The Living Fields // Running Out of Daylight
Rating: 2.5/5.0–Tales of bombast and boredom
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: thelivingfields.com/ | myspace.com/thelivingfields
Release Dates: Out now!
Now this was a tough album to review. I had a devil of a time trying to get through the music and honestly couldn’t even figure out what genre, sub-genre or sub-sub-genre these Chicago progressive metallers belonged in. You see, The Living Fields are so all over the place with their sound on their sophomore release Running Out of Daylight, they utterly defy conventional pigeonholing. At various times during the album’s playtime, they touch on ambient, darkwave, post rock, black metal, death metal, doom metal, folk and power metal. Yes, they cover their bases fully. In some ways these chaps could be called a more linear and rational version of Therion. They have all the same orchestration, pomp and variety and sport multiple vocalists of varying styles. However, they lack Therion‘s lunatic charm, off the rails approach and overall entertainment factor. Although far more restrained in their songwriting, their compositions have a cold feeling and lack of cohesion that made it very difficult to get into. While I can’t dispute their creativity and musical ability, this is a strangely distant album that has resisted all my efforts to enjoy it in a meaningful way. It’s also a very challenging album to describe so stick with Steel Druhm and he will do his bestest.
Album opener “Remnant” makes it easy to believe you are in for a treat along the lines of Agalloch‘s timeless classic The Mantle. The very catchy and brain sticking strains of string instruments and timpani drums that lead things off are joined by both clean male vocals and black metal shrieks (these sound like a cross between Tim Baker of Cirith Ungol and Dani Filth). Ambling along in a slow, orchestral funeral march, there’s some decent riffing and plenty of vocal change ups. The focus is on the symphonic aspects more than the metal guitar so it never feels particularly heavy even with the blackened croaks. It’s an odd song but it works although it feels overly long. With “Perseverance” the pace picks up and there are some very neat string and guitar harmonies. The same clean/black vocals are present and there’s a great symphonic black metal march at 0:32. This eventually segues into a minimalist stretch of clean singing and slow doomy riffing. While it works at first, it starts to feel uninteresting before very long. Although things eventually ramp up into something like power metal, by then I was drowning in apathy (great title for an album right there).
Other tracks like “From Miseries to Blood” and “Bitterness” bear sharp similarities to the early works of My Dying Bride with somber strings, dirgy doom riffing and death metal vox but the songs drone on for too long and often try to go in too many disparate directions without a cohesive flow. Strangely enough, the best track is the shortest. “When The Walls Go Up” features a stripped down, acoustic approach and pseudo-folk vocals. It manages to be catchy, poignant and sound like something off the soundtrack for Lord of The Rings. Yes, I know that won’t be easy to imagine. The title track attempts pretty much every genre of metal during its WAY overlong sixteen minutes and it has interesting moments but as a “song” its simply not compelling.
That’s the big problem with this album. It has a plethora of cool musical moments and ideas but few legitimately good songs. I’m not one to bash genre hoping or blending but they try to smush so many ideas and styles into the songs that they seem to lose focus on the overall direction. Its fair to say there’s something here for everybody but not enough for anybody. This results in a disconnect and an inability to be moved by the material. It feels remote and unfocused. While I want to like it and appreciate their vision, I just don’t.
Also an issue is the way the album is mixed. Through 85% of Running, the guitar is relegated to a second seat and its the strings and symphonics that command center stage. This weakens the material and I kept wishing things were heavier and more “metal” in presentation. Additionally, the clean male singer with the high pitched voice tended to annoy me more often than not. The death metal vocals alternate between convincing and cartoony and that further knocked me out of synch with the music.
This is a long winded album and it triggered an equally long winded review. To sum up, this is a dense, experimental and progressive album with lots going on. I do appreciate how creative this group is, I just couldn’t fully get behind the finished product. If you like the works of Pain of Salavation, Therion and Grayceon, its worth a looksee and maybe it will blow you away. As for me, I was bored bored bored. Even the album cover bores me!