DaylightDiesConsidering they formed way back in 1996 it was a surprise to realise that Carolinians Daylight Dies have only released four albums over their extensive career. Obviously they are a band to take their sweet time at things. This re-issue set takes in albums number 2-4, the ones they released on Candlelight Records. Prior to this their debut full-lengther ‘No Reply’ on Relapse Records came out in 2002. One thing that should be mentioned is that in the time they have been active they have only lost a couple of members which is quite impressive really, both of these having departed before we get to this trio of albums so the line-up has been constant throughout everything here.

For the uninitiated it’s melancholic, atmospheric doom and gloom all the way here and it is made apparent straight off on ‘Dismantling Devotion’ [6.5] (2006) tingeing things with sadness from the offset with ‘A Life Less Lived’ showcasing an instrumental finesse that cites the likes of European counterpoints Katatonia and Opeth. Harsh vocals courtesy of Nathan Ellis are suitably weathered and gruff and a good match for the shimmering fretwork which gleams and glistens with precision falling like rain drops on songs such as opener ‘A life Less Lived’ Showing that they are far from one dimensional the tones are lightened partly by Egan O’Rourke’s clean vocals and the dual vocal approach works really well here. It’s quite easy to lose yourself in the longer tracks and this is the work of a band already well-practised and able to write some good tunes. Melody and atmosphere are both consummate and at times the riffs feel like they are dancing away. I have memories of the band playing with Katatonia over here and indeed it would appear that this was May 2003 at the ULU. At the time reviewing it I seem to remember accusing the band of being copyists of the headliner to a large extent. Listening to this now after a long time it is obvious that in the years between show and its release they have grown into their own somewhat. Sure comparisons are unavoidable but Daylight Dies have more depth within their songs here and let them grow and breathe quite naturally although if you listen to the opening riffs on a track like ‘A Dream Designed’ it is always going to have you thinking of their Swedish counterparts as a first comparison. Another thing that’s evident listening to these albums again is that it probably isn’t the best of ideas listening to them all back to back, how much doom and gloom can a man take in one sitting? Having said that it’s not all darkness and there is occasional upbeat flourishes beaming through like the sun trying to push aside dark clouds and shine through. At times this is pretty ponderous such as on ‘Solitary Refinement’ which has a long instrumental build up before going into a clean vocal patch and some guitar work that is similar to Anathema and it could be said that with this song the band lose a bit of a spark caught up reflectively in their own incarceration. Moments of fragility are evident but there is also quite a big feel of heftiness found among this collection of tracks with drums pounding away and hoary vocal roars prolific. Still there is a feeling that things are drawn out a bit too and with the title track being a lengthy instrumental concluding things one feels that a bit of dismantling may have helped this album be a bit more of an accessible and immediate listen.

Fast forwarding a couple of years to Lost To The Living [7] (2008) and opening track ‘Cathedral’ taking us into mass with melodic hooks and hoary grizzled vocals far beyond the joyous stomp of its namesake band. Things do strike as slightly more streamlined here, the running time has gone a bit down and the track count is up with the instrumental coming in a lot briefer at track 4 rather than being left to finish us off at a weighty and unnecessary ending. There’s some lush melodies here and the album draws you in to them with finesse, Daylight Dies doing what they are good at and following the previous path rather than attempting anything new and different. That’s pretty much to be expected to they were hardly going to cheer up all of a sudden or try something new, this is melancholic doom after all. It’s all a bit stormy and the distinct lack of clean vocals is certainly noticed as songs like ‘A Portrait In White’ jaggedly weave away solos scorching like lightning strikes and drums thundering away as we roll into ‘A Subtle Violence.’ There’s quite a progressive flow as this one expands as well as some strings weeping away in the background adding to the moroseness. The album really does hit its stride around ‘At A Loss’ which is a mighty number full of drama and misanthropy in the vocals before it breaks gently down into a mid-point acoustic caress full of gloomy textured melodicism and you can tell that the band have taken a step up between albums even if it is not a huge one. We wait right up to sixth track ‘Woke Up Lost’ before they finally deliver some clean vocals and they add a dreamy quality to things along with the music which drifts along much more gently. Personally I find the band make more impact when they are really going for it but there’s nothing wrong about the change of tone here either. We are seriously well and truly back in Katatonia territory with the guitars on this one though and there’s still a bit of an identity struggle going on here a thought that follows when they go down the very gentle route on the album ballad, penultimate track ‘Last Alone.’ Can they shift that tag on the next album?

A Frail Becoming [8] 2012 is anything but frail as ‘Infidel’ blasts in delivering a massive swipe and clearly showing that in the four years between albums the band had been busy upping their game. There’s a lot more life in this and the marriage of death and doom seems as though it has been injected with a new lease of life. It might be partly due to the fact that I knew this album a lot more but the spark behind it is immediate playing again today and this opener really delivers the goods as it charges in and settles down with intricate riffing, gravid vocals and a huge sense of melody behind it. Again they seem to have streamlined things a little not letting songs go out of control and meander on too long with most being kept top an average 5 minute running time. The instrumentation is left time to swagger and drive away on numbers like ‘The Pale Approach’ and when vocals come in they are much hungrier and beastly than encountered on earlier works illustrated supremely by the mighty leonine roar of “The pale approach Of bitter, fucking cold”. Progression and progressiveness seems to have become more fluid and here Daylight Dies really have moved away in part from the Katatonian references and put more of themselves into the melodies and songs. You can pretty much guess that a track called ‘Sunlight’ is going to be one with some clean vocals cropping up but don’t go expecting a sunny day on the beach here by any means, they may be heartfelt but it’s all drenched in utter misery. As for the guitar solos on this they don’t weep, they scream like dying swans and really are quite excellent. Anyway as this is a retrospective review I am stopping rather than getting enticed into a track by track summary let’s just say there are some utterly corking songs on this and it sounds fresh and invigorating whereas the other two albums may have lost their spark a little over the years.

This does beg the question that it surely must be time for some new material as it’s been three years since this came out? There does not appear to be any impending news on that front that I can find but fingers crossed as next time they could really create something phenomenal.

(Pete Woods)