DAYLIGHT DIES WRITE CAREER MASTERWORK WITH LOST TO THE LIVING
“Doom” always seemed like a silly name for a style of music, considering it isn’t used in everyday conversation the way “death” is. Death has serious, negative connotations while doom is more cartoony. People only use it in an exaggerated, comedic sense as in, “We’re all doomed!” Why
couldn’t we have called it Dread Metal? There’s a heavy sense of dread to this kind of music that’s much more malevolent considering “doom” expresses finality while “dread” can go on in perpetuity.
Possessing a Doom Metal sound with harsh, roaring Death Metal vocals, North Carolina’s Daylight Dies aren’t as heavy as some other bands but the aura they put forth is weightier than most. Lost To The Living is a reflective work featuring solemn meditations that occasionally rise up to strike with a biting force, but mostly offers lush instrumentation that will endear the act to existing fans and newcomers alike. There’s been a clear progression over the short career arc of Daylight Dies, and with Lost To The Living we get what could very well become the band’s masterwork.
What’s essential to Daylight Dies’ sound is the melodic interplay between guitarists Barre Gambling and Charlie Shackelford. Gambling, well-educated in Classical guitar, has a wicked sense of melody and chord progression that keeps the listener guessing. You’ll think you know where the song is headed until a startling key change makes for an unexpected turn that illuminates a new paradigm in the structure.
The band’s first two demo EPs showcased the atmosphere the band was going for more than they did the level of musicianship that would be found on later releases. Especially nice were those early piano interludes. It wasn’t until their proper debut, 2002’s No Reply, that we got a taste for the extended instrumental passages that would become a signature for a band clearly influenced by early Paradise Lost, mid-period Katatonia, Fields Of The Nephilim, and even Opeth. After a four year absence and the loss of their vocalist as well as their record label they put out Dismantling Devotion on Candlelight with new frontman Nathan Ellis, and solidified their standing as one of the most haunting acts in contemporary Metal. Rather unexpected was the addition of clean vocals sparsely peppering the release, shifting from the sound of a man who needs more fiber in his diet to a man who just needs a friend. While the change concerned some listeners who didn’t want the act to soften its approach, it was a stroke of inspiration that added more contrast to their overall sound.
Whereas 2006’s Dismantling Devotion dealt with disintegrating relationships, this release focuses on aging and the burdens of day-to-day living. The eloquent marriage of clean and distorted guitars working in tandem provides for a miasma of melancholic melodies, revealing a new level of maturation in the band’s songwriting skills. The individual players combine to form a much tighter unit, deftly managing the mood of each song like skilled puppeteers in command of trembling strings.
The leads which hover above the eerily fluid rhythms on tracks like “A Subtle Violence” and “Last Alone” paint lustrous and ornate designs against a despairingly murky backdrop while dark, labyrinthine riffs guide you through a maze of turmoil and despair. Once again clean vocals are employed but on this release they encompass two entire songs and are sung mournfully by bass player Egan O’Rourke. “At A Loss” and “Woke Up Lost” are both great tracks but, curiously, they’ve been placed together in the running order. It would have been a better idea to space them out. This marks the one standout flaw in an otherwise devastatingly good collection of melodic dirges that will be hard to top next time around.
With the stinging tones and corrosive undertow of “A Portrait In White” and album closer “This Morning Light,” Daylight Dies have elevated their artfully executed atrabiliousness with complex arrangements that still come across as accessible. Anyone with an aversion to loud, growling vocals will, sadly, remain unconvinced of their mastery even while begrudgingly accepting the level of proficiency evident in the capabilities of each performer.
So… Why not invert the word Doom and call it “Mood Metal?” Then again, this label just doesn’t seem to do the majesty of recordings like this as much justice. We’re referring to an epic style of music that deserves to be referred to as such. Daylight Dies have evolved into a force greater than the sum of their influences, and as a result there shouldn’t be much debate regarding this album’s status on year-end best-of lists just as it seems certain that the “Doom” title is here to stay, as absurd a descriptive term as it may be.