Review: Saved By Skarlet - Out of Darkness

Zachary Tyler Van Dyke
Zachary Tyler Van Dyke   Follow

Band: Saved By Skarlet

Album: Out of Darkness

Genre: Hard Rock

Record label: Independent

Release date: July 25, 2019

Album length: 37 Minutes

Track list:

  1. Intro 0:52
  2. Feel the Enemy 3:45
  3. Out of Darkness 4:20
  4. Conquerors 3:46
  5. Surrender All 4:14
  6. When I'm Cold 4:08
  7. Come Alive 4:32
  8. Light It Up 3:46
  9. Fire Inside 3:54
  10. The Syndrome 3:24

Saved By Skarlet, a hard rock band from Rhode Island, released a debut that wears its heart on its sleeves with Out of Darkness. Self-described as a group that seeks to deliver a message of hope to a broken world while boosting listeners with an energizing hard rock feel, Saved By Skarlet is also incredibly honest about how this album came about. They taught themselves how to record, mix, and master all while attending college, performing every month, and being involved in a youth group. Nate Middleton, the vocalist for the band, is very open when he says, “The quality of the tracks are as good as can be considering our life situations… and are not one hundred percent top-notch as opposed to per se; professional bands with funds and adult experience.” This explanation given provides a lot of clarity – but take it with a grain of salt. This young band is writing with a maturity beyond their years. With ease, they deliver on their goal of being a hard rock band with a message of hope! Let’s look at this from a track-by-track perspective.

“Intro”: Not much to say here. There’s a big build into this while Matthew delivers a spoken-word message about the grace in the atonement and how, because God sabotaged the horror of the cross, we have the freedom to live in defiance of a world that stands as opposed to him. As far as intro tracks go, this isn’t bad.

“Feel the Enemy”: Immediately I am struck with how much this reminds me of the Myspace era of music. There’s a nostalgia to the sound of this and, again, the maturity of the structure and composition of the song is exceptional. The synth that graces the background and weaves throughout the guitars is a wonderful touch. I will say I believe the chorus of this song has a different delivery than what I might have expected – almost as if word choice could have been a little more carefully planned. It comes across as a bit of an awkward delivery, but still somehow works. Musically, this fits in perfectly between bands like Disciple and Before Their Eyes. A great start to the album.

“Out of Darkness”: Title track time! I think this was the song that solidified for me how impressive these guys’ songwriting ability is. There is certainly a top-tier quality to this track from an orchestration and arrangement perspective. The pre-chorus that mixes the synth in with the chugging of the guitar is just fantastic. Where the chorus of “Feel the Enemy” felt somewhat awkward, this chorus is excellent! It’s got an anthemic vibe to it carries itself very well. When the bridge of this song hits, it is reminiscent of aspects of Wolves at the Gate at their most symphonic. Once again, the maturity in this song in terms of what they’ve performed is top-notch.

“Conquerors”: Serving as the band's very first single, “Conquerors” is a pretty solid riff-heavy track. It’s also a pretty great showcase that they know what they’re doing. I wouldn’t consider this to be a groundbreaking track by any means, but it is really good. Familiar song-structures lead to an easy listening experience. What this song does really well is put on a bit of display for their guitar skills. There’s more than just chugs and rhythm. Intricate riffs, fun leads, and some excellent palm-muted strumming within the verses. The drums also really stand out. Again, not really anything groundbreaking, but the performance is solid and on par with some of the best-known drummers in the scene. If consistency is key, they have it down.

“Surrender All”: First ballad off the record and it’s almost as if they raised the bar for themselves. They’re also showing off their knack for writing a song that is, at heart, a worship track. The way they expertly built the track through the second verse was so well done. It’s reminiscent of what FEARLESS BND (exact spelling) put together on their album Love Riot. I am a sucker for minor-key tracks, and this is checks all the boxes I look for in a ballad. The heart of this song, really what holds the entirety of the album, is the line: “All I have is all of you.” And the mission of this band is stated well in the words, “I would give this life to see our worlds renewed.” If there was any doubt about this band’s skill, this song should silence it. Seriously, this is so well done.

