Better Noise Music
Asking Alexandria have always been a band that not only advocates for serious issues in society, but also backs it up with relatable lyrics and songs that highlight their beliefs and stance and act as a beacon of hope for music lovers worldwide.
To coincide with Blue Monday on January 15 – a name given to the third Monday of January which has been awarded the gloomy title due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills – Asking Alexandria are releasing the five-track Dark Void EP, featuring four different versions of the track as well as the song Nothing Left, both of which appeared on last year’s album Where Do We Go From Here? But, whereas Blue Monday falls on January 15, Dark Void will be unleashed three days earlier on January 12.
I have never reviewed an EP with four different cuts of the same song, but as they say, there’s always a first time for everything…
Starting off with the master version of Dark Void, Asking Alexandria capture a sea of ambiance that quickly escalates with a gang chant of “one more time to fall asleep” before the unmistakable and ferocious growl of frontman Danny Worsnop fills the air with enough angst and pain to drag the listener into whatever personal Hell he is going through.
The screaming subsides and Worsnop shows off the softer side of his chops, pulling things back momentarily before the hurt resurfaces without as much aggression as before, hinting that allowing his feelings out into the open has already had a positive effect.
Asking Alexandria have long been known for their ability to traverse the expanse between rock and metal, and this track is no different. Where many bands struggle to find the sonic balance between such extremes, Asking Alexandria have turned it into an art form.
About 2.20 in, a vocal breakdown ushers in more urgency that carries through to the chorus that sees Worsnop venting his fears and anger with renewed gusto. Gang vocals surrounding him only add to the feeling of abandonment, but the sporadic softer tones offer some form of respite.
It’s a clever contrast of sonic light and shade that tells as much of a story as any lyrics could and by the time the song fades into itself there is still no clear winner in this internal struggle, but you do get the feeling it is not as bleak as when the track first started.
Nothing Left is up next, and again opens with a softer, calming passage of music, but this time maintains the serenity momentarily before the drums and guitar find voice to provide an overwhelming sense of anxiety.
I remember reading that Where Do We Go From Here? was a much more personal album for Asking Alexandria, and that is clearly evident just from the two songs showcased here.
Worsnop chooses to vanquish his demons by singing on Nothing Left, which accentuates the struggles he is alluding to and allows the listener to be swept up in heartfelt emotions rather than those surrounded by anger.
Things finally turn more sinister around the three-minute mark as a brief passage of harsh and gang vocals reminds us not everything is as clear-cut as we would like it to be and the intensity in tempo that comes with it carries Nothing Left through to a stalemate where it seems the troubles have been addressed but not yet dealt with.
The radio edit of Dark Void is next, and the first thing I notice is this version is 19 seconds shorter than the first one. I can’t remember there being 19 seconds of swearing or music that would be unsuitable for radio, so I’m instantly interested to try and ascertain what has been cut and why.
It starts the same as the first version, but, if anything, has greater impact the second time around.
I am guessing you would have to either be a massive fan of the band or highly meticulous (of which I am neither) to pick when are where the 19 seconds are missing, but I do know I am enjoying the second coming of Dark Void much more now I have an inkling of what to expect.
Next is the Sullivan King remix and I will admit right now I have no idea which country Sullivan is the King of, and I also have little care for remixes of any sort, but I shall do my best.
This version is 43 seconds shorter than the first track, which hopefully means less remixing.
I can actually hear the difference straight away here, with a shorter intro and far more harmonies in Worsnop’s voice. There’s also a slight musical stutter which is typical of remixes, but so far there are no samples to be heard.
But, of course, I opened my mouth too soon as the vocal scratches and samples start to appear without dominating. It sounds as though Worsnop has re-recorded his vocal parts for this version rather than just rework existing vocals, which is a point of credit.
Then things go all Star Wars on me and the song drags in a touch of Industrial metal to go with the splatterings of house music-inspired remix kaka.
To be honest, it’s not as punishing as I expected, and there actually might be metalheads out there who like this remixed version. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I liked it, but I also don’t dislike it as much as I probably should, which is definitely a win for Asking Alexandria.
The stripped-back, acoustic version closes the EP, and this track I am looking forward to. I had the pleasure of working for a couple of shows with Worsnop when he toured Australia acoustically a few years ago, so know how adept he is at making acoustic tunes sound good.
This version is shorter again, coming in at under three minutes, so my initial thoughts are that all or most of the harsh vocals have been omitted. Which makes sense.
The sounds of piano in the intro are more prominent here, as are Worsnop’s harmonies and attention to detail. It has basically been soft piano and Worsnop’s voice so far, and the two work beautifully in tandem.
The real emotion of the song is drawn to the surface here, with the vocals also clearer and easier to distinguish. There’s something about acoustic songs that manage to extract the raw emotion out of the lyrics, and there is no better example than this song.
I don’t think I have even heard guitar yet and, strangely enough, it isn’t an issue. It’s one of those songs you could easily play to your Grandparents to trick them into thinking your musical tastes aren’t as harsh as they think. I remember doing that with my Grandmother many moons ago with the start of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets album. From memory, I told her it was Spanish opera, which she believed until she didn’t.
Surprisingly, the musical journey covered over this EP is epic and adventurous. My initial scepticism about listening to the same song four out of five times proved to be way off the mark and, if anything, the ability of Asking Alexandria to make an EP such as this engaging and interesting serves as further testament to their ability to not only write, but also flesh out quality music.