A Skylit Drive


Written by: TL on 15/10/2015 13:27:18

California metalcore outfit A Skylit Drive has been at it for a while now, since rising to widespread attention with 2008's debut album "Wires... And The Concept Of Breathing". They arrive this year on their fifth album, titled simply "ASD", and behind the scenes, time is starting to make its mark on the group. Drummer Cory La Quay and bassist Brian White have decided to step off following 2013's "Rise", leading to a regrouping period for the band and marking "ASD" as the first step forward without the contribution of those two, who had otherwise been part of the band since 2005.

If you did not know of these line-up changes, however, you probably would not expect A Skylit Drive to have changed all that much because historically they haven't from album to album. And indeed, the introduction of drummer Brandon Richter and new guitarist Michael Labelle (bass duties have been overtaken by longtime keyboardist Kyle Simmons), has not brought about a great revolution in the music the band delivers. "ASD" continues in a straight line with another batch of metalcore from the poppier end of the spectrum, where the band tries to put the power and urgency of heavy music behind the kind of catchy melodic choruses that lend themselves well to being sung along to, even by people who don't normally listen to heavier music.

If that description sounds a bit cynical, it's because that's the reaction you increasingly get returning to one A Skylit Drive album after the other. Singer Michael Jagmin is back with his effeminate countertenor, unmistakable as ever, but there's a persistent impression you get - partly from his delivery and partly from the overly polished production of the record - that A Skylit Drive's sound has gotten flatter. Simmons' electronic touches are almost unnoticeable here, perhaps as a result of him having had to focus on the bass, and while Labelle and Nick Miller, on guitars, routinely toy with the hearts of old Saosin fans, playing many a ringing melody that makes you yearn for that band's glory days, the way things are put together overall sounds more like the band has been thinking about what works on their audience - and less like they actually still take joy in playing heavy music and pushing the envelope with new ideas.

That's the elaborate way of saying that as a whole, "ASD" is a pretty generic release in its genre. The band's experience cannot be denied, as there are indeed highlights that are catchy at face value, such as "Falling Apart In A (Crow)ded Room", "Risk It All" and "Oblivion", but much of the remaining record blend's together indistinctly with the soup of American metalcore that fans of the genre have likely already heard to death, both from A Skylit Drive and their peers. The balladic start to "Find A Way" sounds initially like something that could have paid glorious tribute to the legendary "Translating The Name EP" (again, Saosin fans will understand), but falls flat with a lacklustre clean vocal hook, and ironically, 'Jag has a moment here arriving at the lyric "Feels like we're stuck on repeat, over and over". Indeed Jag, indeed.

The truth is, though, that people who still pay attention to A Skylit Drive likely know exactly what they're getting themselves into with a new record from the band. And for a group of career musicians who are likely maturing and have responsibilities to think of, securing the next touring cycle and the continued flock of young fans, with a handful of catchy choruses in an otherwise glossy and "safe" metalcore production, maybe that is good enough. One wishes, however, that the band eventually rediscovers some similar ambitions to those they had when they started writing music in the first place. Because if you can't convince returning listeners that you're at least still trying to evolve your take on the genre you're playing, perhaps that's where your curve starts to stagnate and bend downwards? If it hasn't already?


Download: Falling Apart In A (Crow)ded Room, Risk It All, Oblivion
For The Fans Of: Saosin, Blessthefall, Secrets, Adept
Listen: facebook.com/ASkylitDrive

Release date 09.10.2015
Tragic Hero Music Group

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