When last we met Daylight Dies, on its majestically doleful second album, Dismantling Devotion (2006), the quintet was busy acing its final exam at the International School of Gothic Doom Metal. So spot-on European was the despair in the band’s pounding mope etudes that Daylight Dies came off more like an idealized version of mid-’90s Katatonia or Anathema than a group of crafty North Carolinians with its own take on the genre. Lost to the Living extrapolates the strengths of Dismantling and one-ups it in every way, establishing Daylight Dies as one of the most sophisticated, singular doom purveyors west of the Thames.
With mid-paced tempos and riffs like engraved diamonds, Daylight Dies flawlessly hits the extremes of power and beauty typical of gothic doom, and achieves a magnificent balance between the two poles — “Cathedral” and “A Subtle Violence” are stuffed with shades-drawn melody and richly textured electro-acoustic arrangements, yet there’s always an unsettling chord change or jagged slag heap of guitar to poison the prettiness just so. Nathan Ellis’s death growl bleeds sadness, his clean singing on “Woke Up Lost” and “Last Alone” even more so.
Lost to the Living is built on a detailed latticework of electricity and emotion that feels more complex with each spin. There’s something larger going on here though, a dying rose grandeur that envelops the album in ivy and mist. This is music to get lost in, heavy metal that expands and explodes the experience of despair to encompass both outward aggression and intense sorrow.
It says a lot about Daylight Dies that it can turn the simple, weeping instrumental “And A Slow Surrender” into the emotional high point of the album. The band is accessing realms of emotional and musical depth that perhaps only Opeth has reached before it. Let’s see what happens next.