For years, Asking Alexandria was cited as one of the flagship acts of the metalcore genre, undergoing a brief change of vocalists some years ago but nevertheless keeping their sound consistent. Since Danny Worsnop’s return, AA has embarked on a sonic makeover; shedding much of the emo/metalcore/etc. sensibilities that brought them to prominence in favour of a more straight-ahead rock sound. The shift started with their eponymous fifth album in 2017, and continues with their latest, Like A House On Fire.
Their evolution beyond the metalcore pigeonhole shines through from the start; the massive “House On Fire” draws rowdy, angsty comparisons to Papa Roach’s Who Do You Trust? and The Used’s Heartwork with enough soul to set them apart. “They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care)” is equally colossal, taking tortured screams and converting them into an appealing melodic element against an aggressive Royal Blood-esque backdrop.
“Down To Hell” is an exercise in modernized bluesy rock with a breakdown reminiscent of the band’s early sound, “Antisocialist” puts a slightly indie spin on the likes of recent Bring Me The Horizon, encapsulating a similar metalcore-in-metamorphosis moment for AA. “I Don’t Need You” trades arena bombast for intimate depth, nevertheless powerful and boosted by Grace Grundy’s fitting guest vocals.
“All Due Respect” starts trippy and bass-heavy, bursting forth into soaring, inescapable form in its infectious chorus. “Take Some Time” keeps the banger train rolling along, “One Turns To None” pushes it into overdrive with its galaxy-sized vocals. “It’s Not Me (It’s You)” is more traditionally emo, speeding forward at a perfectly jumpable pace for a live venue. “Here’s To Starting Over” drops into the lower ethers, trading it off with a heavy chorus that takes the stop-start dynamic of time immemorial to new places.
“What’s Gonna Be”, through its use of strings, pianos and synths adds more layers to the AA equation of new, adding up to a pastiche of The Almost taken past its usual boundaries of aggression. “Give You Up” takes the electronic path, not quite “Narcissistic Cannibal” electronic but tightly suited enough to not depart too far from the album’s form.
“In My Blood” drifts euphorically in the depths of the atmosphere before colliding with another immense wall of sound, “The Violence” meanwhile may be the rocking-est thing AA has done to date with its swaggering, dripping-with-attitude main riff. “Lorazepam” carries these nascent elements over to the end, concluding the album with a newfound profile of AA in place as an angstier Buckcherry with a bottomless amount of piss and vinegar to run off of.
It’s exciting to see the evolution of Asking Alexandria into new territory that transcends the niche genre that previously defined them, as it is with a number of other metalcore bands doing the same thing as of late. What may come of this is anyone’s guess: perhaps AA may find newfound active rock appeal as a result of this continuing transition, subsequently encountering a wave of praise where derision for their association with the wrist-slitting archetype formerly existed. Perhaps their sound will differ so radically in the albums to come that Sumerian will determine them not to fit with their metal-centric brand any longer and part ways. Whatever happens, judging by this album, it’s probably for the best.