It’s proven increasingly tough for bands to translate their live antics onto a studio album. The likes of Sex Pistols, The Undertones, and even The Who could never really replicate their euphoric live displays in the studio. So it would be a difficult task for Asylums – of rowdy, mosh-pit-heavy gigs fame – to replicate that sound for their sophomore record, Alien Human Emotions. Instead, then, they’ve decided to layer it with the more intense themes of our current political climate. The record is a punk album in more ways than one; not only is it brimming with lashings of intense guitar work, energetic drum patterns and frontman Luke Branch’s finest ever vocals, but also thematically it confronts everything from relationship breakdowns to the social and political landscape.
Make no mistake about it, from the very first note of album opener ‘Day Release to the Moon’ Asylums mean business. The band’s growing maturity is increasingly evident on Alien Human Emotions and, subsequently, has seen Asylums transform from upstart youths, ready to make as much noise as possible, into a fully-fledged thought provoking collective. This era of Asylums is caliginous, disorderly, and a whole lot more intense. Yet, importantly, it’s still as hook-heavy and captivating as their debut.
The most impressive aspect of Alien Human Emotions, though, is its complexity, consistency and diversity. Unlike 2016’s Killer Brain Waves, this is a record that has as many slow, brooding moments as it does flashes of high-octane brilliance. Second single ‘Millennials’ explores the troubles facing Asylums’ generation. It’s a cherished piece of songwriting, that both explores realism and surrealism. While album closer ‘The Company You Keep’ is a stirring, ruminating and languishing number that strips everything down to its bare bones and focuses on Branch’s tantalising vocals.
However, Asylums are still at their best when they’re thrashing wildly. Lead single ‘When We Wake Up’ could be Asylums most euphoric cut yet. Exploring the more indie side of the spectrum, it’s a song that was made for festival season, you can easily picture hundreds upon hundreds of people singing its chorus back to the band. One of the finest songs on the record, title track ‘Alien Human Emotions’, is a Muse-esque slice of frenzy and jubilation with a beautifully tender riff, that opens with the bleak line, “Dealing in human emotions can beat you black and blue”.
Released under the freedom of their very own record label, Cool Thing Records, Asylums have the license to do whatever they choose. That could have been a negative; they could have just kept going through the motions and released another album full of memorable pop-punk, but instead they’ve explored a myriad of different genres whilst analysing and probing the problems facing both themselves as a band and their fan-base. Essentially, Asylums have released a caring, impassioned record as well as an ideology that has genuine buoyancy in the face of adversity.