2012-08-29

Henrik lectures in ... My Dying Bride

In this section I will do the exact same, but also the complete opposite as I do in the "Tries to understand"-section. Confusing? Not really. Here I will choose one of my favorite bands and pick one song off of each of their albums and lecture all you less fortunate beings who haven't yet understood the greatness of the band in question. Get it? Good.

Before I begin with the story of my personal relation to My Dying Bride, I just wish to thank the Danish Swede Tobias Nilsson for coming up with this idea. Cheers!

So here goes:
As I briefly mentioned in the Monument-section where I covered the band's second album "Turn Loose The Swans", I first discovered the band (and said album) when I was 16 or 17 years old and it was truly love at the first listen. I mostly listened to Swedish punk back then and that was basically my musical diet at the time. This band more or less opened a door to slow, depressive metal overfilled with emotions. Due to my age at the time, this naturally spoke to me in a way that it might not be able to do today. Therefore, I will always be grateful to my old friend Jesper Sjöberg who introduced me to the world of My Dying Bride at just the right time, even if no one of us knew it at the time. Be sure to check out Jesper's amazing movie blog Dead Moon Night.

The first album was released in 1992 and is called "As the Flower Withers". Musically, it is the only album where the band leans this much towards death metal, even though they still stand on firm doom metal-ground. It is a quite uneven album where the most known song probably is "The Forever People", which in my opinion is easily the most boring song. It's just a plain short, death metal song without any finesse at all. No, then you should rather listen to the amazing doom metal songs "Sear Me" or, as in this case, "Vast Choirs".
Beginning with keyboards, adding some evil sounding death metal-shredding and then an even more evil laughter - the song soon turns into a slow headbanging song full of pure doom. Vocalist Aaron's growled vocals are in their prime here and it's a joy to growl along to (I know I do). They slowly pick up the pace, section by section and by the time the keyboards joins the fight of the melody, I get shivers down my spine. 
But as I stated, this is primary a great doom metal song with some death metal-parts here and there. There's even a crazy guitar solo in here. And though it sounds oddly out place, it always brings a smile to face.

To give you an idea of just how different this band sounded one year later, I hereby present the amazing "Sear Me MCMXCIII" - which is a new take on "Sear Me" from the previous album. I said it all when I dissected "Turn Loose The Swans" in my Monument-section so I will just copy the text from there - OK?
A lonely piano. A hauntingly sad violin. Aaron's deep, dark voice. Beautifully emotional lyrics. That's the entire recipe for this masterpiece. No guitars, no bass and no drums. This is so unadorned and stripped off anything unnecessary. I remember when I was something like 16-17 years old and heard this for the first time - I knew that I had found a lifelong love in My Dying Bride.

Third album "The Angel and the Dark River" from 1995 is violin player Martin Powell's greatest moment, since the entire album reeks of that beautiful instrument. If "Turn Loose The Swans" was miserable and depressive - this album is an abyss of despair, a pitch-black hole of no hope. Much of this is due to the fact that Aaron's voice has changed into an almost weeping sound, which I know many people criticized back then and still do. He never did them on any other later album, so I guess the band kind of shunned them as well. Personally I love them and couldn't imagine the album without them.
This is where we find the most famous song made by My Dying Bride - the epic "Cry of Mankind", which although good, I am a bit tired of. So here's the incredibly beautiful "Two Winters Only" instead.
It's more or less a ballad that lasts for 9 minutes. But despite being a ballad that more or less carries the same guitar melody over and over, it does not tire the listener due to the fact that the drums are adding dynamics and Aaron's vocals and lyrical delivery never gets boring. And close to four minutes, it stops being a ballad and get's incredibly haunting with it's doomy riffs and weeping violins. That first time when it stops is so majesticly powerful that time stops. Then it reverts back to what it was in the beginning. Think of it as My Dying Bride's version of "Fade to Black" - only much different. And better in every way.

