublime in its heavy/soothing mix). “Vultures” is the token acoustic song, but it’s a wonderful showcase for Worsnop’s impressive vocal evolution. His voice is a mix of soul, country, and old-fashioned rock crooner, and it’s just another dose of unexpected but very welcome maturity that adds even more depth to the record. Worsnop’s blunt and human lyrical density (with some welcome bits of silliness) is the last layer to the band’s delightfully tasty musical 7-layer dip.
By publicly reckoning with their demons and forgiving each other and themselves, Asking Alexandria have the potential to become what they always strived to be: the biggest rock band on the planet. Their unexpected reunion results in one of the best records of the year, and it’s easily the best surprise December release from their label (hey, The Faceless was great). Maturity is a boring topic for most, but it can result in truly fantastic music.