“When I’m Cold”: Continuing with the ballads, we run into what is, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album – at least for the first minute and fifteen seconds. Once the drums and electric guitar kick in, this song becomes an absolute jam of a power-ballad. Where “Surrender All” reveled in its calmer moments, the calm just didn’t work for this song (except for the moment after the guitar solo). This one needed the full weight of the band behind it, and I’m thrilled they decided to make this what it was. The lead guitar in this song is fantastic as it plays along with the melody of the chorus and dives straight into one of the most memorable solos I’ve heard so far this year. So, not impressed by the first minute of the song, but blown away by the rest. Excellently done. This would fit in well with any of the ballads you’d hear from Disciple.

“Come Alive”: I don’t know if it was intentional, but there is a clear Skillet influence in this song with the orchestra that’s playing behind the band in the chorus. This is possibly the most upbeat track on the album, and it delivers its energy with an almost easycore rhythm in the middle of the verses – it’s a bunch of fun. I appreciate that they have a guitar lead in every song as opposed to just an endless rhythm that all melds together. It’s in this track that you hear the band operate with a cohesion that matches that of bands who have been playing for years and years together. Every aspect of this song connects and falls into place beautifully. It holds Nate’s best vocal performance, my favorite drum performance, and undoubtedly contains the most energy in terms of pacing.

“Light It Up”: For a minute I thought I was hearing something from Maylene and The Sons of Disaster! The opening riff of this track is a muddy southern rock slog, and I’m here for it! There are almost hints of Children 18:3 influence in this track. The gang-vocals in the verses are smartly placed and hit properly – the guitars clearly the drive in this song, seriously, this is excellent! Leading into the midsong breakdown, I was reminded clearly of either “Incomplete” or “Down” by Thousand Foot Krutch. No doubt in my mind, Saved By Skarlet isn’t playing around – they’re here to stay! Once again, the band is firing on all cylinders here and it nails down that they’re writing music that sounds experienced! Oh, and that brief hip-hop interlude? I’m not sure who delivered those vocals, but the flow and cadence were astounding!

“Fire Inside”: That Myspace nostalgia is back in spades in this song! Good grief, this was a lot of fun! If you think back to the early to mid-2000’s emo/screamo scene, this sounds like it was ripped straight out of that era of music, and I’m down with that. The riff makes me think of what Trapt’s “Headstrong” would have sounded like if it was a post-hardcore track. Honestly, that’s just where my head went when I heard that killer riff. I feel like the back end of this album is loaded with the best work these guys have put together. As with the last three songs, everything is firing perfectly in sync. With an excellent breakdown and killer guitar solo, this song is an easy standout on the track.

“The Syndrome”: To avoid sounding too much like a broken record, just understand that this album is back-loaded. The first half of the album is great, but holy smokes, the back end is phenomenal! Opening with a pretty classic metal riff, this song wastes no time in completely flipping expectations by jumping effortlessly into an almost symphonic, Celtic delivery. For a good display of this group’s diversity, you just need to listen to this song, because, my goodness, it has a ridiculous amount of diversity. It also holds the claim of the heaviest track on the album. The screaming done here is the best on the album, the breakdowns, guitar riffs, and drums are dang-near perfect – not to mention the few tempo shifts throughout the track. If they wanted to flex their creative muscle, they absolutely accomplished that here! More of a metalcore track than a post-hardcore, “The Syndrome” sees Saved by Skarlet completely ripping things apart.

All-in-all, this album is fantastic. While I appreciate their honesty about the production being somewhat lacking (there are times where things muddy together or something just doesn’t quite land right), I hope they realize just how good they actually are. If I were to speak directly with them, I would tell them not to doubt themselves, because this album, as a debut, is outstanding. The level of maturity with which this group writes rivals the writing skill of some of the biggest bands in the industry. Every other band I mentioned in this review, these guys are writing with that level of skill. Are there some things that need some refinement, of course. Each track here can use some more polish and I do think that the vocals could use a little work. That said, I have heard far worse. This is a new, young, and self-taught band. As they continue to write and grow, just expect for them to continue improving and it will be just a short time until they’re dominating the scene.

High Point: “Come Alive”

Low Point: The first minute of “When I’m Cold”

Favorite: The entire second-half, particularly “Light It Up” and “Fire Inside”

Rating: 7.5/10

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