This next album "Trinity" is not really an album per se, but a compilation of the three EPs the band had released between -92 and -94. But I felt it was necessary to let you guys know how they sounded there as well. Being very different from "The Angel and the Dark River" as it generally is more old-school doomy and almost lacks any clean vocals, it is an important landmark in the band's discography.
The opening guitar melody is pure gold and I love how it fights with the violins to get recognition. "I Am The Bloody Earth" was originally released in 1994 and was the last of the three "classic" EPs. If you listen to them i chronological order, you can hear how they gradually improved since the first one. That means that I favor this one above "The Thrash of Naked Limbs" and "Syphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium". Not to say that those tracks aren't any good, but the dynamics in this one is superior. From pure slow, doom metal to some faster (as in My Dying Bride-fast that is) moments - complete with a little bit of distorted clean vocals.

The band's fourth full-length "Like Gods of the Sun" from 1996 was a little bit of a breakthrough for the band. The album followed after a tour with Iron Maiden and the it consists of shorter, less doomy songs (but still quite slow though). It features some classic songs with The Bride, such as "A Kiss to Remember" and "For You". While both are good song, I decided to go with a different approach. So without further ado, here's "Here in the Throat".
First, exactly 30 seconds of ambient sounds. Then all instruments and vocals kicks in at once and you might be surprised that the tempo is slightly faster than one is used to when it comes to My Dying Bride. Those "verses" really gets my feet going. They are connected via a slower part with beautiful violins and a short monologue from Aaron. The lyrics are obviously about Christ - a topic that the band successfully have written about since the first album, and still are doing today. Then the tempo increases again and we are introduced to some really nice guitar melodies. The part towards the end when they change from said melody back to the "verse" and then the slower part again. Masterfully crafted!

In 1998, the band lost a few members, among those were keyboardist/violin player Martin Powell who quit to focus on a rather lengthy career in Cradle of Filth. The finished result was given the cryptic title "34.788%...Complete" which was heavily criticized for it's lack of violins (which wouldn't return until 2009), it's use of weird lyrics and unorthodox song writing. It was a huge departure for the band and they even included a trip-hop song called "Heroin Chic". I could have chosen that one, but it would have felt too unfair so I decided to go with a more traditional metal song called "Apocalypse Woman".
Honestly, "34.788%...Complete" isn't such a weird album (if one doesn't count the aforementioned "Heroin Chic") after all. Yes, there are no violins and no depressive, sad or romantic lyrics anywhere in sight and the band has clearly taken a more "urban" approach than they've done before. But it is bad? Hell no! Just give the album an honest chance and you'll find out that there are some quite intriguing songs there such as "The Whore, The Cook and The Mother" and "Der Uberlebende".
Anyway, the beginning bass-lines and drums are a true joy to listen to and I also love those sirens in the background. This is essentially the verse of the song and it might take a while to get used to. Soon you'll hear the chorus which almost sounds like a nursery-rhyme, only done faster.
This is a very overlooked album, and although far from being in the top-5 of The Bride's discography, there's really nothing wrong with it. As I said, give it a fair chance.

For My Dying Bride's last album of the 90's, they returned to a more old-school sound and the result was "The Light at the End of the World". In my opinion, this might be the weakest of all their albums although it contains some varied song writing, giving us both long, droning romantic doom-metal songs (the title track), short, fast death metal ("The Fever Sea") and something more mid-tempo in between ("The Isis Script"). But I've chosen something called "Into the Lake of Ghosts". Why? I have no idea.
As you immediately hear, this is very much mid-tempo metal - with a drum pattern that in my opinion sounds quite...corny. There are still no violins present, only some boring keyboards here and there. I really don't know why I chose this song to represent the album since it's quite bland, without really going anywhere, though there are some nice melodies and riffs here and there. Perhaps that's why I chose it since I feel that the entire album is quite bland and I wanted that to be heard? In reality, I think the entire band was quite bored after the experimental "34.788%...Complete" and wasn't quite ready for a full-on doom-return.

