Original Release Date: September 25, 2010
Total Track Time: 32 minutes
Music can add an element to story-telling that is, in my humble opinion, difficult to match. For so many people, music is an emotional or significant part of their lives; as an example, I have many professional writing acquaintances who simply cannot write effectively without music playing in the background. It might have to be a certain genre or even a certain group or artist, but I’ve been a part of many discussions where writers have emphatically detailed the necessity of music as a key piece of helping to put them in the correct mindset to effectively create their written pieces.
The same can be said for many other types of people and professions. Whether you’re a semi-truck driver or just a car owner, anyone who’s had to drive a sizable distance or has been stuck in traffic for any length of time knows how important it is to have music playing to help keep their sanity (and their alertness) intact. Many dancers (both the professional-stage
version and the more, ahem, adult version) need a specific kind or type of music to help emotionally propel them into giving their best performance. I’ve known people that literally cannot fall asleep without some type of music playing in the background. Anyone who has been to a professional sports event or a wedding knows first-hand that even having music playing in the background is an integral piece to creating an overall event experience. The list goes on and on.
As a professional DJ for the last decade-plus, I know the importance of music all too well. That’s why I’m always a little leery to review a musical project here on The G.O.R.E. Score; to date, I have reviewed two different albums (Luke Kuzava’s ten-track alt-rock opera “Zombies Can’t Dance” and Aaron Stoquert’s five-track zombie-centric EP “Run for Your Life”) and both have been excellent in their own right; when will I run across a musical project that doesn’t strike a chord with me personally, and more importantly: how can I present that review to the readers, knowing that everyone’s musical tastes can be so varied?
Fortunately, I do not have to worry about that last point while sharing with you some information about Chris Kiehne’s excellent zombie-centric album “Pray for Daylight.” A long-gestating project, New York-based musician Kiehne began writing the music for this project back in 2002, and had the entire album completely written by 2006. Sadly, technology-related trouble struck; as Kiehne described directly to me, “an original recorded version of [the album] was approximately 85% finished when I lost half of the work in a hard-drive crash.” The unscathed portions of the project sat on the virtual shelves until late 2010, when Kiehne decided it was finally time for his album to – pardon the title-related pun – see daylight.
Listeners everywhere should thank Kiehne for finally releasing this music. Comprised of ten different tracks, each ranging in length from two minutes to over four-and-a-half minutes, “Pray for Daylight” loosely tells the tale of a global zombie uprising, and it’s important to note that the narrative of these songs sound like they were created during a zombie apocalypse, not just written about a zompocalypse. In addition to the traditional zombie-centric themes of loss, remorse, anger, and frustration, there are a few other goodies thrown in as well, including “lost love and other gross stuff,” as Kiehne so eloquently phrased it to me.
Let’s pray for the Score:
G: General Entertainment – I think my favorite part of this album is how each of the ten songs brings a distinctly different flavor and theme with it. To break them each down individually:
- The opener, Sister Black Maria, is a surprisingly up-tempo, driving song, with almost a happy feel to it. I enjoy the multiple singers and harmonies featured; this aspect makes me feel that there is a unity of characters sharing in the experience together.
- Diomedea is not only the second song on the album but is again a very up-tempo track. In older (I hesitate to use the word “ancient”) history, “diomedea” is a wandering albatross, leading me to wonder if Kiehne is giving us an allusion to zombies themselves as albatrosses.
- The Walking Dead is an instrumental track that features solid piano work, mournful yet strong. Sprinkled throughout the song are haunting background noises that are so subtle, I kept looking around to make sure no zombies were sneaking up on me.
- The fourth song, Rachel Lied, is another great use of multiple voices, one tenor and one bass. It’s a very slow-moving and very haunting song; oddly enough, this is the song I found myself humming the most when not directly listening to the music. It also features what I believe to be a ukulele, a cleverly unique-sounding instrument.
- Phaedo presents itself in a straight-forward fashion as an ode to the fallen children. It’s another song with a surprisingly hopeful melodic undertone.
- The title track comes next, and Pray for Daylight sports a very melancholy feel, almost a sad resignation on the characters’ part about their fate.
- The Wind through Your Wounds features the return of the piano. The song itself is a great unison of piano, male and female voices, and acoustic guitar. Based on the title alone, I initially thought this song would be about the zombies with the wounds, but it’s more of a grim acceptance of the situation from the survivors’ point of view.
- This one may be open to wide interpretation, but for me A Special Providence told an amazing story of a survivor who left a dead companion only to be later “hunted down” by that same companion as part of a large zombie horde. The survivor’s reaction of laughter and delusion comes across as a frighteningly-accurate description of what could happen to someone at that point, when the rational part of your brain just can’t take any more of the fantastic.
- Sister Black Maria, Part II is a light, laid-back piano and acoustic guitar alternate version of the first song on the album. Here, it feels like a “walk towards the light/welcome to Heaven” type of song, very ethereal and surreal.
- The album closes with the folksy and borderline-whimsical A Basket of Bones, which sports a banjo and a very country-ish type of feel. The lyrics are again open to interpretation, but the song is possibly about two zombies having their own romantic adventure as they wander the earth aimlessly; I don’t really think any more analysis is necessary on this one!
Overall, the music is entertaining and the story and lyrics are just vague enough to leave some room for each listener to have an opinion of their own as to what might be going on in the “big picture” of the album. 8/10
O: Original Content – While the narrative itself is (more or less) reminiscent of a standard “undead end of the world” type of tale, the musical setting and the variety of musical sounds used really does help to keep this Score from being too low. You’re not going to find any disco or hip-hop sons on this album, but it’s definitely more involved than just a man and his guitar, and it’s a nice sign that some serious thought and work went into the music. 6/10
R: Realism – As previously mentioned, the songs have that veríte-style approach to them, so that the listener can much more actively feel that they are a part of the confusion and danger rather than be detached from it. Specific tracks like Phaedo and The Wind through Your Wounds really do help accentuate the varying types of realistic reactions different people would have to a dreadful and frenetic situation like this. 8/10
E: Effects and Editing – Featuring a pleasantly-wide selection of voices and instruments, it’s clear from the get-go that this album was not a one-man operation. The music is professional-sounding, and the recordings are clean and crisp. Some people hear the phrase “independently-produced” and immediately thumb their noses; this album is a shining example of why those types of people are missing out, big-time. 9/10
TOTAL SCORE: 7.75/10
Kiehne’s open-ended style of storytelling coupled with excellent musical production makes Pray for Daylight an absolute winner in my book. The lyrics, while deliberately vague at times, are also very poignant and definitely help to enhance the overall experience. I’ll leave you with one of my personal favorite lines, from the song Diomedea: “They rose in the dark from the furious ground // with their poisonous claws, they laid our fathers down.” If that doesn’t embody the terrible beginning of an unstoppable zombie outbreak, I don’t know what does.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!