Asking Alexandria – From Death to Destiny
Release Date: August 6, 2013
The British bad boys from across the pond, Asking Alexandria, have returned to envelope us all in the delightful debaucheries of their latest CD, From Death to Destiny. Asking Alexandria, oddly enough, was formed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by lead guitarist Ben Bruce. This version of Asking Alexandria didn’t last long and was soon disbanded. After moving back to the UK in 2008 Ben Bruce met vocalist Danny Worsnop and there was no stopping what was now set in motion. Asking Alexandria was reformed with a completely new line-up and a revamped sound. The duo quickly recruited drummer James Cassells, rhythm guitarist Cameron Liddell, bassist Joe Lancaster and synth player Ryan Binns. Binns tenure with the group was short-lived and he exited the band in 2008 followed by Joe Lancaster in 2009; Lancaster was swiftly replaced by Sam Bettley the band’s current bassist. Soon after Bettley joined the band, they immediately headed to the United States to get the Asking Alexandria promotional animal running full speed ahead.
After traveling to the United States, Asking Alexandria recorded their first CD Stand Up and Scream which was released in September 2009 by its newly signed label, Sumerian Records. Not to be the kind of band that sits around on its laurels, in 2010 they hit the studio again and released an EP titled, Life Gone Wild which included a new track, a demo, some dubstep remixes and two Skid Row cover songs. In April of 2011, the band’s second full length CD Reckless & Relentless was released and the songs from the record were featured in a short film the band made called Through Sin + Self Destruction.
Now that I have given you a little bit of back story, let the games begin.
From Death to Destiny is Asking Alexandria’s third full length studio effort. The band admitted they put a lot of thought, time and energy into this project and when discussing the musical direction of the new CD it was divulged that this album would not only include songs from the harder side of the music spectrum, there would also be more radio friendly tracks. Generally in the metal community just hinting the release of any “radio friendly” tracks is considered blasphemous and will automatically start discussions of how the band has “sold out,” so I am sure more than a few of Asking Alexandria’s long-time supporters took pause when this revelation was announced. So did all of this hard work and a stylistic change straying from their metalcore roots pay off? It may very well have, but you will just have to read on and find out.
The album’s first track “Don’t Pray for Me” is a great preamble of what is to come and should definitely be a song that A.A. uses as show opener. It has all of the elements of the perfect buildup that a listener wants when hitting play or when a band hits the stage. The track includes audio snippets of an incident in Seattle 2011 where singer Danny Worsnop was intoxicated and combative towards the audience and guitarist Ben Bruce asked their fans for support to help him get Danny to go to rehab to get “better.” It is pretty well documented that Asking Alexandria can party hard with the best of them. Danny, in particular, can push those partying habits to the greatest of the most self-destructive extremes. So when you hear the lyrics, “I’ve been so far gone for so long and I can’t keep my head up out of the bottle. Holy fuck why do I bother? I’m never gonna get any better. I’ve waited so long to declare. I don’t give a fuck if I die today,” you know you are hearing an unsettling truth. The musical arrangement as a whole and specifically the string sections work seamlessly with creating just the right atmosphere for that unsteady feeling of falling down the dark hole of addiction, and the product is one great song.
The next track,“Killing You,” pulls you in straight away with measured keyboards and impassioned vocals, “you loved me for all the wrong reasons, there’s nothing but pain left here, I know what’s killing me is that I’m killing you.” Then bam, the song accelerates into an edgy, gruff vibe throughout the verse which transitions into a smooth melodious chorus. “Killing You” has a great flow to it and deconstructs a relationship that is barely being held together. There is the enabler who thinks they can change their partner with love and continues to overlook transgressions. Then you have the destructive individual who is entrapped by their demons and although they may want to change, never will. They hate seeing the pain their behavior causes so they opt to end the relationship because as callous as they seem, deep down, they honestly know their partner deserves more than they are capable of giving.
Next we have a touch of metalcore goodness titled, “The Death of Me.” This song is angry from beginning to end with raspy throaty vocal portions coupled with a harmonious chorus. As angry as the lyrics seem to appear on the surface they are also filled with misery. Lyrically, to me, this track feels like it is someone trapped in darkness and tormented by something, whatever that something may be. They are fighting against being pulled down and refusing to let this be “The Death of Me.” This song skillfully lays everything out for you to enjoy and enjoy it you will.
“Run Free” is not only one of the heavier tracks on the album, it is also one of the more inspiring. Running free and throwing caution and fear of consequences to the wind so you can “spread out your wings and learn to fly to a new world.” No trepidation, just opening your mind to new experiences and knowing “you don’t have to be afraid” to live life your own way. Worsnop is definitely spreading his wings and letting his vocals fly on this track and musically this song is a winner, end of story.
“Break Down the Walls” is the fifth song on From Death to Destiny. The song has an enticingly catchy beat and the hook is undeniably memorable. When Danny screams “sing this with me,” you absolutely will because this is an incredible song to sing along too, so lead on Worsnop. “Break Down the Walls” is power, it is confidence, and it is straight up remarkable. This track should be released as a single and believe me when the song ends you will be saying to yourself, in the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi, “one more time with feeling.”
