Indisputable: Top 10 My Dying Bride Songs

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With another album set to release this year, it is obvious that My Dying Bride is a mainstay within the doom metal subgenre. Two decades since their inception, the band has gone through some tumultuous changes in their time (read: 34.788%…Complete, which has taken its stance with Cold Lake as one of the great tactical missteps by a venerable metal band) but has come out of such times with grace, resourcefulness, and that rare ability to retain a consistent sound while expanding their boundaries within such sound. Their last album, Evinta, contained no real “metal”, but with its morose chamber arrangements and dark overtones of despair and lust fit perfectly within the band’s oeuvre. They’ve gone from death metal to virtually creating the subgenre of death/doom to gothic doom metal to pure gothic music and done so organically and logically, a progression that few other bands have been able to get right (sorry, Anathema). Thus, given MDB’s extensive back catalog and prolific place at the forefront of modern English metal, it seemed only fitting to subject them to the tried and true indisputable regimen. These are, simply put, their best songs: 10 songs, no negotiation. Turn loose the swans.

— Rhys Williams

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10. “A Doomed Lover” – from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light

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My Dying Bride – “A Doomed Lover”

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This is a good starting point for any serious investigation of the My Dying Bride sound. Simply gargantuan guitars, snail’s pacing, somber Chopin/Satie-type piano, and Aaron Stainthorpe’s grimly sexual wail. The very title brings up visions of decrepit Victorian mansions, misty moors, and the crushing depression of a cold English winter. At eight minutes, it is long enough to be a true doom song, but never overstays its welcome. For those who have little experience with My Dying Bride, start here and move inward.

9. “The Snow In My Hand” – from Turn Loose The Swans

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My Dying Bride – “The Snow In My Hand”

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For all their innovation, My Dying Bride have always been willing to let their influences show. Here, one could almost mistake the song for a Type O Negative joint at first, until at two minutes it segues into pure death/doom. It may not seem revolutionary to modern listeners brought up on Mournful Congregation and Skepticism, but in the early 1990s for a band to be this melodic and this heavy at the same time was a revelation. And yet, at the same time, one clearly recognizes the gothic grandiloquence yet to come via sumptuous synths and Stainthorpe’s budding clean vocals. When death met doom, My Dying Bride was conceived.

8. “Hail Odysseus” – from A Map Of All Our Failures

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My Dying Bride – “Hail Odysseus”

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The best tracks by My Dying Bride draw you in wholesale, leaving you nodding your head visibly in public places. Is this a new track, thus without the legacy to make it “classic” in the minds of some listeners? Yes, it is. However, the song is a goddamn beast and no mistake. Seriously, attempts to quantify it will just look forced, so let me be the first to say that the only qualification this song has on the list is that it fucking rips. If you aren’t banging your head by 1:45, I’d suggest rethinking your priorities vis a vis metal.

7. “The Barghest O’Whitby” – from the same-titled EP

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My Dying Bride – “The Barghest O’Whitby”

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A marathon if there ever was one, but worth it in the long run. At 27 minutes of run-time, this is MDB’s version of Dopesmoker, the extra-long song that contains much of their best material of recent years crammed into it. Like Dopesmoker, there’s enough in it for everyone: there’s a return of sorts to the Peaceville Three days that death metal fans will appreciate, but those who have grown accustomed to the gothic pomp of more recent MDB will not be disappointed. Is this My Dying Bride’s magnum opus? Maybe not, but it’s most certainly their “biggest” song in terms of epic scope, poetic vision, and Heavy. Fucking. Riffs. Let’s hope this one can be topped in future.

6. “Thy Raven Wings” – from A Line Of Deathless Kings

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My Dying Bride – “Thy Raven Wings”

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Gothic metal codified. The piano intro is pure bleak English moor, the rustling of the wind through long hair that cascades over a Georgian-era longcoat. Then, after getting comfortable with the desolation, we come into a truly epic tune. This is as tuneful and intricate as My Dying Bride get while still remaining within the metal idiom. After the days of Death/Doom, we enter the gothic realm. Melody, piano, grandeur, all representing the far side of the orbit of My Dying Bride from their death metal roots. Yet that death metal demon still lingers in the background, like a troubled ghost from an old, decrepit abbey on the moorland.

