After months of buildup and hype, ILLENIUM’s third studio album, Ascend, is finally here. Spanning a total of 17 heartfelt songs, the album will have you swaying from start to finish. His otherworldly production combines with the voices of talented vocalists to create one of the most emotional listening experiences of the year. Some of this year’s musical cast includes the likes of Georgia Ku, GOLDN, X Ambassadors, Jon Bellion, Lennon Stella, and many more.
It’s interesting to think that after the release of Nick’s first two albums, Ashes and Awake, people were asking where does his music go from here? Is his music going to adapt or evolve? Leading up to Ascend, the same questions have been floating around social media. After listening to Ascend, I can boldly say that ILLENIUM has shattered all expectations and will continue to do so. His love for his music is easily felt through the emotional connection that he creates with his listeners. When an artist like ILLENIUM devotes so much of his passion into his craft and fans, that’s when their music will organically evolve while staying true to its roots. Without further ado, we see Ascend pave out this transformation.
Ascend is a multi-facet story told by a total of 17 tracks. The album showcases a variety of flavors and different genres that will please the listening palettes of plenty. While most people will say to start off with ‘I Care‘, the honest truth is that it doesn’t matter. Perhaps that’s why ILLENIUM is referred to as a visionary producer. His music and songwriting go way deeper than what’s seen at the surface. The album is open up to interpretation however the listener may see fit. It’s safe to say that a flourish of feels and emotions will be brewing.
Starting off the album, we have ‘Hold On‘ with Georgia Ku, ‘Good Things Fall Apart‘ with Jon Bellion, and ‘That’s Why‘ with GOLDN. The tracks start off on a sad note with the more melancholy vocals. Then when the drops kick in, ILLENIUM brings out powerful emotions from the lyrics through his dynamic melodies and synths.
One of the more unique tracks of Ascend would have to be ‘Blood‘. Leading off with a mellow guitar melody, the raw masculine vocals of Foy Vance scream out a convincing message, ‘We’re all together. We cope by having a community. We’re blood’. The heavy dubstep dissonance of ‘Blood’ will please any headbanger.
We then have ‘Take You Down‘ which hits rather deep with ILLENIUM. The song is dedicated to those that are struggling from addiction and need that boost up. Like how a phoenix rises from the ashes, the soaring melodies on this one brings listeners out from the dark.
Perhaps one of the biggest tracks of the summer, ‘Takeaway‘ is the high profile collaboration with The Chainsmokers. Featuring vibrant melodies and the breathy vocals of Lennon Stella, this has been killing it on the radio waves.
‘Sad Songs‘ with Said The Sky and Annika Wells is definitely another sign that ILLENIUM is a sadboi. He’s been pretty vocal on social media that his theme of sadness is just how he portrays his feelings in the studio. This one is definitely a lot softer than what we’re used to getting. As with many of his other songs, the lyrics express the feelings of pain and heartbreak. As the track builds, he expresses his goal of being able to grow and move on.
To close out the album, we have ‘Gorgeous‘ with Blanke and Bipolar Sunshine, ‘Angel‘, and ‘Lonely‘ with Chandler Leighton. These should be listened to in succession for the best emotional effect. ‘Gorgeous’ is downright glorious and sends chills down your spine. Bipolar Sunshine’s vocals are brimming with emotion that’s waiting to burst up until the chorus. The whole ambiance of the track is further exemplified through the ominous intro leading up to the guitar riffs and thunderous bass. Finally, we have Chandler’s beautiful yet haunting vocals to finish off ‘Lonely’. Listen to the soft, trickling outro as it simmers off from the climax in a joyous and satisfying way.
While I didn’t breakdown all of the songs, I think any Illenial will be moved from listening to Ascend. it showcases ILLENIUM’s evolution as a producer while still holding true to the hard-hitting, emotional sound that he has mastered. Listen to the full album below and prepare for ascension.
Illenium – Ascend – Tracklist:
I Care (Intro)
Hold On (feat. Georgia Ku)
Good Things Fall Apart (with Jon Bellion)
That’s Why (feat. GOLDN)
Blood (feat. Foy Vance)
Take You Down
All Together (feat. Oekiin)
Crashing (feat. Bahari)
Broken Ones (feat. Anna Clendening)
Every Piece of Me (feat. Echos)
Takeaway (feat. Lennon Stella with The Chainsmokers)
Sad Songs (feat. Annika Wells with Said The Sky)
Pray (feat. Kameron Alexander)
In Your Arms with X Ambassadors
Gorgeous (feat. Bipolar Sunshine with Blanke)
Angel (Lonely Prelude)
Lonely (feat. Chandler Leighton)