CD Reviews: A Skylit Drive’s Identity on Fire Bayside’s Killing Time

Popular post-hardcore band A Skylit Drive recently released its third studio album, which became available on iTunes on Valentine’s Day and via hardcopy a day later. The album opens with “Carry the Broken,” a short, weak, chant-like track in the vein of Papa Roach’s “Days of War”meets Black Veil Brides’s “The Outcasts (Call to Arms).” Fortunately, despite this poor start, the song segues into a standout single “Too Little Too Late.”

The first few songs are a musical departure for California’s A Skylit Drive, who try out several different styles – many of which give the impression that the band is trying to shake the musical confines established by their trademark effeminate clean vocals à la strawberry-blonde frontman Michael “Jag” Jagmin – before settling into their old ways six tracks in. Longtime fans of A Skylit Drive will be pleased with the second half of this nearly 50-minute, 14-song set, which largely stays within the band’s com­fort zone. (Note: this review is for the digital deluxe version of the album, which is two tracks longer than the standard version)

While there are really no bad tracks on this album (save for the opener), the main problem is the album’s lack of cohesiveness. Unlike ASD’s previous album, Adelphia, the songs on Identity lack both a defined musical style and a nuanced song-to-song flow. The album proceeds from the chanted intro to four tracks of varied experimen­tation, through 27 minutes of characteristic ASD material and into an acoustic ballad before ending on a heavy, apocalyptic track. In fact, the only constant is the album’s lyrical content and theme of lost love and post-breakup recovery, a theme made even more prominent by the album’s deliberate Valentine’s Day release, album artwork (a design resembling an X inside of an O), and song titles like “XO Skeleton” and “Ex Marks the Spot.” Still, though Identity on Fire may not be as musically cohesive as possible, it is a collection that would, if played live, make for an excellent, engaging concert – and perhaps, during the writing phase of the album, A Skylit Drive had this in mind.

On the other end of both the geographic and musical spectra from A Skylit Drive is New York band Bayside, whose new album, Killing Time, dropped one week after Identity on Fire. Killing Time has Bayside getting back to their punk-rock roots after several years of releasing softer songs (a musical digression that followed the death of drummer John “Beatz” Holohan, and so can be forgiven from a fan’s standpoint). Bayside’s brand of punk leans towards alt with a flair for the cheerful – think some­thing of a middle ground between Agony & Irony-era Alkaline Trio and old-school Green Day – a style than can perhaps best be heard on “Seeing Sound,” album opener “Already Gone,” and first single “Sick, Sick, Sick.” Still, they throw in a slow song with “On Love, On Life,” which sounds like it could be perfectly at home on an acoustic album from a stereotypical indie rock band. Best is “The New Flesh,” which, in a single three-minute, 45-second track, displays Bayside’s musical breadth and versatility. Though Killing Time is far more predictable – and within the band’s style than Identity on Fire is for A Skylit Drive – both are admirable efforts resulting in a solid set for each.