Normally, when one thinks of an acoustic version of an album, they imagine the coffee-shop setting, an artist sitting on a stool with a guitar on their knee. Even those of us who know that is not the limit of the acoustic genre, immediately picture this. A Skylit Drive have taken the re-imagining of their critically-acclaimed album, Rise, to a whole other level, making the songs richer, and more grandiose with Rise: Ascension. This new, unplugged edition of the album is brilliant, showcasing the uninhibited talents of A Skylit Drive, and further showing their artistic development.
With raw power behind every note, “Save Me Tragedy” is every bit as amped up as an acoustic track as the original. Michael Jagmin’s vocals are awe-inspiring, exploring a vast, impressive range, and the edge of the guitar, with the addition of the violin, just make the track pop even more, fading beautifully into the desperation behind “Unbreakable.” Oddly enough, the song sounds more dramatic, with the true tension behind the lyrics becoming more evident, when the song is stripped down.
Soft, steady, “dripping” guitar, guides “Crash Down” in, and, much as the name suggests, suddenly crashes in with a pure frustration that radiates through each line. The vocal distortion and steady, precise instrumental pieces the song together and breathes new life into it, but it’s “Rise,” featuring some of the most beautiful guitar parts I could imagine, acoustic or not, that is the most striking track on the album. Jagmin’s vocals continue to soar on the title tune, which makes it that much harder to resist. Acoustically, there is almost a latin style to the song; the instrumentality brings to mind the image of two graceful flamenco dancers turning on the floor, movement in every frame. This has to be my personal favorite; it was on Rise. It’s anthemic, hopeful, and powerful. Everything about it has a drive, one that reappears on the album a few times, especially on the more bitter, jaded tracks, like “Said & Done,” and “Wide Awake.”
It’s A Skylit Drive’s ability to flitter through emotions that remains consistent; the angrier tracks don’t suddenly become sad because they’re acoustic, breaking up the possibility of monotony that can often be found on unplugged albums. The band shifts from cynical, novel-esque emotions to heart wrenchingly desperate as they explore love and loss without putting on too big of a show that would detach that rare, empathetic feeling. For example, it’s the simplicity of Nick Miller and Kyle Simmons’ guitar arrangements on “Just Stay” that build on the emotions of the song itself. In a weird way, it’s songs about being far away from loved ones that I love to hear most. Not because they’re an expression of love or because I’ve never been away from people I love before, but because it often feels like the most genuine, real expressions of emotion you can hear on an album. You know it’s real. That was written for a person who sits and listens to it with a bittersweet sense of pride.
The addition of string arrangements (cello, bass, violin) and piano really flesh this album out, making it more than just a re-imagined, acoustic version of an already stand-out album. Rise: Ascension is a credit to the true capabilities of the men behind the music, showing that they are willing to step out of their comfort zone, and to such an extent that many other artists may not be. The best thing about the album, both in its original form and acoustically, is the growth of A Skylit Drive; the obvious dedication to their craft.
For more on A Skylit Drive, or to buy concert tickets, click HERE.
Rise: Ascension will be released on January 6th. You can purchase a CD HERE.
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