I want to begin this review of Skyscraper‘s début, Elevation, with a game of complete the lyrics, from sixth track “Walk Through Fire.” “I walk through fire…” (a) “while in ferocious combat with the dragon sent by the Elven armies,” (b) “in order to emulate the fiery depths of Hell for my unification with Lucifer,” or (c) “for you.” Done? If you chose (a) or (b) then I regret to inform you that neither option is correct, but if you liked either, I would suggest that this record may not align with your usual musical preferences (and that you should book an appointment with your local shrink and/or exorcist). However, if you are willing to accommodate a disappointing absence of death and desecration, then gather round for a heart-warming and clichéd pledge to love and life. This British and Norwegian three-piece channels the ghosts of Whitesnake– and Bad English-past to craft a plate of über-catchy and cheesy melodic hard rock. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before, and better, but it’s easy-listening and largely entertaining in its simplicity.
Right from the get-go, opener “Sail Away” signifies Skyscraper‘s intention: to worm their way into your cranium with ludicrously hooky vocal harmonies. You will involuntarily be singing or humming along on first listen. Vocalist Lee Small is the obvious focal point of the record, elevating simplistic instrumentation and melodies to greater heights. This type of rock lives and dies by its vocals, and his voice soars and evocatively croons as required. Though principally excellent, his vocal (and subsequently, record) highlights include “Fay Wray,” “Runaway Hearts” and “Where Love Is Waiting.” The first two are the best examples of their Elevation‘s core upbeat sound and tempo, whereas the latter is the best of the couple of slower ballads. At their best, Skyscraper hail back to the chart-topping “When I See You Smile” by Bad English. Soppy, sure. Simple, sure. But entertaining.
However, aside from these stand-out examples, much of the record can be merely described as competent. The instantly-gratifying catchiness fades on such tracks as “Across The Barricades” and “Playing With Fire,” and beneath the vocals, other instrumentation is just functional. While there are exceptions, such as the cool Whitesnake-style guitars in “Sweet Little Sister” and the tasty guitar solo bridges in “Monday Morning,” the guitars and drums prioritise the vocals. Once the novelty fades, there’s little else musically interesting on offer here.
Further, there are a few tracks which could have been done away with entirely, offering nothing new or weighed down by annoying lyrics. “Everybody Cries Sometimes” sickens me with its saccharine lyrics (the odd dragon or ode to Satan wouldn’t have gone amiss here, just for diversity’s sake). Also, “Through The Eyes Of Liberty” invites the listener to revel in the brilliant freedom enjoyed by the USA, with such heartfelt lyrics as “her torch of freedom shining proudly back at me” (of the State of Liberty) and “United we stand, divided we fall.” It feels a little artificial and juvenile, especially since the band is not American. Both of these are half-baked in musical content too, with bland melodies – a slightly trimmer record without them would have been of higher quality.
The production does its job, complementing the melodic music with a pleasant, warm texture. The vocals are obviously at the top of the mix, with the drums a little muted in comparison, but it suits the music.
Despite the aforementioned complaints, Elevation is certainly not bad. It does exactly what it sets out to, offering catchy vocal melodies and cheesy lyrics. It may not go down in history, but it is mindlessly entertaining and I will certainly be checking out Lee Small’s future work particularly. Now for some Behemoth or something.