The past 4 years Lodi, California post-hardcore sextet A Skylit Drive have been continuously gaining popularity. The band’s first release, the She Watched the Sky EP, earned them a strong group of followers, after the departure of their vocalist Jordan Blake the band solidified their lineup with the addition of singer Michael “Jag” Jagmin formerly of post-hardcore act Odd Project. Their full-length debut Wires… And the Concept of Breathing, an interesting album that while being severely inconsistent showed a band that had some promise; Wires garnered the attention of Fearless Records who signed them later that year. In 2009 the band released their second full-length, Adelphia, a concept album that wasn’t well received by fans due to its lack of memorable songs. Now the band has returned with their third full-length Identity On Fire, which fixes some of the issues that had constantly plagued A Skylit Drive in the past, but brings in some new problems of its own.
The short introduction “Carry the Broken” might work in engaging listeners to the album, it does however bring up the main issue of the album, which is their new affinity with the clichés of today’s scene, with unnecessary chants being the case in this song. The album officially begins with “Too Little Too Late”, which actually showcases the vocal improvements that Identity On Fire brings, Michael “Jag” Jagmin’s voice is no longer constantly at an unnecessarily high pitch, he has now learned to control his range effectively, which adds a grittier feeling to the album, guitarists Joey Wilson and Nick Miller do a good job at driving the song’s chorus and backing up Jagmin’s voice, another plus is that Kyle Simmons’s keyboard is now more audible than in the band’s previous releases. Unfortunately things don’t stay this good for long, “XO Skeleton” is filled with clichés, the track brings with it in one of the constant issues on Identity On Fire, while A Skylit Drive’s previous releases utilized breakdowns they were used in relatively small doses, this time around however the band has clearly seen the success that other acts have gained using the breakdown formula, most of the breakdowns are very unnecessary, specially the dupstep infused breakdown which seems to be turning into a trend (who didn’t see it coming after Attack Attack! used it on “Smokahontas”?).
“Ex Marks the Spot” is the song that best exemplifies the album’s successes and downfalls, Jagmin’s vocals continue to stay consistently strong, while bass player Brian White continues his trend of progressively improving on his screams, as Identity On Fire has him sounding more powerful and confident than ever before, this track includes everything that kids these days seems to be enjoying, which is not necessarily a good thing, it includes everything from cheesy chants to unnecessary breakdown mixed with dubstep, without a doubt this could easily become the song that fans will enjoy most out of the album.
The rest of the album brings forth the most troubling issue of the album; it just doesn’t work as a 12 song record. After hearing the first few batch of songs there just isn’t anything left to expect, the remaining tracks tend to blend in together, even Jagmin and White’s vocals aren’t able to salvage songs like “The Cali Buds”, which is the obligatory “I love my friends forever and ever” song, or “Fuck the System” which lyrically seems to be a new side of A Skylit Drive, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to suit them.
“500 Days of Bummer” and “Tempt Me, Temptation” are extremely forgettable and just make the album drag on. After the first batch of songs the only song really worth checking out is the title track, which despite shameful lyrics (“My heart will explode/Or is this all in my head?/Wipe the sweat from my eyes”), has the best vocal delivery on the album, with Jagmin and White’s clashing in a way that just didn’t seem to work in previous releases. Last track “If You Lived Here You’d Be Home” is another forgettable track, which unfortunately does not end the album on a positive note.
Identity On Fire fails exactly where Adelphia succeeded, instead of working as a front to back album it works with its inclusion of a batch of standout songs. Songs like “Ex Marks the Spot” and “Identity On Fire” are sure to become fan favorites. It’s hard to compare Identity On Fire to the band’s previous works, while the band has improved on their formula and most of all their vocals, it just isn’t memorable enough to call it their best work yet. Chances are Identity On Fire won’t completely change opinions on the band, but it will surely satisfy fans of the band as well as fans of the genre.