5. “The Forever People” – from As The Flower Withers

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My Dying Bride – “The Forever People”

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Conversely, here’s MDB playing pretty much straight forward death metal. This may be a little jarring for those accustomed to the later-period blood-and-black-lace My Dying Bride, given that it sounds like steampunk Immolation, but this song fucking crushes. It’s also good as a reminder that My Dying Bride was once a very different band. But you can still hear vague traces of melody and synth-derived atmosphere beginning to take root. It’s a new band with a very clear sound which has begun to realize that it need not be entirely bound by genre constraints, and in this historical context is fascinating. Also, you will rarely ever hear MDB play this fast ever again. Did I mention that it’s fucking rad?

4. “Turn Loose The Swans” – from Turn Loose The Swans

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My Dying Bride – “Turn Loose The Swans”

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This was the album that put My Dying Bride on the map, and as a representative track this one stands out. Arguably, the album is best taken as a whole; however, were one to pick a song representative of the whole, it would be this. All the elements are there: that traditional doom metal beat, a 4/4 half-time played at a crawl; guitars whose melodies intertwine before being interrupted by truly massive chords; chamber instruments to deepen the gothic atmosphere (in this case, the cello). It’s heavy as hell, and builds atmosphere like a mansion builds cobwebs. Tread lightly and abandon hope, ye who enter. Oh, and the riff at 7:30 still gets me to this day. Given that this is still considered one of the band’s best albums, I’m assuming others stand with me on this one.

3. “The Sexuality of Bereavement” – from The Angel And The Dark River

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My Dying Bride – “The Sexuality of Bereavement”

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This is one of the original My Dying Bride tunes, back from the era of the “Peaceville Three”. I choose this more for its title than for its music: the sound is definitely a stalwart of My Dying Bride, but what’s more important in this instance are the title and the lyrics. Unlike many death/doom bands, which can write half-assed lyrics and get away with it given the slow tempos and subterranean gutturals of the genre, the clean vocals of My Dying Bride and the decadence of the subject matter require a more precise lyrical hand. That’s where this song comes in: the title is something out of Charlotte Brontë’s inner machinations, and the lyrics are pure Victorian romance:

In soothe I lend a gracious ear
Your sobbing, somehow sexual
Come to my bosom. The help I bring
Is all my pleasure you lonely, dear thing

Oh, cruel love, when held by you
My sanity does fly

You lie there mourning with looks of desire
‘Tis beauty when you cry

Whew. Watch out for that violin intro, too, and the opening riff. Bodice-rippers if there ever were any.

2. “Deeper Down” – from A Line of Deathless Kings

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My Dying Bride – “Deeper Down”

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This isn’t as cut-and-dry as other My Dying Bride songs. It rolls along ominously, not ever really settling at the doomspell pace that their other work is known for. Nor does it ever truly develop the seductive Gothicism that often pervades MDB tracks. But this, in turn, is how it excels. It’s so crushingly heavy and yet simple that it is impossible not to headbang: the song propels itself to the same time as your neck. Stainthorpe sings and growls here, both gliding along that propulsive beat but in a different, impassive way than his usual pained warble. This was the first My Dying Bride song I’d ever heard, and it’s what hooked me: unlike the rest of their sound, but heavy, methodical, and above all without hope, the embodiment of doom metal.

1. “Catherine Blake” – from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light

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My Dying Bride – “Catherine Blake”

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If ever there was a song that defined the “My Dying Bride” sound, this is it. The first half of the track is pure gothic doom: guitar melodies over slloooooow drums and Aaron Stainthorpe’s lissome croon. Then it shifts flawlessly into a mid-paced death/doom trudge, all growling and palm muting, that is certifiably metal. The juxtaposition of these two elements is what “makes” My Dying Bride so memorable: good and evil, beauty and the beast. Is it any secret, then, that this song comes from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light? This is what My Dying Bride is all about, striking a balance between the grotesque (the dying) and the beautiful (the bride).