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Synth Album Review: "Ascend" by Elevate The Sky

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Elevate The Sky’s Ascend album glows with neon light and throbs with retrowave energy. The overall tone of the album is full of hope, uplift and a feeling of fighting against the darkness to triumph. It combines Elevate the Sky’s (ETS) strong vocals and intricate guitar playing with warming synths and a distinctly ‘80s feeling that permeates the music.

My first comment goes to ETS' singing chops. This is a man who can gently caress our ears one minute and the next leap into soaring expression. There are moments of softness and times when there’s power projecting out from his voice, but it’s always emotive and engaging.

I also want to give a shout out to ETS' guitar playing skills. When he lets rip, that guitar howls and sings with deep emotion. He can also shred with the best, intricate passages of flurrying notes adding energy and power to the music.

The synth work on Ascend tends to have a lambent feeling to it. Everything is suffused in light and air, glowing outwards from the shining synth sounds. It adds a feeling of hope and warmth that nicely fits with the lyrics of the songs. The way those different synth lines intertwine adds richness to the music.

I enjoy the big, bold drums with their strong ‘80s vibe. They make the album throb with strength and play on nostalgia without it being over the top. While we’re on the topic of retro sounds, the sax work on “Carry The Light” really hits the spot.

My Favorite Songs Analyzed

“City of Angels” has its start as a clock ticks and warm washes of synth sound flow into the track. Deep bass throbs into the track along with those luminous synths. ETS’ voice is gentle and caressing over that smooth, deep and gliding background. Synth chords rise and move in extended passages and a quick arpeggio spins softly and briefly. There is a delicate and embracing feeling to this music that I find compelling.

In contrast to the delicacy and embrace of the music, the lyrics to this song are much darker. As it opens there’s a stark image in the lines, “In the shadows surrounded by all the light, forgotten world hidden away from virgin eyes.”

A sense of loss and decay pervades the lyrics in lines like, “A crumbling empire no longer sustained, breached by the hand, the very hand that stirred the waves.” The song asks a simple but bleak question in the words, “In a sea of lies, where do we go when we fall?”

The sense of entrapment is strong in the lines, “Imprisoned by the desire to need. Bound by the demon we feed” as the feeling of this entrapment being of our own making. The song ends on a dark note in the words, “Lost faith, lost angels, reaching for the shore, reaching for hope, reaching for us.”

There’s an energetic start to “Race Against Time 2.0” as rapidly revolving, high synth arpeggios leap into the music while the solid retro drums propel the track forward with a deep pulse. Bright synths fly energetically through the track to make it shimmer with energy underneath ETS’ gentle voice. There’s a great deal of brilliance and air in this track and I enjoy the feeling of the big retro drums in it. The synth solo leaps out over the track as the words move in again.

The lyrics emphasize the “racing” aspect of this track. As the music plunges forward, so do the lyrics in lines such as, “Ride into the zone. Adrenaline charge, accelerate to the speed of light.”

The lyrics tell us that “one dream” drives this race across time and that is to “find synchronicity.” The chorus goes on to say, “Head straight for the heart. Are you killing time? Control of the mind, take the moment.” We are reminded to “speed into your life, a race against time."

The imagery is beautiful in the next lines as they say, “Head into horizons. Violet sky meets the sun. The light will guide the way.” The song ends on the message, “Cross the finish line. One dream, finding synchronicity.”

“Ascend (Into The Night)” comes into life with quick, shimmering arpeggios that move behind glistening synths. There’s a textural feeling to those arpeggios as they add definition to the music before a steady pulse of bass moves under swirling, moving synths.

There’s deep expression in ETS' voice here and the drums begin to add their own energy to the music. My ears felt a strong pull from the electric guitar solo that cries out over the deep driving bass, shredding and cascading. There’s a thunderous drum moving in contrast the caressing lyrics and the shining synths.

Hope and uplift permeate the lyrics of this song. Right from the start, there’s a sense of contact with the world in lines like, “I feel it, breathe in, hear it, life calling” even as we are, “out there lost in the void of inner space, in the orbit of your heart.”

The uplifting words of the chorus add to the strength of this song as they talk of leaving the world far behind and say, “We’ll take flight into the night, ascend.”

A feeling of flying fills the lyrics in lines like, “Gravity is letting go, gliding to the expanse of a soul” and there’s a wonderful sentiment in the words, “close our eyes, in the wake of a dream Tonight we become the stars.”

The sense of a journey to somewhere marvelous comes through in lines like, “Take flight into the night ‘cause you are going home, all going home.” The sense of moving to a new dimension is conveyed by the lyrics, “We’ll fly into the sky, so far away, somewhere far away. Beyond this life in another time, so far away, we are going home.”

