Have you ever come across music that just leaves you cold? I don’t mean an album that everyone seems to love that you think is crap; I’m talking an album that you know is good but does almost nothing for you. Well, friends, I can recognize that Running Out Of Daylight is an excellent album, and I just don’t like it all that well. Is there a rest home for people like me, do you suppose? Personal issues aside, The Living Fields has struck on an entirely unique sound that sees the strings and avant-doom of Grayceon, SubRosa, and Giant Squid collide with the modern prog rock stylings of Porcupine Tree or Pain Of Salvation, and their second album is an impressive display of a unique and fully-realized baroque metallic vision.
I really have to give these Chicagoans credit, as their songwriting chops are phenomenal. The problem is, I still just can’t get around to liking the record very much. There is no particular genre at work here, though the closest box in which to chuck them might be some kind of avant-garde doom and heavy metal blend. The vocals display an impressive range and variety, from satisfyingly swamp-dredging death growls, to high-pitched power metal wailing, to a downcast clean baritone, to layered, doubled, and harmonized pitch-hollering. Truth be told, though, the inability to pin a clear label on The Living Fields is one of the band’s greatest assets. I can’t think of another band that sounds much at all like them, and that’s one hell of a compliment in today’s saturated consumer climate.
Running Out Of Daylight gets off to a pretty cracking start with the storming strings-and-timpani riff intro to “Remnant,” which honest to goodness might get stuck in your head for days. “Perseverance” pulls off a somewhat similar trick with a charging string cadence motif that anchors the song as it weaves through disparate movements. The midsection of “From Miseries To Blood…” sees the band kick into their most gratifyingly metal mode, with thrashy riffing and snarled, Iced Earth-style power metal vocals, although this has the probably unintended effect of making much of the rest of the album feel lightweight in comparison. “Glacial Movements” is easily the strongest song on here, and the only one that truly gets me to let down my guard and groove along with abandon. It also happens to be the song that keeps the driving metallic pulse most consistently engaging throughout its duration (which, not coincidentally, clocks in at one of the shortest ‘proper’ songs on here). The folkish melody that is played in unison by the strings, guitars, and vocals at around the five-minute mark is absolutely thrilling. Give me an album full of tracks like this and I’ll sing this band’s praises to all the high heavens.
I think there are few main issues with Running Out Of Daylight that prevent me from moving from intellectual appreciation to visceral enjoyment. First, despite the excellent versatility of the vocals, the entire album is really damn talky, meaning that there are very few instrumental sections that are allowed freedom from vocal accompaniment. Second, I would enjoy this album a lot more if the heavy sections had some actual punch. As it is, the whole sonic mass of the album cruises together through the midrange, and while individual instruments and voices are well-separated, I just want it to be heavy every now and then, damn it. The guitars are generally a thick but indistinct wash, a base tone or texture where one really wants to hear some more clearly-defined riffing. Many of the songs drag on too long, as well, even though the internal logic of the composition makes sense. The concluding title track, while admirable in its exploration of the collision of science and faith through the figure of Galileo Galilei, is stuffed with more false endings and unnecessary codas than The Return of the King. Thus, even though it is quite excellent in parts – see particularly the soaring melodic section reciting the song title just past the thirteen-minute mark – its overall effect is somewhat blunted by the constant building and then sapping of momentum. Still, feel free to ignore me being an asshole about not liking this record, as I’m sure plenty of you could get down with this new noise, and maybe I’ll come around eventually. An innovative approach to loud music is a rarity these days, and ought to be celebrated.