There’s a strong urge to refer to Asking Alexandria’s new album, See What’s On The Inside as a ‘return to form’ – but that would be considerably myopic.
See What’s On The Inside is a progression for the band in all discernible metrics. It’s complex, sprawling – featuring everything from rapping to whistling – and above all else, interesting… I mean, guys, it features everything from rapping to whistling. It’s an eclectic collection of the individual parts of one of the heavy scene’s biggest titans on display. But this wasn’t the result of them returning to any form, as BLUNT would learn speaking with guitarist Ben Bruce. Instead, this is what happens when a band returns home.
“For the first time since (2009’s) Stand Up And Scream, all five of us went into a studio together,” Bruce tells BLUNT. “What were the bands that made us fall in love with rock and metal? It was Metallica, Pantera, Nirvana… Every single one of those bands, you put their records on and it’s like the speakers are punching you in the face. You get excited. We were like, ‘That’s what’s missing. That’s what we want from this record.
“We just just threw everything out the window, we were like, ‘I don’t give a fuck what this band is doing, I don’t give a fuck what that band is doing.’ I don’t care about chart positions. I don’t care about any of it. All I care about is that the five of us are in love with what we’ve done, and there’s been no one else on the outside giving their opinion.”
The final product – which fans will be able to hold on their mitts come Friday, October 1st – is one that offers Asking Alexandria in their purest form; the band that circled the wagons throughout the process to make sure it remained so. “There’s no computers, no synthesisers, nothing,” Bruce adds. “It’s our instruments. It’s us. Everything but the strings, which were recorded by real strong players, but the point stands: we didn’t make that on a computer either.”
There was, however, the presence of external pressure – at least at some stage, given that this approach to See What’s On The Inside was a direct reaction to the band’s situation. They had become cogs in a music industry machine, asleep with the lights on.
“When you get caught and lost in the motion, you’re just churning records out and doing tours, you think you’re doing yourselves justice and you’re pushing yourselves as hard as you can,” Bruce says. “But as soon as we’ve had this time off and we’ve been able to reflect on all the shit we fell in love with, with rock and metal music, and we sit back and we look, it’s like, ‘Man, these records were great, but they’re missing something.’ They were just missing… I don’t know… A spark.”
It wasn’t until a shock to the system – in their case, the past 18 months of living through a global pandemic and isolation – that Asking Alexandria realised something didn’t feel right.
“I realised that as soon as you start to gain steam, it’s everyone’s job to keep that momentum going – you’re pushed and pushed and pushed.”
“We’ve all been thrown into this pandemic,” Bruce says, “Which has sat a lot of us at home with a lot more time on our hands than we’re used to having. I got to sit back and just be a dad and a husband. It just brought me so much joy, and I am so in love with my wife and my kids and that side of my life. That’s what triggered it for me, I was like, ‘Huh. I’ve not felt this way about music or Asking Alexandria since I don’t know when.’ And that made me sad. I was like, ‘Why is that?’ Because music, growing up, was my everything. It was my whole world. And then I realised that as soon as you start to gain steam, it’s everyone’s job to keep that momentum going – you’re pushed and pushed and pushed.
“You’re constantly being compared to other bands, like, ‘Well, this band is doing really well and they’re from this world and they sound like this, and this band is doing well and you need to tour with this band.’ And it’s just like, ‘Oh, okay.’ I think we got lost.”
It’s on account of this hunger that See What’s On The Inside exhumes the kind of youthful energy one might expect from a band’s debut full-length. Indeed, even Bruce sees the impending record as somewhat of a spiritual sequel to their groundbreaking debut, Stand Up And Scream. Not sonically or stylistically, mind you, but “just the five people that made Stand Up And Scream finding [themselves] again”.
“When we did Stand Up And Scream, we were so passionate, so in love,” Bruce recalls. “There were no expectations – it was five bandmates creating music that we just loved. And for us, and that was it. We didn’t know if anyone was going to listen to it. That was the realisation I had during this period of time: ‘I need to get that back. We need to get that back.’ And that’s what we did. We’ve reconnected, not just as a band, but just as a family and as a group of friends again. It wasn’t just rewarding, it was necessary.”
The overwhelming takeaway from See What’s On The Inside is that it’s a good time. And by the sounds of things, it was just as much fun to make as it is to listen to.
“There was no whipping or chaining,” Bruce asserts. “It was setting aside everyone else’s expectations and opinions and going, ‘What do we want to do? What do we love? What makes us excited?’ It was just like, ‘Let’s do it. If we want to do this, we’re going to do this.’ And that’s why… Yeah, ‘Never Gonna Learn’, we call it the whistle song. And it was like, ‘You know, why can’t we whistle? That’s what we want to do on this song.'”
This M.O. also created breathing room for the band to experience a new ‘first’ – something rare when you’re up to album #7. “This is the first album we’ve ever written a major song for that very reason,” Bruce says, citing ‘You’ve Made It This Far’ as “probably the most uplifting song” that Asking Alexandria have ever written.
This long overdue journey home also resulted in a radiation of positivity on See What’s On The Inside. It’s something rarely seen these days, and indeed something Asking Alexandria weren’t expecting to embed on the record. There is, as Bruce tells us, an “overwhelming sense of positivity, self-acceptance and self-love, and being okay with who you are – not needing to rely on everyone else to be happy…”
See What’s On The Inside is out Friday, October 1st via Better Noise
Click here to pre-order and/or pre-save it