A Skylit Drive


Written by: TL on 16/10/2013 19:58:00

Emerging in the lighter end of the melodic metalcore scene in 2008 with debut album "Wires... And The Concept Of Breathing", California-based A Skylit Drive were in a sense arriving at a party right at the point where all the cool guests were about to start leaving. Yet while the growth of their genre has arguably stagnated, the quintet are now four albums in, having stubbornly stuck to their guns, gathering experience and consistently improved what they do best. Their newest opus "Rise" then, is merely another extension of this path: A headstrong attempt to refine their scene-oriented metalcore to a potency that can impact a larger audience.

What this means practically, is that as a production "Rise" is better than anything the band has done before: The mix is more powerful and the songwriting is tighter, with many of the album's thirteen cuts exuding a very radio-rock single quality. Frontman Michael 'Jag' Jagmin's impossibly high pitched cleans sound fuller than ever, and with digital touch-up seemingly applied minimalistically and tastefully, he simply sounds the most clear and organic that he has at this point. Meanwhile, keyboardist/programmer Kyle Simmons' coating of the soundscape, with dramatic layers of both straight up electronics and sampled orchestration, is efficient if a bit conservative. It adds a solid helping of pathos to the atmosphere without getting away from the band's core, but I do think it could have had slightly more room to give the record some more nuance and personality.

Instead the central formula remains the melodic/heavy contrast, with A Skylit Drive taking a rare turn in opting out of gradually turning more metal (as opposed to many of their contemporaries). So despite the nice, thick roars and timely, punchy breaks, "Rise" never gets more than a nu-metallic pseudo-heavy, doing just enough to give you some foot-stomping variety amidst the swirling clean melodies, but not one bit more. So while drummer/growler Cory La Quay and bassist/screamer Brian White contribute solidly especially in these departments, instrumental focus is mainly on the Saosin-ish leads and soaring power-chords coming from Nick Miller's guitar.

Lyrically the album offers little for its likely young fanbase to get confused by, but while early cuts like "Unbreakable" and "Crash Down" sound somewhat banal and vague, Jagmin's increasing occupation with empowering and dedicational themes, as the album moves across better numbers like "Rise" and "Pendulum", feels at least constructive and positive, if somewhat inelegant. It is at least a welcome maturation compared to the somewhat simpler and more stereotypical attitude alá "the world is out to get me and my bros, but fuck them, we wont go down without a fight"; that permeated the previous effort "Identity On Fire".

Generally speaking, "Rise" feels most consistent across its mid-section, starting with the title track which is deliciously Saosin-esque in all departments, both guitars, electronics and anthemic chorus. "Crazy" follows and thrives on some harrowing, djent-super-light riffage and a dominant aggression that shouldn't require the help of more than a couple of beers to get even a late-tween like myself to feel like stomping about. "Said & Done" sadly opts to make no more of an otherwise interesting bit of techno-keys in its opening, but fortunately "Just Stay" immediately picks things back up as a tender power-ballad that builds up so effectively you can't but enjoy it as the echoing electronic touches caress the ringing guitars. Finally "Pendulum" goes about the harsh/clean vocal dynamic well, offering a positive message about dedicating yourself to someone, while "I, Enemy" revolves around a tension and release in the verse that's to die for, and a screamfest in the bridge that me of seven years ago would have lost it over.

Unfortunately, "Rise" has three relatively anonymous and heavy-handed tracks to sit through before it gets good, and four only loosely resolved cuts that will send your attention elsewhere before it's over. All together, because the touches that add character to the individual tracks are so subtle, the songs can tend to blend together somewhat, even despite the fact that A Skylit Drive have been careful to embed solid hooks in by far the most of them. And here lies in fact the record's essential problem: Despite it being a more focused, well-produced and mature release overall compared to its predecessors, it's hard to get around that the band doesn't offer enough novelty to its genre, neither in the individual songs nor on an album-wide basis, to feel completely relevant in a musical climate where many talking heads will write A Skylit Drive off as 'genericore' long before paying any respect to any of "Rise"'s intricacies. Combine this with the uneven lyrical content and you end up with an album that rewards you when you embrace its style and turn your attention on it, yet doesn't have enough character to contend with the releases that are setting the musical agenda in 2013.


Download: Rise; I, Enemy; Pendulum, Just Stay, Crazy
For The Fans Of: Secrets, Sleeping With Sirens, Saosin, Adept
Listen: facebook.com/ASkylitDrive

Release Date 24.09.2013
Tragic Hero

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