2001 and time for yet another full-length. "The Dreadful Hours" is most certainly a step up from the mediocre "The Light at the End of the World". I know some MDB-fans class this one very high, but in my opinion, they only did better and better with each succeeding album after this. The album is dark, brooding and very much gothic doom metal and I chose the marching "A Cruel Taste of Winter" to represent it.
Here we go immediately! It's a doomy mid-tempo song which easily is my favorite track on the album. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing I love that "lazy" riff that more or less goes on and on through the entire song. Another thing is that the song is wonderful to sing along to. Then there's the parts where Aaron starts to growl, which gives a nice break from the rest of the "laziness" that occurs. Love it!

"Song of Darkness, Words of Light" is a misguiding title indeed. Yes the songs are dark, but so is most definitely the lyrics too. The opening track is the best that you will hear on the disc, so I decided to go with that one.
"The Wreckage of My Flesh" is sinister, dark and give me vibes of things that are forbidden. I don't know why, but the entire aura of this song gives me the creeps. It's 8.45 minutes are most definitely doom metal, but without growls. It might feel a bit droning to some people when the main riff enters the soundscape, but once you get the song's feeling - it'll be stuck with you forever.

Now we're beginning to see the end of this My Dying Bride-extravaganza as we write 2006 in the calendar and enter "A Line of Deathless Kings". I assume that "Deeper Down" is one of the more "known" songs here, since it was granted a video of it's own - and I can understand why.
Though the video might not be much to write home about, the music is. At least the video is fitting to the music. I love the fact that the drums are so goddamn fast (again, with MDB-measurements) and the rest of the instruments drone along in a more usual tempo. During the middle and ending, everything comes crumbling down in sinister doom, complete with haunting church bells. Also, once you learn the lyrics, "Deeper Down" is also a joy to sing along to. Yes, I know it's weird how I mention the word "joy" when the lyrics are so utterly depressing and hopeless, but it really is.
Please note that this is the edited video-version and that the "real" album version is much longer (06.28) and vastly superior.

The latest "real" full-length album from My Dying Bride (before they release their new one in October 2012) is from 2009 and is called "For Lies I Sire". It was the triumphant return of the violin and I cheered and applauded every goddamn minute of it. I know that there are some fans that felt cheated by this album and complains about it being more gothic and less doomy. I can understand why some people complain, but in my opinion - this is easily the band's best effort since "Like Gods of the Sun" (1996), which coincidentally also was the last album with violins ;-) This is "Santuario Di Sangue" - meaning "Sanctuary of Blood" in Italian(!).
First of all, the guitar melodies are to die for! Honestly, they really gives me the chills! The vocal melodies are also very fitting to the song, but what I really like the most is how Aaron's clean vocals have improved a lot compared to all of the prior albums. He reaches much higher notes than he has ever done before - even though he's clearly no I.C.S. Vortex.
Musically, this is a masterpiece. Period. OK, so the "silent" part - with some random sounds and even more random violins - might not be the best the band has ever done. But apart from that, this song is a showcase in what My Dying Bride does best - doom metal with gothic overtures. Sure, there might not be any growls here, but Aaron hasn't really been able to execute them real good since 1994.

MDB 2011: Shaun, Andrew, Aaron, Lena and Hamish
So to sum things up, these may not be my exact favorites off of each album, but they should give MDB-beginners a rather good insight in the band's discography. If you want to go safe, you could check out "The Songless Bird", "Cry of Mankind", "A Kiss to Remember", "For You", "She is the Dark", "My Hope, The Destroyer", "The Prize of Beauty" and some other songs that are considered more "classic". I hope that this has been of some interest and joy to all those not yet initiated into the music of one of the greatest bands upon this planet. And for all you My Dying Bride-fans that agrees or disagrees with me - you are more than welcome to share your thoughts in the comment-field.

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