Sound — 7
After the drastic change in Asking Alexandria's sound in "From Death to Destiny" (2013), I was not exactly expecting great things from them with "The Black." Since FDTD's release, Worsnop (vocals) has been replaced with Ukrainian Denis Stoff, who previously fronted Down & Dirty, as well as Make Me Famous, the latter of which I am a fan. When I listened to "The Black," my expectations were more than met. Although the sound of the instruments had developed from the heavy breakdowns to a slower, softer flow than their previous releases, I think it fits their lineup change and makes the album what it is. If "The Black" had been another "Stand Up and Scream," I think Stoff would not have had the capabilities as an unclean vocalist to pull off the same growls as Worsnop did back in 2009. Overall, I do think the sound has declined since "SUAS" and "Reckless & Relentless" (2011), however it is more fitting for the band since Worsnop's departure and does fit the band's musical development adequately.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics in "The Black," too, have developed from Asking Alexandria's earlier releases. While From Death To Destiny talked a lot about Danny's struggles with substance abuse and living the "rock star" lifestyle, "The Black" changes topic completely and creates a relatable undertone that troubled fans can understand, while reflecting feelings the band has in a positive way. Ben (Bruce, guitarist) did say in an interview that the lyrics of the band were originally directed in spite towards Danny, however it is obvious that the band changed that into a more mature and consequently better lyrical sound that matches the sound of the album and the abilities of Stoff as a clean/heavy vocalist. A clear lyrical change is seen between all of Asking Alexandria's albums, but "The Black" shows the most obvious maturation of the band, setting a high standard - lyrically - for the band's next release.
Overall Impression — 7
Compared to other albums by Asking Alexandria, such as "Stand Up and Scream" or "Reckless & Relentless," "The Black" shows a softening in the band's sound that was first obvious through the release of "From Death to Destiny," where Worsnop's vocal range, as well as his stage presence in live shows indicated a defection from the heavier metalcore roots of the band. This is arguably an attempt to make the band a more prominent mainstream occurence, but could also be an issue of maturing from the scene phase and beginning the hard-rock phase Worsnop entered when leaving AA and forming his new band, We Are Harlot. Change in sound notwithstanding, "The Black" was impressive lyrically and still retained a select few heavier songs, such as "Sometimes It Ends," and made use of Stoff's exceptional clean vocals to create an album that - ironically - improved upon "From Death to Destiny." I would recommend this album to any fans of We Came As Romans, "Sempiternal"-onwards Bring Me The Horizon or Of Mice And Men.