Life is all about how quickly you get back up. In January 2015, everything changed for Asking Alexandria. The chart-topping, gold-selling UK hard rock outfit parted ways with singer and founding member Danny Worsnop. On the outside, the future might’ve seemed uncertain—even grim—to some, but Ben Bruce [lead guitar, vocals], James Cassells [drums], Cameron Liddell [rhythm guitar], and Sam Bettley [bass] dusted themselves off, lifted their chins, and got right back up.
“We hadn’t reached our destination yet, and Danny had,” admits Bruce. “I think it was necessary. When it happened, I was devastated. I lost my best friend. We even started referring to this part of our career as ‘The Black period.’ It was the darkest time, but we weren’t going to give up. If he hadn’t left, I don’t think we would’ve been as inspired as we were. I also don’t think Asking Alexandria would still be around. Instead, we’re more excited than ever about this band.”
Bruce locked himself in his New Jersey home and immediately began writing ideas for what would become the group’s fourth full-length album, The Black [Sumerian Records]. He studied their early material, focusing on capturing that initial magic and rekindling their groove-driven and electronic-laden metallic swing.
In order to properly do that, the band actually turned to a fan. Ukrainian singer Denis Stoff gained notoriety posting Asking Alexandria covers on YouTube and consequentially inked a deal with Sumerian Records in his band Make Me Famous. Bruce shot him an email one night. The next day, a new Asking Alexandria song had vocals.
“When I first saw him on YouTube, I thought he sounded just like Danny, and it was so weird,” recalls Bruce. “So, I reached out. As soon as he sent me the first demo, it didn’t feel like there was a new guy. He’s Asking Alexandria’s singer. It’s like it was always meant to be. He gave us a new lease on life.”
Denis made his live debut in front of 30,000 people when Asking Alexandria headlined the Czech Republic’s Rock for People Festival. In between sold out shows around the globe, they ventured back and forth to the Michigan studio of longtime producer Joey Sturgis in order to cut The Black. The sessions came together rapidly.
“Not only was it easier, but it was a lot more enjoyable,” continues Bruce. “We’re all on the same page. There was this creative freedom with no limitations and restrictions. It felt like Reckless & Relentless on steroids.”
The album’s first single and title track, “The Black,” evinced that sentiment. With a sidewinder guitar riff, industrial-style slam, and hypnotically haunting refrain, the song sees the group evolve their patented sound with a more potent punch.
“I think everyone goes through this at some point or another,” he sighs. “There’s a time in your life where you feel like you’re really trying to clutch onto anything, but nothing’s there for you to clutch onto. You feel completely hopeless and lost, but you get through it. The song is a reminder to keep on fighting and searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Let It Sleep” stands out as the quintet’s heaviest salvo ever. Exploding on impact, the track builds into a guttural chant that’s immediately irresistible and impenetrable.
“You battle with voices inside your head,” says Bruce. “Everyone has those two sides. You’re torn between two different ideologies, trying to figure out which path to go down. It was appropriate to go so heavy.”
Meanwhile, “Send Me Home” sees the musicians flex their melodic muscle with a magnificent melody, highlighting Stoff’s vocal prowess and range. “That was the first thing he sang over, and it was when I knew it was going to work,” smiles Bruce. “Lyrically, it discusses being away on tour all the time and being far away from the people you love. Everyone thinks it’s a 24-hour party, but the reality is you’re separated from everyone who cares about you.”
The Black reflects the apex of Asking Alexandria’s singular style. However, that dynamic approach has defined them since day one. It’s what made millions fall in love with them on 2009’s Stand Up and Scream and turned “The Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel)” into an RIAA Gold-certified smash. The 2011 follow-up, Reckless & Relentless, would bow at #9 on the Billboard Top 200, while From Death to Destiny debuted at #5 in 2013. Along the way, they’ve covered magazines such as Alternative Press, Guitar World, Revolver, Metal Hammer, Kerrang!, and more as well as touring alongside Guns N’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Slipknot, and many others.
Now, The Black represents a new beginning and the commencement of their biggest, boldest, and best chapter yet.
“This is a new era,” Bruce leaves off. “We got a kick in the ass to bring that passion, angst, and aggression back. I hope when people walk away they simply think, ‘Fuck yes, my favorite band is back.’” – Rick Florino, December 2015