Orange County metalcore band Dayseeker’s third album is a raw and emotional concept album centered around an unusual theme in modern songwriting. Dreaming Is Sinking /// Waking Is Rising tells a semi-fictional story about a man who avenges a sexual assault on his girlfriend/wife and in the process, is beaten into a coma. This event takes place over the course of the first song, “Vultures”, where the rest of the album covers his frustration and desperation of being trapped in a coma while his girl leaves him and his mother passes away. The lyrics are full of symbolism and imagery of sinking in water, oceans, and tidal waves that reflect the narrator’s consciousness and ties into the album title where he is sinking while dreaming and rising when waking. The songs themselves are powerful and elevate melodic singing over harsh scream vocals much more than their previous albums. Vocalist Rory Rodriguez shines here as he jumps from clean vocals to screams and a variety of tones in between, highlighting his passion for the subject and story of the concept.
The album theme was inspired by a friend of Rodriguez who was in a coma, and also Alex Garland’s novel “Coma”. As a side note, Garland is one of my favorite writers who wrote the screenplays for The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine, and wrote and directed Ex Machina, so to read that his work partially inspired this album is awesome. This subject is an interesting approach that I have only heard a handful of times, namely Avenged Sevenfold’s “Brompton Cocktail” in which the narrator longs for a drug to end his suffering, and Darren Hayes’ “A Conversation with God” where he argues with God from a coma about reaching back and pulling the plug. Here, Dayseeker spreads the theme across an album and adds a fictional narrative. The album begins with a short spoken-word track that serves to somewhat reflect the in and out of consciousness sounds of people and doctors talking around you. In it, the majority of themes and lines from the lyrics are hinted at to be fleshed out later in the album: “The vultures came and picked and pulled apart/Trapped in a vessel going nowhere/Left me to rot in that bed for another/Bound to the anchor, still sinking deeper” and ending with “This coma is a prison/This might be the last time I will ever speak/Dreaming is sinking, waking is rising.”
“Vultures” is the lead single off the album and a powerful entry into Dayseeker’s repertoire that wields a catchy melody in the chorus and moves between harsh screams and quieter singing in the verses and a powerful chorus about the girl who was assaulted and now the “vultures came and picked and pulled apart/the hell that’s in her head”, which causes the man to find her assaulter and attack him, but results in putting him in his coma. Narratively, the story moves right over to him in the coma in “Cold, Dark Winter” where he first wakes up and realizes his condition, “Trapped in a vessel going nowhere” opens the chorus and he laments about the struggle to want to pull the plug and leave the world.
“Abandon” starts the storyline of the girl leaving him because he is asleep and unresponsive, where “Six Feet Under” ties in the storyline of him losing his mother, but still able to hear and feel her even though she is now buried. “Sleep in the Sea, Pt. 2” references a song on their first album that does not share anything melodically, but does use the imagery of being tied to an anchor. Here, the song continues the story that she leaves him, working in the sinking in the ocean metaphor, “I am the anchor that you had to break away from/I'm sorry I can't be the lighthouse to guide you when you're lost at sea”. Similarly, “Carved from Stone”, a highlight of the album, changes points of view and is her looking down on him in the coma, “They tell me to let you go/That you are a ghost living inside a shell of someone I once loved”. The majority of the songs, however, are from his point of view from being trapped in the coma. Lyrics from “Come Hell or High Water” say, “If there’s still a God in the sky/can he breathe life to what’s dead on the outside?”
All of this leads to the finale track, “Waking Is Rising”, which is by far the most impressive song on the album both lyrically and melodically. Even at nearly 5 minutes, I think the subject and thematic development was too short and it could have been expanded. Immediately opening with “This is the bitter end/I can feel it/No longer can I pretend/I’m going to make it out alive” we understand it’s the ending and it probably won’t end well. New symbolism and imagery are introduced here of an apocalyptic scale with fire raining down from the sky and the world breaking open, of course a metaphor for him internally. The chorus sings, “As the ground divides, the Earth will bleed/Who knew you’d be standing right there beside me/At my funeral, they will read/Dreaming is sinking, waking is rising”. Here, Rodriguez also hints that maybe she returned to his bedside at the end. The second half of the song ties back to the vulture symbolism, but this time they start to circle him as he fades away, and as he does, he wonders “Will I awake to the light of day?/Or will the sun collapse and annihilate” again bringing in the end of the world imagery.
A huge step forward for the band, Dayseeker’s “Dreaming Is Sinking /// Waking Is Rising” is an impressive concept album. My only criticism is that it is too short. Some of the ideas in the story could have been fleshed out more, and musically developed further. The end of the album makes me wish there was more, but I certainly look forward to what they do next.