How can you not love melodic doom-death. It has melody, doom AND death! What could be better? Coming hot on the heels of the latest from Hooded Menace, we get more melodic, doomy and downcast music from Daylight Dies. A Frail Becoming is the fourth album full of gloom and despair from these North Carolina masters of melancholy. Unlike the doom-death acts moving in the direction of funeral dirge, Daylight Dies has always kept things more melodic, accessible and light (in the context of depressive doom-death, anyway). Throughout their career, elements of October Tide, Katatonia and Insomnium found their way into the mix. All can still be found on A Frail Becoming, but the sound here is much more clearly a mix of Ghost Brigade and Rapture, with a healthy dose of post-rock style and sensibility. Never a crushingly heavy band, Daylight Dies often relied on the harsh vocals to prevent them from dropping out of the doom-death genre and becoming a gloomy goth band. Despite the absence of the heft of bands like Draconian or Hooded Menace, their style has resulted in some excellent releases, most notably No Reply and Dismantling Devotion. That style continues here with their most Ghost Brigade-y release yet. A Frail Becoming is loaded with moody, doomy, mid-tempo examples of doom rock with a sturdy backbone of death vox running counter-point to mournful clean signing. When it works, it’s very good. Unfortunately, some of the material is more dull than doomy and drags without ever becoming memorable. Luckily, things hit more than miss and overall, this is an enjoyable, if slightly flawed release, sure to please those who loved the last Ghost Brigade or Swallow the Sun albums.
“Infidel” opens in bigtime Ghost Brigade mode, right down to the alternating melodic and chunky, thick (vaguely core-ish) riffing. There’s an effective ebb and flow to the song and anger battles tranquility throughout. The chorus is a good one and manages to convey that bleak “Finnish style” gloom we all love so much. Things get even better with the doom rock of “Sunset,” where clean and death vox trade-off seamlessly to create a cold, somber winner that could have sat comfortably on the last Ghost Brigade opus. The weeping leads and downbeat flourishes call to mind both Insomnium and Rapture and everything about the Daylight Dies style gels here.
Other moments of success come with the forlorn hopelessness of “A Final Vestige,” the soft, emotional, Katatonia-esque doomy post-rock of “Ghosting” and the extra heavy, ponderous, but beautifully melodic “Hold on to Nothing,” which channels a lot of Swallow the Sun. Lastly, the lengthy closer “An Heir to Emptiness” uncorks a plethora of downcast leads and unhappy moments over its slow and shambling eight-minute run.
Alas, despite a general level of quality, some less-than-stellar moments do crop up. “A Pale Approach,” while not bad per se, never really gets going, and while the Rapture styling of the song itself is decent, there isn’t much payoff as it runs its course. The same issues follow during “Dreaming of Breathing,” though some above-average riffing helps bail things out a bit at the midway point. Still, it’s not a world beater by any means. In all honestly, even the good stuff here isn’t quite up the level of genre contemporaries like Ghost Brigade or Katatonia.
I can’t fault the vocals, since they are well done throughout. Egan O’Rouke uses his sad, sullen cleans to good effect and he shines on most of the tracks. Nathan Ellis has a standard issue but effective death growl that suits the music well enough and he gets the job done. The interplay between the vocals is also generally well thought out and works well. While there are some great, doomy leads and riffs scattered about A Frail Becoming, I can’t say I’m a fan of some of Charlie Shackleford’s core-ish, simplistic riff choices. Though they aren’t used a lot, they irk me whenever they appear and I think the music would benefit from those chugga-chuggs riffs dropping off entirely.
Sound-wise, this is the production twin of the last Ghost Brigade platter. It’s a clean sound, but the polish doesn’t get in the way of the doomy, grey pall the material casts over the listener. This isn’t a sound that necessarily needs a raw mix, so long as the guitars have adequate balls, which they do here.
This isn’t the best Daylight Dies album, but it has enough of their central sound and wintry charm to appeal to long-time fans and fans of the style. I’m a bit disappointed with just how much A Frail Becoming mirrors Ghost Brigade this time out, but since I like that band, its hard to dislike this. Stick with it and let it grow on you and you’ll be treated to some pleasant, if not exceptional doom rock designed to take you into the frozen glooming. Be sure to check out their superior back catalogue as well!