Review Summary: Daylight Dies latest album finds the band sticking to their melodic death/doom roots with moderate success. Although not as spectacular as Dismantling Devotion, Daylight Dies remind us why they're one of America's premier metal acts.
When I first heard that Daylight Dies, one of my favorite American metal bands were in the studio recording a follow-up to their stellar “Dismantling Devotion” I was more than ecstatic to obtain it and run home quickly to rip off the tape and put it in my CD player. And I have to say, they failed to disappoint with this excellent, thought provoking piece of melancholic metal. Daylight Dies are an American melodic death/doom metal band forming out of North Carolina in 1996. Since then, they’ve released three full length albums, just releasing their debut, No Reply in 2002. No Reply was an impressive start for the band but it wasn’t until their follow up Dismantling Devotion that I really began to dig the band. Although heavily influenced by Scandinavian and U.K greats such as Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride, Daylights Die took complete control of their influences and created a new and refreshing sound to the doom metal genre. Characterized by hypnotic guitar melodies, pummeling harsh vocals, and depressing atmosphere, Daylight Dies have brought their formula to the table once again only to let another prominent influence seep through their densely layered formula.
What influence is that? The answer is Opeth but not in the progressive rock or raging death metal tendencies shown in the former bands catalogue. Instead of the above, Daylight Dies went down a similar route that Opeth had undertook with Watershed. Daylight Dies like Opeth, manage to one up themselves and create an even more depressing record than before thanks to spare piano melodies and tasteful synthesizer flourishes outlining the guitars. Now I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or not but Watershed and Lost To The Living were both released at similar times and boasts similar qualities. One thing I noticed was that Daylight Dies began to experiment with the piano on some of the tracks, not overbearing and tacky but as a sparingly used tool to help build atmosphere. The most noticeable comparison I’ve made so far would be to compare the clean vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt and Egan O'Rourke. On the last album, Egan shared more in common with latter day Jonas Renske but here it seems he had a change of heart and decided to impersonate Mikael.
The tracks, “Woke Up Lost” and “At A Loss” are the only tracks to feature all clean vocals. That’s one more than Dismantling Devotion but I can’t help but notice the similarity of tone and depth between both vocalists. “At A Loss” The song starts promising enough with a clean riff holding a nice beat before rhythm guitar enters the fold to lend a nice post rock influenced riff to layer lead guitar. Followed by warming synthesizers, it begins to feel more like an Agalloch track until Egan begins to sing. Fortunately, he has a great voice which he uses to a limited but great effect on Lost To The Living. Enough about Watershed though, let’s get to the main focus of the album. Daylight Dies possess two certain aspects that help differentiate the group from the rest of the pack. One are the harsh vocals from Nathan. Most Doom bands utilize extremely deep, bellowing growls that rarely distance themselves from other bands but with Nathan I feel I could recognize his vocals from an unmarked doom metal compilation. Nathan doesn’t go as guttural or as deep as so many others but does in fact have a sharp and highly aggressive delivery complementing the highly melodic nature of the guitars. Another thing that plagues me with most atmospheric doom albums is the lack of progression displayed. Lost To The Living boasts considerable shifts and varied tempo changes, more than anything I’ve heard in recent times. For an atmosphere driven album, this is definitely riff oriented as the guitars shine as the brightest light without question.
Charley Shackelford and Barre Gambling have caught my eyes as one of the most promising duos in metal. Granted this isn’t a very heavy album but they make up for it with superb melodies. What I like most about these guys is how they can bring out emotion from the listener with their tightly executed riff work. Lead work is impressive, adding somber flair to the music with tasteful soloing as rhythm guitar chugs away with the aggressive metal edge needed to balance out the melodic overtones. The acoustics are brought in again to add another layer to the densely textured working space. There are plenty of impressive instrumental interludes which holds immense lasting power as the vocals both clean and harsh aren’t as prominently used. In this fashion, I hold their instrumental tracks in high regard. The title track to Dismantling Devotion closed out the album in a graceful manner as “And A Slow Surrender” acts as a cushion between “A Subtle Violence and Last Alone. Jesse Haff and Egan O Rourke form a solid foundation for the drums and bass respectively. Jesse’s drum patterns revolve around slow to mid tempo and forms a solid rhythm with plenty of double bass and hard hitting snare blasts. Bass is pretty solid too with Egan ripping some thundering bass lines that follow the guitars lead with ease.
Completing the package is solid production giving a clean and crisp sound capturing each instrument perfectly. Vocals are perfectly in synch with the guitars, drums, and bass and nothing is overshadowed by the other. As for the album, does Lost To The Living surpass Dismantling Devotion? I’m going to have to go with no but this is still an excellent record for metal fans to check out. The main factor that resulted in my decision was that to me, Dismantling Devotion boasted more standout tracks like Lies That Bind, Solitary Refinement, and Dismantling Devotion. There isn’t really one track that screams instant single on Lost To The Living but that’s not to say that there’s any filler because each track has it’s own measure of greatness. Just nothing that could come off as catchy as Lies That Bind. Fans of doom, melodic metal, death metal, or aggressive music in general should give this a spin as it’s an impressive model for where American metal stands at today.