Asking Alexandria was teetering on the brink of destruction a year ago when singer Danny Worsnop left the band.
“When a band goes through a lineup change, it's scary, especially when it’s the singer,” guitarist Ben Bruce said. “Most of the time, those bands just fade away.”
But not Asking Alexandria.
Almost immediately after Worsnop departed, the English heavy rock outfit enlisted Denis Stoff to take over the vocal duties. Stoff's real name is Denis Alexandrovich Shaforostov and he is formerly of the Ukrainian metalcore act Make Me Famous. Within a few weeks, Asking Alexandria was back on the road and back on track.
“Honestly, it’s just brought a whole new lease on the life of the band,” Bruce said. “With our old vocalist, the last few years with him, we’d got sick and tired of the band. Now, the energy is back. We feel like we’re 19 again, just starting out.
“The thing about our band is, for the last few years, even our fans were saying, ‘What the hell is going on with you guys?’ They knew something wasn’t right. When we made the switch, they said, ‘This is what had to be done.’”
Not only did the band’s fans say the switch needed to be made, they’ve strongly supported the change. Releasing the single “I Won’t Give In” in late May, the band played a set of widely received European dates, then tore up the Vans Warped Tour last summer before returning to Europe. They even played some Russian and South American dates before year’s end.
“I don’t know another band in our genre that could go and tour one single,” Bruce said. “That’s what we did, we put out one single. We went around the world and outsold our previous tours. It’s amazing, man.”
What that genre is is hard to pin down with precision.
Originally formed by Bruce in Dubai in 2006, Asking Alexandria as it is today came into being in 2008 after the guitarist moved back to England and found a quartet of musicians to join him in bringing his version of the loud mashup of punk and metal that’s tagged as metalcore. But Asking Alexandria’s music is too melodic and varied to fit perfectly into the metalcore bin.
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“I don’t even know how to explain it to anyone,” Bruce said. “There are all these nooks and crannies that people make up and try to shove you into. I just say we’re a rock band, a heavy rock band. It’s the same thing when somebody asks what we sound like. I don’t know how to describe it. ... I guess the way to put it is we’re in a funny position. We would be as comfortable opening for 30 Seconds to Mars as we would be for Slipknot.”
Those elements come through on “The Black,” the album that Asking Alexandria will release next month. As with the live shows, Stoff’s presence in the studio triggered a revitalization.
“We’re all able to write a record, to make a record we’re proud of,” Bruce said. “The biggest change is that the new energy is there from start to finish. From the time you put it on until the end, you can feel the aggression, the passion, the energy. The last record, it felt like we were going through the motions.”
Now the rejuvenated band is touring the U.S. with Bullet for My Valentine on the British Invasion Tour and headlining shows on its nights off. That’s what will happen Sunday at the Bourbon Theatre as Asking Alexandria stops in Lincoln between shows in Oklahoma City and Kansas City.
“The goal is to try to get back to some areas we’ve neglected in the recent few years,” Bruce said of the tour. “I can’t remember when we’ve played or headlined a show in Nebraska at all. And we’ll get to do a full show. We don’t care if it’s playing to 50 or 1,000 people. We want to get there.”
The shows since May have been among the best of the band’s career as Stoff has injected new life into the live performances, primarily by connecting with the audience.
“The funny thing is our previous vocalist, he didn’t really sing the songs the way they were meant to be sung,” Bruce said. “It would be like me playing a guitar solo for the entire song. The new vocalist sings it like it’s meant to be sung. You can actually sing along with the songs now. That’s really changed things. The energy level of the crowd has increased tenfold. To stand on stage and have 1,000 people singing along with your songs is the most incredible feeling in the world, instead of having the crowd looking at you, going ‘what the ****?’”
As it did last year, Asking Alexandria will be spanning the globe to take its music to places often bypassed by touring bands.
“A lot of bands don’t do it anymore,” Bruce said. “They stick to the big places. We like touring in South Africa, the Philippines, China. It’s nice to wake up in a different city every day, a different country every day and see what’s out there in the world where we in the West mostly stay at home.”
And those audiences, whether in Johannesburg or Lincoln, will see not a band about to fall apart but a group at its peak.
“I think it’s the best we’ve ever been,” Bruce said. “Our energy level, our passion is back to where it started in 2008-2009 and now, we’ve got all this experience playing together. We’ve never been better. I love it.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or email@example.com. On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.