Most of us who have been paying close attention to what has been popular in the non-mainstream music scene (and some of us who have not) have taken notice to the obnoxious turn popular “scene” music has taken in the past few years. The gimmickyness of fist-pumping synth beats and poppy abominations infused with the consistent redundancy of the mosh-inducing breakdown has crept its way into nearly every scene kid and high-school reject’s stereo in these past few years. Ever since the explosion that was the founders of the “crabcore” genre, Attack Attack!‘s 2008 release, Someday Came Suddenly, it appears that every up-and-coming band looking to make a quick buck in the music industry has taken this popular idea and run away with it.
The list of bands gaining popularity with this formula is steadily growing, and five-piece Yorkshire, England-based Asking Alexandria may be one of the most popular names to be thrown in to that list. With their debut record Stand Up and Scream eliciting an enormous amount of hatred and verbal bashings across the internet, Asking Alexandria became the butt of many “genericore” related jokes, and their sophomore album on Sumerian Records, Reckless and Relentless, was their chance to either silence the haters for good or to continue releasing mediocre music for the sake of appeasing the masses of musically immature kids of the world. Well, it’s safe to say that Asking Alexandria have easily chosen the latter route.
I will admit, the soft piano intro to “Welcome” evoked a glimmer of hope that these young Brits may have finally taken a long walk down the path of maturity. As the piano delicately moves along, blatant synth kicks in and then all of a sudden Reckless and Relentless escalates into the same fast-paced screaming and chugging that listeners are accustomed to from Asking Alexandria. AKA: False hope.
“Welcome” leads into the first full track, “Dear Insanity,” which admittedly reveals a certain amount of growth in the band’s sound. Though the same death growls and evident chugging is very present, the chorus of the song kick-starts the album and satiates the otherwise bothersome track with positvity and life. Keeping this positivity prevalent are tracks like “Closure” and “Someone, Somewhere,” as these songs execute a done-to-death sound in a surprsingly intriguing fashion. These three tracks are an incredibly solid (yet still nowhere near sensational) contribution to the album and showcase slight improvements from the flat monotony of Stand Up and Scream, each containing a stable song structure and also incorporating the greatest element of Reckless and Relentless as well in the form of the utilization of an incredibly strong, soaring chorus, vocally in nearly every song. Vocalist Danny Worsnop snatches the attention of the listener during each chorus, only to be set free again to wonder as the following breakdowns and far too blunt lyrics diminish any interest that the listener could have obtained.
When Worsnop isn’t singing his heart out during the choruses, he is growling away amongst the heavy, dull chugging guitars. In fact, even during the uplifting choruses, the uninspired guitar riffs of Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell and the equally stale drums of James Cassells leave the listener with a bitter taste in their mouth as nothing but the vocals even make an attempt at any intricacy. This along with the fact that every breakdown on the album is nearly identical to one another makes for a rather long and tedious listen. While the cheesy interlude “Dedication” destroys the momentum, songs like “Another Bottle Down” and previously recorded “Breathless” deliver breakdown after breakdown in such a way that causes one to scratch his or her head in pure puzzlement, as Asking Alexandria abandons any attempt at achieving substance and just try to tear away violently through your speakers and damage the inner ear. When casually listening to an album becomes a spiritless chore, something needs to be adjusted, and adjusted severely.
All in all, is Reckles and Relentless a great listen? No. Will it be accepted by most hardcore lovers of music? No. But is it an improvement from Asking Alexandria’s first release? Most definitely. Asking Alexandria are at the forefront of their genre right now, so in a way it is up to them to try and change the way people perceive them, and the plethora of bands trying to achieve the same success. Here’s to hoping they use their power for the better of the declining scene.