Deep bass steadily throbs over the flowing background and a medium-high chiming synth opens Superhero (Fly Away). ETS' voice soars with expression and energy over the track as the deep drum beat hits hard. That beat keeps up a pattern that pushes the track forward as the climbing vocal melody is joined by lambent flashes of synth. I find the way the guitar sings out in intricate, impassioned notes to be quite moving and the children’s choir adds a heart-tugging additional emotional weight to the song.

I enjoy all of the superhero references and how they are worked into a song about overcoming the obstacles in life. We begin as Elevate the Sky writes, “It's a dark night in Gotham City. Maybe Metropolis is meant for me. My sovereign heart beats behind a wall of kryptonite.”

He asks, “Where's my cape, where's the sidekick to help me save the day?”

The chorus is full of uplifting sentiments as it says, “Fly high into the sky, I'll catch you if you fall.” There’s a yearning for the ability to do more in the world in lines like, “If only I had Spidey senses, so I can tell when something’s wrong. Or an iron suit to protect this heart from breaking into pieces.”

In the children’s choir chorus, there’s an ache to be able to, “fly you to the sky, superhero, wanna fly you to the sky.”

“Wild Hearts” starts with the sound of the street and an airy, bright synth that yearns over the track’s smooth beat. Once again, ETS brings passion and energy as he sings a strong, ear-grabbing vocal melody as the heartbeat of retro drums and solid bass goes on. The little moments of flashing synth only add more effulgent energy as that lead synth doubles the vocals over the relentless beat. The guitar is richly expressive as it wheels and dances through the track and matches the emotion in ETS’ voice.

Love is a complex and uncertain emotion. This song captures that uncertainty and complexity well. It opens on the words, “Just a stranger in a dream of neon lights, street reflections echoing the night” which generate powerful imagery for me. The sense of someone becoming the whole world is clear in the lyrics, “There you were, all alone in a crowded room, frozen in time as we dance the night away.”

The sense of uncertainty comes through in the words, “Could this be forever or a moment meant to fade?” There is a feeling of youthful hope in the chorus as Elevate The Sky sings, “Wild hearts, never look back again. Wild hearts, taking on the night, searching for love.”

Again there’s a mixture of different feelings. There is hope in the words, “A simulation of our paradise. Another life awaits in your eyes” and a reminder that the past can remain in the line, “Hearts beating in time, but the ghosts remain” and finally a sense of resolve in the lines, “Heading for the future, goodbye to the past. Living in the present, gonna make it last.” The outro lyrics capture the ultimate sensation of the song as they say, “Wild hearts, love in the moonlight. Hold my heart, run with me.”

The sound of rapidly oscillating bass along with similarly rapid arpeggios that quickly fly into the music start off “Dream Accelerator 2.0.” The melody in the track is dynamic as it’s played on a medium-range synth. The ever-rising melodic line is full of starry energy as the active bass moves in to add weight and support under the deeply throbbing drums. There’s an exultant feeling to this track. The quickly moving arpeggios add a textural feeling to the music. I enjoy the delicate melody that touches the track before the energy explodes forward again. There’s wonderful uplift, motion and drive in this track with its big, full drums and textured layers of synth sound.

“Carry The Light” has a breath of gently lambent synth drifts and a slowly meandering arpeggio that rises and falls in waves underneath those synths. The depths of emotion and expression fill the vocals, tinged with something tremulous, as the powerful drums make a pulsating entrance. I find myself seized by the reedy passion of the sax in this song. There’s a reverberation in the drums that only adds more power to the proceedings. The sax solo in the song has a voice that mirrors the feeling that is put into the singing performance, jazzily riffing into the music.

There’s a powerful sense of becoming a beacon in a dark world that echoes through this song. As we begin, we are reminded that, “Down the darkest road, beyond the other side, there’s a story in the midst, untold” and that “an afterglow remains in sight.”

There’s a message that we all carry light in ourselves if we can find it. Elevate The Sky sings, “Find the truth in your heart. Shine wherever you are. Carry the light, come on out of the dark.” Even when we are burdened by “ghostly memories” and “distorted scenes” that repeat themselves as we come out of a “nightmare aware,” we are still “lifting the burden, the future unfolds.”

The chorus returns to remind us to, “Come on out of the dark, shine like the northern star."

Verdict

Ascend is an album that hit home for me. In the current darkness that surrounds us right now, a voice of hope and encouragement to seek light in the darkness and fight to find a way forward is so necessary. When you add in music that is energy-filled, expressive and well-produced, this album really satisfies!