Within the realm of what has come to be known as the post-hardcore genre of music, A Skylit Drive has carved out a rather unique niche. For those who actively listen to the band or simply have heard a song or two by them, it’s hard to picture A Skylit Drive without immediately imagining the unmistakable voice of their frontman Michael “Jag” Jagmin.
With “Identity On Fire,” A Skylit Drive continues to embrace Jagmin’s distinguished and trademark high-pitched voice with catchier choruses and other musical elements that allow for his vocals to shine more than ever before. That being said, Jagmin’s voice has also become noticeably more versatile as well — this can be chalked up to this album being A Skylit Drive’s fourth studio outing.
Jagmin’s voice isn’t the only thing that has evolved, however. The band’s overall sound has also developed into something refreshing for the post-hardcore genre, which is being constantly flooded with boring and lazy songwriting. Even though A Skylit Drive falls prey to the bread-and-butter song structures on a few tracks, the other elements that comprise their sound help make up for these shortcomings.
Outside of Jagmin’s vocals, A Skylit Drive also makes use of both bassist Brian White and drummer Corey La Quay to provide screaming vocals, used primarily during breakdown segments or other generally heavy parts of their music. Thankfully, they do keep the use of these types of vocals varied as to avoid the typical “screamed verse, sang chorus” structure that plagues many bands of the same genre, as it stagnates song structure variance and makes some bands boring to listen to.
Both White and La Quay’s vocals are crisp and well executed, with White doing most of the screaming and La Quay providing the low backing screams. In addition to the unique vocals of Jagmin, A Skylit Drive’s screaming duo also manages to uphold a unique sound with subtle, refreshing accents to their vocals like in the second track of the album, “Too Little Too Late.”
Chanted vocals by the whole band also appears on more than one occasion on “Identity On Fire,” starting with the somewhat chilling introduction “Carry the Broken.” It is also on this track that the album foreshadows its heavier use of electronics to add another dynamic layer in A Skylit Drive’s slightly rehashed sound.
The presence of the synthesizer and other electronic elements have a much stronger and noticeable effect on their sound on this album. Previously, these elements were barely noticed and didn’t really serve much of a purpose, but on “Identity On Fire,” it makes a significant impact.
For example, at the beginning of “If You Lived Here You’d Be Home,” the synthesizer element stands out in ways unlike on earlier A Skylit Drive albums. On their previously released single “Xo Skeleton,” there are various places in the song that the electronics make themselves known, filling in the gaps in a breakdown and adding another layer to the catchy chorus that really defines the song as a standout among the rest.
The song that best exemplifies all these enhanced characteristics of A Skylit Drive’s sound is “Ex Marks the Spot,” which features everything mentioned here so far. The song starts with a chant, followed first by a heavy section marked by White and La Quay’s dual vocal talents and then by catchy lead guitars apart from the also catchy chorus, giving the song some structural diversity. The electronics also play an impressive role in this song, with different synthesized sounds and effects weaving themselves into both the heavy and poppy parts of the song.
Other songs that stand out on this album are the somewhat cheesy but nonetheless catchy “The Cali Buds,” “Fuck the System,” and title track “Identity On Fire.” Despite the somewhat out of character lyrical content, the song itself is catchy enough in both the verses and choruses for you to hit the repeat button more than once. The first two songs are exemplars of the more well-executed elements of the album, much like “Ex Marks the Spot.”
In the end, A Skylit Drive doesn’t reinvent themselves or completely change their sound. For fans of the band, it’s close enough to their previous sound to keep them interested while also providing a stepping stone into a slightly new sound through the more prolific use of electronic elements and more catchy choruses.
Rating 4/5 Stars