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A Portrait in Black: Blistering’s Top 10 Daylight Dies Songs

By: Matthew Bowling & David E. Gehlke

Figuring that a normal Q&A wouldn't suffice, we are celebrating the release of Daylight Dies' fourth album A Frail Becoming by compiling a list of our favorite DD songs, then having the band respond in kind with their comments and recollections. For a band that is only four albums and one EP into their career, the lists were easy to compile; placing them in their rightful order was a different story. However, resident DD know-it-all Matthew Bowling and I were up to task, willing to subject ourselves to prolonged stints indoors, with the drapes closed, candles lit, and incense burning, just to get these lists just right (that didn't happen, but would be awesome if it did). The involved respondents are:

Nathan Ellis (vocals)
Barre Gambling (guitars)
Egan O'Rourke (bass)
Jesse Haff (drums)

*Click on each song title to listen*

1. In the Silence (from No Reply)
Bowling: I spent an unhealthy amount of time listening to the first album and this was always the song that stuck with me most, perhaps only because it’s the only song of its kind in the DD catalogue! Images of empty leaf-strewn autumn streets always flood my mind when listening to this song and to this day it’s lost none of its emotional power over me. I still start to trance out when I hear it playing.

Egan: This was the first thing Barre and Jesse let me play on. We were coming out of the Idle phase and things had been a little faster so this felt like a big risk at the time.
Barre: I didn’t expect to see “In the Silence” on this list. It was an early song, written and recorded along with “I Wait” as part of a ‘Relapse Records only’ demo we made while we were in talks with that label. The bass line Egan wrote for the verse of that song I always thought was standout. I was inspired to write the clean/lead call and answer part by a short section on Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime album, which I was listening to a lot at the time.
Jesse: Another influence for this song was This Empty Flow. I had picked up their album Magenta Skycode and was pretty obsessed with the album. I still am.

2. A Final Vestige (from A Frail Becoming)
Bowling: When listening heavily to the new album this song I kept coming back to over and over. The quiet/loud dynamics throughout mesh extremely well and it’s topped off by that absolutely MONSTROUS set of solos at the end. It gives me a metal-nerd boner every f’n time!

Egan: When Barre first presented this I knew they were going to ask me to sing on it and I was pretty reticent at first. The clean verse is so straight forward that I feared I’d totally botch it with something too boring. We had outlined the melody but I more or less improvised the part and the harmony in the studio. Nate and I kept talking about “prog goth” as the vocal direction.
Barre: The chorus was the first thing I wrote for this song, as soon as that riff was made I knew we had to form a worthy song around it. The Egan/Nate trade off really works well on this one. 
Jesse: To me, this song is a classic example of how Barre can write a song with unexpected twists and turns without ever losing a cohesive feeling throughout. I really loved it from the first demos I heard and was pleased when the lyrics I wrote ended up being a good match.

3. Forfeiture of Life (from Idle)
Bowling: Oh man, this gem from the first EP I have listened to an absurd number of times. Probably the fastest song the band has ever done (at least that I’m aware of) and indicative of the nascent years in that they’ve done nothing like it since. All the hallmarks of the band are here throughout even with the upped pace and I absolutely love the closing 20 seconds.

Barre: The verse has a long phrase and has a through composed feel, which I like. Jesse has a sweet ‘thundering toms’ breakdown around the middle. One of the melodies in the middle section was lifted from a Bach piece, which I was playing at the time. Only one person has ever called me out on that: a fellow classical guitar student.
Jesse: Forfeiture is a ridiculously adventurous and ambitious song, which is probably because it was one of the first songs we ever wrote as Daylight Dies. Together with “Stronger Days,” and “Unending Waves,” this was really the birth of the band.

4. A Portrait In White (from Lost to the Living)
Bowling: I have a particular weakness for album closers and this monster from Lost to the Living delivered it in spade. Like being draped in velvet death, whisked away to a soft place where happiness withers and is replaced by an attractive but immutable misery.

Barre: The intro melody sound was made with an ebow, and we do it live like that too. The hammer on/pull off part was the first time I tried a wah-wah pedal as a filter for an entire riff, I’m slowly opening and closing it throughout the part.
Nathan: Normally I loathe going back and reading my own lyrics, but I’ve always been very pleased with the lyrics for “Portrait.” They describe someone who’s become so depressed, and paralyzed by fear, that it keeps them from actually doing anything to experience living.

5. Unending Waves (from No Reply)
Bowling: Whew, this song (in a demo/radio edit form) was my first introduction to the band, many many moons ago on a Tribunal Records sampler cd while in high school. It was love at first listen and this song has held up extremely well over the years as being everything the band seemed to be about during the first few years.

Barre: One of the first songs we ever wrote in the style which became our sound. We were 19 or 20 when we wrote this one, and we all knew we were onto something and had found a sound we could move forward with. It’s got clean guitars over heavy, tapping, a Sentenced/In Flames-esque rock out part, and an interlocking riff style. We liked this song so much we put it on the EP Idle as well as our first full-length No Reply.
Nathan: I remember seeing the guys play this one live for (probably) the first time ever in Asheville years ago at a derelict house that ended up being condemned shortly thereafter, and thinking “Fuck! That’s an awesome song!” Guthrie’s lyrics on this one are just sooo good! “This one’s definitely my favorite of the era to play live; That clean guitar break that comes back in to the chorus “Regret! Every moment marks, the breaking of my heart!” Powerful stuff, great energy, and a lot of fun to play live for sure.

6. Piano Interlude I/II/Back In The World (from Idle)
Bowling: There’s one thing I do miss about the Guthrie-era of the band and it was his piano work, which I felt at the time really meshed well with the vibe the band was always out to convey. I don’t know if these were ever played live or not, but I imagine they would’ve made for some intense improve sections if a particular night called for it.

