Asking Alexandria have been held under the microscope more than any other metal band in the last four years. Their last two albums, The Black (2016) and their self-titled (2017), were both incredibly significant in the band regaining a fanbase due to frontman changes. Original vocalist Danny Worsnop departed in 2015 to be replaced by Denis Stoff, and returned again in late 2016. The Black needed fans to embrace Stoff, and the self-titled needed them to quickly forget him, while taking a major style change away from metalcore. Now with Like A House On Fire, the pressure is off and as guitarist Ben Bruce proudly says “Fuck you. We’re doing this our way.” This has opened the band up to even more experimentation, but they seem to have simply said yes to every suggestion and cross the line from innovative to just plain messy.
Instrumentally, Like A House on Fire is a chaotic mashup of hard rock and heavy production. Without the latter, this could be a very strong, anthemic album that transitions well from the self-titled. The heavy riffs reign strong in almost every track, particularly during ‘They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care)’ and ‘The Violence’. For the most part, they’re armed with destructive and prominent drum patterns which sees James Cassells improving once more between album cycles, and grand choruses designed for the stage. However, random and ill-placed sections ripe with over-production come cutting through the powerful noise built up. For example, the spiteful ballad ‘All Due Respect’ is, for the most part, all on the same level in terms of style, yet the sudden mellowed out middle eight is so unexpected it diminishes the previous two minutes. Similarly, ‘Give You Up’ sounds like a remixed version of what could have been a gargantuan hit, featuring string-like synths and heavily edited vocals that just the listener questioning what could have been.
However, the most shocking part of AA’s new genre experimentation is the comparisons that can be drawn. In songs such as ‘Take Some Time’, ‘Down To Hell’ and ‘The Violence’, Worsnop’s newfound theatrical vocal style is similar to the warbles of Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, while the production style is similar to newer Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. These surely aren’t intentional influences, but once heard they can’t be ignored. These are the only few which share similar styles and don’t become abrasively over-the-top with effects and production enhancement’s scattered to add some variation.
Although, the biggest curveball is the omission of an element which has always been at AA’s core: screamed vocals. There are harsh shouts every so often but a classic guttural Worsnop scream is nowhere to be found within the 15-song track list. While this could be seen as a negative, it’s allowed his range to be highlighted more than ever as he can be heard smashing long high notes while expressing infectious emotion. This also allows more focus of the album’s message, which is for the most part very empowering and positive. For example, in ‘All Due Respect’ he declares “I inspire greatness”, and follows this up with “I am defiant” in ‘In My Blood’. Songs like ‘What’s Gonna Be’ also hold Easter eggs referencing their old songs and events that makes for a more interesting and thought-provoking listening experience.
However, the most emotive lyrics come in closing, Nine Inch Nails-like track ‘Lorazepam’. Worsnop shows off about his expensive cars, houses and fame, yet concludes that money can’t fix mental illness with the line “I’m not an addict, I just sometimes fucking hate myself”. All the lyrics in the previous 14 songs that waver between inspirational and arrogant turn out to just be a front, and maybe an attempt to inspire himself as much as their fans. The album ends with just Worsnop’s isolated vocals cutting deep with “I don’t feel bad if I push you away”, forcing the listener to revaluate the concept of the entire record.
Choosing to release a 15-track album, Asking Alexandria have opted for quantity over quality a lot with Like A House On Fire, and have certainly gotten too trigger happy with the production. However, the emotional twists and turns of the lyrics can almost make up for this. And at the end of the day, as Worsnop sings “I don’t need you to tell me who I am or what I’m meant to be” in ‘I Don’t Need You’, how can you dispute it?
Like A House On Fire is released May 15th via Sumerian Records. Pre-order the album here.