A Skylit Drive has never been an incredibly exciting band for me. Their first three albums were incredibly underwhelming, and they just came off as being a cookie-cutter post-hardcore band hanging onto the tailcoats of Alesana, Blessthefall, and Silverstein. It was only when they began featuring on the Punk Goes Pop compilations, specifically their cover of “Love the Way You Lie” on Punk Goes Pop 4, that the band grabbed my attention. They further dug their claws into me with their fourth album, Rise, which was released in 2013.
There was something different about Rise. It stood out from all their previous albums for some odd reason. Perhaps it was that they fell into their stride and somehow matured their sound. It was still fairly generic, and basic post-hardcore, but there was an underlying feeling of confidence. It was as if the band was unsure of what they wanted to sound like in their first three albums, and then decided to take all the good elements of their earlier work and improve on it in Rise.
The album showcased a diverse range of song textures and tones, and also a wide emotional spectrum. It brought forth an anger that had been simmering just beneath their earlier song structures, but had never been fully exploited to its musical advantage. This was accentuated in Rise in songs like “Unbreakable”, “Pendulum”, and “Rise”, as the clean vocals of Michael Jagmin contrasted the guttural screamed vocals of Brian White. Furthermore, there was an elated sense of optimism and hopefulness as A Skylit Drive dug into similar lyrical themes that The Color Morale throws out. All these were tied neatly together by strong instrumentals, clever production work and a large dose of infectious melody.
The band faced misfortune in 2014 when several band members quit, leaving A Skylit Drive as a three piece. In some hope to distract fans from the reduced line-up, they decided to release an acoustic version of Rise. The track record with acoustic reworkings of metal albums, or songs, has not been great. Bullet for My Valentine fell flat on their face when they released an acoustic version of “Tears Don’t Fall”, and Silverstein was reduced to a similar fate when including acoustic songs on the deluxe edition of This Is How The Wind Shifts. My initial thoughts on Rise: Ascension were dubious, but the band laid my doubts to rest.
I would not call Rise: Ascension a masterpiece, but it is not a complete train wreck of an album. With Jim Wirt (Incubus, A Rocket Summer) as the producer, the album turned out pretty well. The anger that was expressed in great detail in the original album has been packaged into smaller and much easier to digest packages, but it is also tinged with a hint of regret and despair. A Skylit Drive managed to even further diversify their emotional range with the reworking of the album, and added even lusher song textures. Instead of just plugging in acoustic guitars and hammering out poorly executed Parisian café acoustic covers of songs; the band sat down and individually worked out new compositions for each song featuring bass, cello, piano, and various other instruments.
A Skylit Drive should be commended for pulling off an acoustic album. It isn’t easy to turn metal songs into acoustic songs that are actually worth their salt. However, acoustic acts are a dime a dozen, and A Skylit Drive does very little to put themselves above more established acoustic act. It may do well to bring in a meager amount of fans, but there is no way that they will hold onto those fans. If you want to do well when releasing acoustic songs then you have to sport a beard, be inclined to create folk music or being a red-headed darling.