Barre: Our first singer Guthrie Iddings wrote and recorded these. The "Piano Interludes" were done on a grand piano in the music department of a university. "Back in the World" was brought to us by Guthrie during the recording of No Reply. I was sent to listen to him present it for the first time and to make a decision if we need it on the album or not. It only took one listen!
Egan: We had a piano and Guthrie could play some so we just sent him in and recorded until we had some stuff that fit the moodiness of Idle. At the time I think we were just after some cool song spacers since it was just a three-song EP but they turned out really special.

7. Lies That Bind (from Dismantling Devotion)
Bowling: Holy balls, if I remember right this was the first track released early for Dismantling Devotion and at the time I was absolutely giddy over it. Clean vocals are the first vocal thing you hear and they’re fantastic! After a long four year wait from the time of No Reply it was thrilling to see the band expanding in such unexpected ways. I still get that giddy feeling when listening to this song.

Egan: This is the first song I sang on for DD. It’s also the song that we were shopping around to labels after we left Relapse. When you add that to the success of the video, I think it really defines the Dismantling Devotion era.
Nathan: Lies is an incredibly important song for us. The demo for this song was the first I heard from the Dismantling sessions, and it in many ways served as my “audition” for the band. I knew after hearing it the first time that it was a going to be really powerful song, and the lyrics I wrote the first few days after hearing it ended up being very close to what made it on the album. It’s also important because it was DD’s first song with clean vocals. We all knew we wanted clean vocals on the album, and originally the idea was for me to do them. Egan had come up with a very cool melody idea, and I remember repeatedly doing takes in the “vocal booth” (Egan’s spare bathroom), trying to duplicate what he’d done to no avail, and at some point, saying something to the effect of “dude, it sounds fucking good when you do it - why don’t you just do it?” Looking back now, something that didn’t seem like a major decision at the time has ended up being very important moment in the band’s history.

8. Ghosting (from A Frail Becoming)
Bowling: Along with the aforementioned track this song stuck out mightily when listening to A Frail Becoming heavily over the past couple months. An exercise in trancing out, the open and hyper-melodic nature of the song just pours all over the place and I can close my eyes, sit back, and let it wash over me. I’m not going to suggest the band go all clean vocals all the time (not at all) but damn do they work well in songs like this!

Egan: This is one that I was unsure would make it onto a DD record. The structure is unconventional and the verse is quite gentle but I like to think it fits on the record. We get compared to bands all of the time but the second heavy riff was my attempt to write a heavy riff as evocative as Talk Talk’s New Grass. I doubt reviewers will make that comparison anytime soon though.
Nathan: When Egan and I were tracking my vocals for the new album it came to a point in a day where I’d pretty well shredded my vocal chords and couldn’t do any more. We were under the gun to finish up the album, so we wanted to use any time we had trying to get something in the can. So, being the pro-tools wizard I am (not), I stepped up to the console and volunteered to turn the knobs for Egan. I’d only heard instrumental demos of the song at the point, and hearing the full version, along with Egans vocals, I knew immediately that we had something special. The lyrics and melody that Egan wrote were perfect, and in the context of the song it was flawless. This song really is one of the highlights of the album for me.

9. The Morning Light (from Lost to the Living)
Bowling: I wouldn’t want the stripping of harsh vocals because Nathan showcases how much of a monster he is in songs like this one. The song is stark enough on its own but when that voice comes in over top it’s enough to cause empires to crumble. The somewhat quicker nature of the song brought back fond memories of the Idle EP and when listening through Lost To The Living I always repeat this beast a couple times because of it, the much more metal side of the band coming out to play throughout.

Egan: This was the first song that we wrote in a demo setting rather than a rehearsal setting. This is the song that gave us the confidence that we could write good material even if we couldn’t all be in the room together. In a way this song made A Frail Becoming possible.
Barre: Last song written for Lost to the Living. It features a long through composed clean guitar phrase in the middle section which plays loosely with keys and key changes, meant to thoroughly creep out/ disturb the listener.
Jesse: This is my favorite song off of Lost to the Living. We try to end albums with songs we think are very strong, but I’ve sense wondered if putting this one last caused some people to miss it. The twists and key changes in the middle section really hit the spot for me.

10. Dead Air (from Dismantling Devotion)
Bowling: In letting Dismantling Devotion sink in it was very clear the band had grown a great deal in the four years after No Reply, everything bleeding a boldness at that point unseen. Bouncing from melodic bits that scream panic and worry to very ‘metal’ sections and that ever-ridiculous soloing, there was so f’n much squeezed into the barely five minutes of this song it was (and remains) obscene. It was amazing (then and now) to find a band I was so close to as a teenager growing so extensively as I made my own transitions into adulthood (and the lessens have been glorious!)

Egan: This song has one of my favorite solos that Barre’s played. It’s direct, authoritative and ugly.
Barre: This showcases some of the harder, menacing side of DD. Dissonance, harsh vocals, double bass, heavy rhythm, Sepultura Chaos AD-esque guitar solo in the middle… this song was the soundtrack of a video clip Jesse made when I accidently set my backyard on fire.
Nathan: This is one of my favorite songs on Dismantling, and some of the most direct lyrics I’ve ever written. When we were out touring with Katatonia in 2006, a guy came up to me after our set in Cleveland and talked about how much he related to the lyrics on Dismantling, and this song in particular because of a divorce that he’d just gone through. He went on to say how critical our music had been in helping him through those times. Knowing how much music has helped me pull through some of the darkest times of my life, I understood where he was coming from, but it was a little surreal. This was the first time anyone had ever told me that our music had impacted them in that same way other bands had me, so it was a pretty powerful moment.

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