“Poison,” is exactly that and it certainly has a venomous bite delivered with a satisfying rhythmic beat and some proficient bass wielding. The lyrics are heated with pure hatred towards those that have pushed their luck too far and they are going to have to pay for these misdeeds in spades. Who can’t relate to the feeling of loathing someone and internalizing so much fury that you just feel incendiary. “These words they fall off my tongue like a poison. I hope they kill you all, I hope I never see your faces again….I wanna watch the whole world burn down….” This track’s ferocity is balanced with a subdued breakdown and lead guitarist Ben Bruce proves that he is more than just an ax-man in a very beautifully layered vocal moment. There are definitely touches that are reminiscent of what has been known as Asking Alexandria’s signature sound with low, hard, pulsating bass sections and capricious guitar riffs. The first time I heard the song I thought there were parts that were maybe a bit disjointed from the song as a whole, but after listening to it a few times, I completely changed my mind. It was one of those instances where the first time around, you can’t see it, but after listening again, the stylistic meshing and the musical arrangement makes sense.
Next up is “Believe”, and where the last song feels full of disdain, this song is holding onto hope and having faith that everything will work out for the best. “Believe” has some very heavy sounding elements but it is far from being a full on metalcore song, because there are also moments in “Believe” that are of the pure hard rock variety. This song is extremely melodic and moves between tuned down guitars to a sharper sounding old school Metallica groove. A majority of the song however stays at the low end of the bass spectrum and is overall an excellent track.
“Creature” is a song about living a lie and hiding all the imperfections and sinful parts of yourself; there is the fear of judgment and of the repercussions if you allowed the “creature” to come out to play. “So I shut it out, I bottle up, I hide it from the world. If I let it out I don’t know what I’ll do.” We all have something we hide, no matter how hard we try to pretend, we all have creatures lurking within. This song has a great intro and like so many other tracks on this CD, the musical arrangement fits perfectly and positions you in the right state of mind to truly enjoy the song. If you listen to this track for no other reason, you should check it out just for James Cassells’ drum work and an exceptionally great breakdown. There are also some really nice screams from Worsnop that work well with the mood “Creature” conjures.
The next song starts out feeling very 80s metal with big sounding guitars and drum composition, but “White Line Fever” takes that 80s feel and updates it and the product of this melding is definitely successful. The lyrics are superbly entertaining with a catchy chorus and an impressive hook built in:
“I got the white line fever and an appetite for sin. If there’s a black hole headed for hell then baby count me in. I sold my soul so long ago, a bullet in the chamber with nowhere to go. If there’s a black hole headed for hell then baby count me.”
Every part of this song is unified, it is a puzzle and all the pieces fit perfectly together, the orchestra, the guitars, the bass, the drums, the vocals, everything is immaculate. Such a dirty little diddy that is so very wickedly enjoyable.
Hold onto your knickers ladies and gentlemen because we are heading full steam ahead into a full-fledged rock song called “Moving On.” I will come right out and tell you this track is swoon worthy and yes this is a power ballad, a very wonderfully successful one. “A boy of anguish now he’s a man of soul; traded in his misery for the lonely life of the road.” I would be neglectful if I didn’t direct you to pay close attention to the bridge, because it blows the top off this song and it will not disappoint. As a whole, “Moving On” is a beautiful track and hopefully this song will also be released as a single.
Track 11 is “The Road”, and I was unsure about this one. The beginning of the song felt awkward and I didn’t really care for the way the first verse meshed with the instrumentation, but have patience. Once the song moves past this point you will soon discover a skillfully melodious chorus and the song continues to pick up momentum after that. “The Road” has a very metal sounding breakdown which mixes the sound up nicely along with a sweet guitar solo and some engaging vocal Olympics. This song describes the life you lead as a working band. Always on the road, missing what you have at home and wanting to just “sleep in my own bed;” a feeling most members of touring bands encounter. I have to say, after a somewhat uneven start, “The Road” finishes strong.
Closing it all out is “Until the End” which features a guest appearance by vocalist Howard Jones (formerly of Killswitch Engage). Admittedly I would have to say this is the track I like the least on the album. I genuinely love the beginning of the song, especially the drums, and I took great pleasure in the way Jones and Worsnop’s vocals sound when blended together. Vocally, I also enjoyed the gruffer sections and the bridge is harmonious and strong. However, I did not care for some of the straight vocal parts performed by Jones, they fell a little short for me. “Until the End” feels a bit off-center, but tries hard and has some really dazzling elements, but it also has some flawed components.
From Death to Destiny takes it home with a bonus track, a radio “rock mix” of the song “The Death of Me.” This version removes all the vocal ingredients that made the original version metalcore and transforms the song to exactly what it says it is, a rock mix.
From Death to Destiny is musically cohesive and takes some of the greatest elements of our 80s metal past and blends it with a modern edge to create music so decadently enjoyable it is most certainly sinful. The musicianship is impeccable and not overworked. Things are simple when they need to be, complex when required, and although sometimes adding an orchestra to a song can sound contrite, here it only brings depth to the sound. The lyrics are thought-provoking and even in the harshest lyrical moments of this CD the musical arrangements make those dark moments seem exquisite.
Asking Alexandria’s sound has changed, but change is not always a terrible thing. I loved Stand Up and Scream and Reckless & Relentless and I love From Death to Destiny as well. You can no longer stamp the standard metalcore label on this band, because that would be erroneous. Asking Alexandria have matured as artists and that is reflected in their music. Danny Worsnop, like it or not, remains a very charismatic frontman whose vocals have evolved and I appreciate the gruff raspy edge he now possesses. I believe Worsnop, on this CD, exhibits a more developed vibrato with very eloquently placed pitch changes that expand the power and feeling his vocals can evoke.
Overall, this is a superbly put together CD and except for a couple of imperfections From Death to Destiny was conceived, constructed and laid out successfully. The production quality is slick and the album as a whole sounds larger than life. You can call this CD a sellout if you wish, but I think this a completely successful project and worthy of your time. I give this CD 9.5 out of 10 stars.
From Death to Destiny is available on iTunes: