Changing lead singers is often a risky proposition, especially when the newcomer is trying to fill a well-loved incumbent's shoes – just ask Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden) or Ripper Owens (Judas Priest) how they feel about that one.
Fellow British metallers Asking Alexandria, however, don't seem likely to join that list – though longtime fans might have been forgiven for voicing doubts, following lead singer Danny Worsnop's departure last year to pursue a new band (We Are Harlot).
However, as guitarist Ben Bruce told Kerrang!, new frontman Denis Stoff hasn't wasted any time making his presence felt – and, if anything, has ramped the band's energy up several notches.
“He’s an incredibly talented vocalist, from the multiple wide range of screams that Asking Alexandria obviously needs and will continue to have, and his singing and range is out of this world,” said Bruce. “He’s been a fan of the band for a long time, so he’s familiar with all our old songs, and he really cares about the band.”
Stoff attracted the band's interest through versions of Asking Alexandria songs that he'd posted on his Youtube channel. Once Bruce checked out those efforts, he give Stoff a shot – and, the way he describes it, couldn't be happier about how things have worked out.
“Danny just stopped caring about Asking Alexandria; his heart wasn’t in it anymore,” asserted Bruce. “He didn’t like screaming, he didn’t like heavy music, he didn’t like the fans, he didn’t like anything to do with Asking Alexandria.”
Fittingly, Stoff made his vocal debut in May 2015 with “I Won't Give In” – the leadoff single from Asking Alexandria's latest release, The Black, which appeared at the end of March. The band will likely play a fair chunk of it on their spring US tour, which will keep them busy through May as special guests of the Welsh metallers, Bullet For My Valentine.
For fans who've kept score, The Black marks a return to the metalcore of Asking Alexandria's first and second albums, Stand Up And Scream (2009) and Reckless And Relentless (2011) – although, at times, the band has flirted with elements of electronica, '80s rock, and bang 'em up heavy rock, as well.
Response has mostly been positive, led by The Musical Melting Pot – which rated The Black as a 92 out of a 100: “Whether you’re talking about the balls-to-the-wall catharsis of 'Sometimes It Ends' and 'Undivided'; the churning signature stutters present and correct during title track 'The Black'; or all-out anthems like 'I Won’t Give In', Asking Alexandria’s chemistry crackles with renewed and rejuvenated viciousness.”
Sputnik Music gave the album a 3.5 rating on a four-star scale (“glad to hear at least one band go back to their heavier roots”), with Stoff's presence earning special praise (“a very good lead vocalist with quite a bit of range on both singing and screaming”).
Reviewers have been less kind to “Send Me Home,” an attempt at a big-sounding pop-metal ballad that Musical Melting Pot dismissed as “held back in stock territory by a whoa-oh overload and needless na-na-nas” – although such gambles are worth taking, from Bruce's standpoint, if the results pay off musically.
“Asking Alexandria has never really held true to one specific sound and to begin with we sort of got a little bit of backlash from it because people are like, 'Well, this doesn’t sound like Asking Alexandria.' Well, how do you know what Asking Alexandria sounds like?” said Bruce, in an interview for Loudwire. “We’ve only done a few records and each one of them has been different.”
In Bruce's eyes, that means dabbling with big guitar hooks – of the sort that Guns 'N' Roses and Van Halen peeled off so effortlessly during the '80s – and more modern outfit, like Slipknot (with whom the band has shared stages in the past).
To Bruce, the band's potential is unlimited – especially now that it has a vocalist whom he considers more versatile than his predecessor. As far as he's concerned, the less pigeonholing that happens, the better. “No one is really going to be taken back by that, they’ll be like, 'Hell yeah. We expected this from them,'” he said.
Live: 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, Club Fever, 222 S. Michigan St., South Bend, IN (with Bullet For My Valentine, Cane Hill).
Tickets: $32.50 (available at the venue, through Ticketmaster, or at Orbit Music and Smokestack Brew; VIP packages also available). Must be 21 and over with ID. (574) 234-5200.
More Information: http://www.askingalexandria.com/, http://www.clubfever.net/