Asking Alexandria balances influences to create distinctive hard rock
There's old school, and then there's new school. And then there are old schoolers trying to join the new school and vice versa. That's when music gets exciting.
Utahns got the opportunity to hear both types this weekend, as hard-rock supergroup Kill Devil Hill headlined on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Bar Deluxe, and then Asking Alexandria headlines Monday, Nov. 26 at In the Venue.
Were you looking for holiday music from these guys? Look elsewhere.
Kill Devil Hill's foundation is the rhythmic tandem of Rex Brown (of Pantera and Down fame) on bass and Vinny Appice (of Black Sabbath and Dio) on drums, with Mark Zavon on guitar and relative newcomer Dewey Bragg on vocals.
In phone interviews, Brown and Appice said they have known each other since the metal festivals of the early 1990s, and had always wanted to play together at some point.
That point came in 2009, when Appice formed a partnership with Zavon. Appice heard countless demos of singers auditioning for the chance to be in Appice's band. "There were a lot of 80s-kind of vocals," Appice said of the disappointing demos. "It was a lot of vibrato, and high notes. I was looking for someone who can do interesting harmonies, kind of like [the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains]."
The 80s were over, Appice said. It was time to evolve and find a modern sound, with a modern singer. Zavon recommended a younger singer named Dewey Bragg that he had worked with before, and Bragg's deeper voice convinced Appice that he was the right one.
The only thing left was a bass player. Appice heard through the grapevine that Brown was available, and even though they had a long relationship, there was another reason Brown got excited. It was Bragg.
"Dewey was one of the focal points of why I joined," Brown said. "It sounds as clichÃ©d as f____, but everything clicked."
The quartet released its self-titled debut in May, and Brown is excited about the future of this new band. "Everything's DIY, BYOB," he said. "It's made me hungry. We're ferocious. We're firing on all cylinders."
Asking Alexandria is a British metal band that launched in 2008 and has since progressed to headlining tours. Its second album, "Reckless and Relentless," was released in 2011 and jumped all the way to No. 9 on the Billboard album chart. (Trivia: Utah adult entertainer Belladonna appeared on the album cover.)
However, the band's success has emboldened Asking Alexandria to pursue a different direction on its as-yet untitled third album, due out in 2013. You could say that the band is returning to its 80s' influences on the new record, as singer Danny Worsnop said one of his musical idols is Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.
On the new record, Worsnop worked to depart from the vocal style he exhibited on the first two albums. "I think I pigeonholed myself on the last two albums as a screamer," Worsnop said in a phone interview. "[But] I'm a rock 'n' roll singer. I don't consider myself a metal singer. I want to sing like me."
The trend in metal is to occasionally include what are called "clean" vocals, while primarily focusing on the death-growl, more guttural vocals. Worsnop wants to show off his cleaner side. "I haven't gotten the chance to show who I am vocally," he said. "My voice has come a long way. I've found my voice. I just want to be a rock singer."
Does Worsnop worry about fans who have come to expect a particular type of vocals from Asking Alexandria?
"Those people can f___ themselves," Worsnop said of critics. "I love pissing people off."
Opening for Asking Alexandria is As I Lay Dying, a San Diego-based metal band whose last three albums 2007's "An Ocean Between Us," 2010's "The Powerless Rise," and 2012's "Awakened" have all debuted in the Top 11 on the Billboard album charts.
Drummer Jordan Mancino said in a phone interview said that in the first three years of the band, there were 15 different members coming and going. "There was a questionable period where we didn't know if we could go on," he said.
But times have changed, and now the five band members are committed to the group. Their goal is simple: "We are going to make music that is genuine to us," he said. "The bottom line is that we want to record genuine music and perform genuine music. We will evolve, but it's hard to say how we'll evolve."
Mancino had no problem coming up with his musical inspirations.
Guess who is on the list? Pantera.
Also playing are: As I Lay Dying, Suicide Silence, Memphis May Fire, and Attila.
When • Monday, Nov. 26, 5 p.m.
Where • In The Venue, 219 S. 600 West, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $28 at SmithsTix