Sound — 4
For those of you unfamiliar with Asking Alexandria, they're one of those gateway drug bands that play a sort of metalcore-ish music with bits of electronica and lots of breakdowns. Over the course of three albums they've kind of segued from skinny-jeans-and-fringes scene music into normal-jeans-and-denim-vests endorsers of the heavy-drinking rock star life. This DVD was released a year and a bit after the release of their 3rd album "From Death to Destiny" and less than a month before vocalist Danny Worsnop left the band to pursue his rock project We Are Harlot, so it's likely the last time we see this line-up. The members of AA are apparently drinking slightly less than usual and Danny has recently managed to sort his voice out, so I had high hopes for this DVD. Unfortunately, I've been let down. The band manages to put on a reasonable hour-long set of fan favourites at Brixton Academy in the UK. They're energetic, engaging, and particularly in the case of drummer James Cassells - adept instrumentals. The pull off both their old and new songs with confidence and frankly looked stoked to be up on stage in front of of the Brixton crowd. There is an overuse of backing tracks (more on that later) but again I must point out that instrumentally the band does a great job of performing their instruments. Guitarists Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell do joke about being bad guitarists but both perform their (admittedly simple) parts as per the albums. The same goes for bassist Sam Bettley, who locks in with James Cassell's precise, almost robotic drumming brilliantly.
To get it out of the way right now: the vocals are all over the place. Since blowing his voice out on the second album, Danny Worsnop has been favouring clean vocals (which are much lower and gruffer than they were) and replacing his usual harsh vocals with a full-voice yell. As a result, the old songs really test the top end of his range and he simply can't pull off the harsh vocals. Every now and then he looses a vicious scream or growl but then he's right back into the half-yell which he favours for most of the show. He obviously gets tired as the show progresses and starts cupping the mic to get his harsh vocals out. His singing is much the same - he has his moments but he tends to be pitchy. The story is similar for Ben Bruce - he stands about a foot back from the microphone and sings quietly and out of key. Which is a shame, because it detracts from a very competent instrumental performance.
In terms of on-stage performance, they aren't the most engaging band to watch. Ben, James, Cameron, and Sam tend to put their heads down and play, singing along to the choruses, headbanging in the breakdowns, but generally keeping to themselves whilst Danny Worsnop interacts with the audience. The stage dialogue is funny in a juvenile way ("You're a grabby lot, I think I just got half a handjob. Whoever it was, I want the other half after we finish this" remarks Worsnop between songs) and generally revolves around sexual banter ("This song goes out to the girls. Particularly the 18 year old ones who I might be able to have sexual relations with after the show"), taking the p-ss out of Ben ("Ladies and gents, the man whose gender we've been questioning for five years! Ben Bruce!") and arbitrary stalling. Worsnop seems less than passionate on stage, content to walk between risers but never to engage the audience or even his other band members. Overall, it's not a bad show, but compared to just about every live metal release I've seen, it doesn't hold up in comparison.
Content — 8
In this area I can't find too much fault. The setlist covers some material from all 3 of their releases to date, favouring their more popular material but also including a couple other tracks that might not have otherwise made the cut. There is however only one track ("Run Free") from their most recent album, which seems like an odd decision since they were touring that album at the time. In terms of extras, there is a behind-the-scenes of sorts, a mini-concert (which strangely has the album tracks dubbed over the video), every music video they've ever done, the short film they did in conjuction with their second album and a snapshot of a thank you note written by guitarist Ben Bruce. This DVD has enough extras that any fan of the band will be appropriately satisfied that they've got their money's worth. A few more tracks from the more recent album might have been nice though.
Production Quality — 4
I guess I'll start with the nice stuff. They're playing Brixton, so the stage is big and they've got a reasonable amount of gear on it - custom painted amp stacks for both guitarists, a massive backdrop with an edgy Queen's skull on it, an impressive light show, big drum riser, and matching ripped jeans and denim vests for the instrumentalists. The hit-and-miss vocal parts at least imply that there's been a minimum by the way of overdubs. There's a reasonable amount of pyro set up onstage which sees frugal use for the climaxes of a couple of songs. Unfortunately, the mix is pretty bad.
Asking Alexandria has always used a reasonable amount in the way of overdubs and synth programming and they have a whole bunch of stuff on a backing track - synths, guitar overdubs and vocal parts. This would be fine, except that it's really high up in the mix and either clashes with or even at times overpowers the instrumentals and even vocals, which really detracts from the performance. When there's a couple of overly loud violins going on it's passable, but when young-Danny starts belting pitch perfect vocals on the backing track whilst older-Danny struggles to replicate it live at the same volume, it just flat out looks bad. This was even worse when guitarist Ben Bruce did his parts - the backing tracks were much louder than his live vocals. In terms of the live mix, the vocals sit far too loud in the mix, overpowering everything except the drums, resulting in a mix that sounds quite empty. Through the instrumental parts the mix is alright but when the vocals come in they tend to really overpower everything else.
In general the guitars and bass and bass are both mixed too quietly. About half an hour in, the drums seem to get a little quieter in the mix and it stays that way until the end. The mix also seems to fluctuate drastically for no real reason. When the room mics come on so you can hear the audience response, it's not with a subtle fade, it's with a jarring leap that throws the whole mix out. At times the crashes seem to fade in and out at random and the kick and snare volumes fluctuates a lot too.
In short: good stage show, vocals too loud, all instrumentals (but particularly guitars and bass) too quiet, inconsistent mix.
Overall Impression — 4
Though a memorable performance in that it's the final time we'll see Danny performing with the band, "Live From Brixton and Beyond" just doesn't compare with most other live releases from other artists of the same genre.
Whilst the instrumentals are fine, the vocals and mix really let the show down to a point where it's not at all difficult to get bored with the show. Whilst it has a reasonable amount of content and is appropriately representative of the band's live show, it's ultimately an underwhelming show. Maybe a new vocalist will breathe some new life into them.