In their highly-anticipated second album, Living Scars has created an interesting amalgamation of theatrical and heavy sounds with a dash of electronic sprinkled beneath. Above the Ashes is not only a collection of good songs; this entire album is an experience, from start to finish.
The piano and strings on “Recalibrate” build up anticipation with the help of gentle drum samples that lead into the fulfillment of the full band joining the mix. The song keeps the feeling of an intense theatrical score all the way through, finishing abruptly with the screams of bassist Adam Renteria stating the album’s theme with the words “When the darkness comes, we will rise above the ashes.”
“Fall in Line” begins with a catchy, driving riff from guitarist Austin Schroeder. The heaviness remains throughout the rest of the piece, only fully backing off for the first appearance of the refrain. Vocalist Parker Crook demonstrates his dynamic voice throughout this piece, going from soaring falsetto to classic hard rock cleans. Lyrically, this song focuses on making the decision to live like Christ, even when it seems better to fall in line with the rest of the world.
The music intensifies with help from Chandler Crooks’ drum work in “Monument.” There’s a raw feeling of betrayal buried in both the music and the lyrics. The song ends with a breakdown that pairs well with the intro to the next track, “Wide Awake.” The mood easily shifts into a raging fight song that displays lyrics such as “I’ll stand for something and fall for nothing.”
“Escape” brings a theatrical sound reminiscent of Within Temptation; the music perfectly fits with the regretful desperation in the lyrics:
“And I know what I’ve done
I spilled all the blood
And I want to change
Help me escape.”
Including guest vocals from Amongst the Giants’ Brian Boyd, “Hollow” is another anthem of pain and betrayal. The vocals compliment each other while the track beautifully melds radio rock and heavy metal breakdowns into a masterpiece.
The album slows for a bit with another perfect song pairing in “Misery” and “Deceived.” These two songs create an interlude of painfully beautiful honesty about humanity’s inherent weakness. “(Sic)” rounds off the interlude with an exquisite instrumental that perfectly leads into the escalating introduction to “Breakdown.” The invigorating music matches the words, ascending from the depths of the previous few songs:
“I feel it coursing through my veins
The pressure’s rising, it’s okay
‘Cause it brings me right to you.”
“Into the Dark” is a determined war anthem featuring tasteful hints of synth among blaring guitars and raging drums. The intensity grows as the title track begins. “Above the Ashes” encapsulates the album’s theme in a passionate blend of heavy metal and uncompromising lyrics, fading into completion with a delicate score similar to the previous mellower songs.
The album officially finishes with a mashup of two previously released songs in “Broken Change (Crooked Remix).” Although the upbeat electronic sound doesn’t blend with the rest of the album, it’s an equally excellent bonus tune that’s worth a listen.
Above the Ashes is a masterpiece that honestly explores the depths of the human experience. The music feels like pain, betrayal, and triumph; the lyrics outline an epic journey of running away, repeatedly failing to stand alone, and finally returning home.
“Take my life into your hands
Leave my memories in the past
Open the door to a world with so much more
Watch me rise above the ashes.”
Related Artists: Memphis May Fire, Amongst the Giants, Red