...

Over the span of their twelve-full lengths and various EPs, masters of mope My Dying Bride have arguably strayed the least from their signature sound than the rest of the so-called Peaceville Three. Anathema abandoned their death/doom sound for a more prog-influenced style years ago and haven’t looked back since, and Paradise Lost had that strange synth-pop phase is the early aughts before wisely returning to their metallic roots. For the most part, though, My Dying Bride has stayed the course throughout their career, and while they’ve made the occasional misstep over the course of the last twenty-five years, their discography has been remarkably consistent overall.

Given the depth of their discography, newcomers to the band might not know where to start getting to know these melancholy Brits and their many odes to woe. To that end, we’re back with another installment of So Grim So True So Real to help you navigate your way through the highs and lows of My Dying Bride’s recorded output.

-Clayton Michaels

...

...

So Grim - Like Gods of the Sun (1996)

While the heavily electronic 34.788%...Complete gets the most derision, the band likely wouldn’t have felt the need to move in a more experimental direction had its immediate predecessor not felt so creatively stagnant. While not exactly a terrible effort, Like Gods of the Sun sounds an awful lot like a band going through the motions.

Still, the record has its moments. Parts of “A Kiss to Remember” almost have a melodeath feel to them, particularly during the intro section where the violin doubles the melodic guitar line, and the lovely piano/lead guitar break near the end of the song stands out as the high point of the entire record. The lush closer “For My Fallen Angel” consists of only keyboards and violin, and features vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe dramatically reciting the lyrics, which include an excerpt from William Shakespeare’s epic poem Venus and Adonis, in his best gothically overwrought voice rather than singing them. Detractors of the band would likely point to a song like this as an example of the band at their most unbearably melodramatic—and granted, they probably do bear much of the responsibility/blame for the existence of a large chunk of the gothic metal bands Napalm Records roster because of tracks like “For My Fallen Angel”—but they do manage to convincingly pull it off more times than not.

For the most part, though, the record lacks very many memorable moments. The swinging intro riff to “For You,” for example, sounds like it could have been the inspiration for Amon Amarth’s “Death in Fire” or a lot of Swallow the Sun’s heavier moments, but unfortunately the rest of the song doesn’t quite match it in terms of quality; like many of the tracks on the record, it has more of a pastiche feel to it, where the various sections of the track sound like they were pasted together from riffs left on the cutting room floor. “Grace Unhearing” and “Here in the Throat” don’t really have a single decent riff between them.

Perhaps most significantly, this album marked the end of Martin Powell’s tenure with the band, making it the last My Dying Bride album with violin until 2009’s For Lies I Sire.

...

...

...

So True - The Angel & the Dark River (1995)

Most fans hold My Dying Bride’s second and third albums, Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel and the Dark River, in almost equally high regard, and rightfully so – both are virtually flawless, genre-defining records. Ultimately, which album one esteems most depends on which variation of their trademark gloom one prefers: the death-doom of their earliest recordings or the more overtly gothic style that characterizes the bulk of their later career.

On The Angel and the Dark River, Stainthorpe abandoned death growls for the first time in favor of his more plaintive baritone, and the violin and keyboard work of Martin Powell took on additional prominence in the musical arrangements. The album opens with one of the most quintessential tracks in the band’s entire discography, “The Cry of Mankind.” Structured around a relatively simple two-hand tapped guitar line, the song build slowly to eventually incorporate classically influenced piano, a gorgeous melodic guitar line, and some of the most morose-sounding vocals Stainthorpe ever committed to tape. Eventually all the instrument fade out again with the exception of the initial guitar line, which then gives way to a lonely foghorn and the sound of waves over the course of the track’s nearly five-minute outro.

The rest of the album proceeds in similarly slow and dramatic fashion. The bass and violin intro section of “From Darkest Skies” sounds like it could have been an outtake from The Cure’s gothic masterpiece Faith before melodic twin guitars come in and lead the song in a heavier direction. “Black Voyage” contains some of Powell’s most breathtaking violin work, especially in the section right before the song transitions into its lengthy bass and feedback driven middle section. The mostly acoustic ballad “Two Winters Only” sounds like a nod to the British folk tradition, with the occasional distorted guitar and violin sections adding drama to the track. Closer “Your Shameful Heaven” opens with a minute of mournful violin before picking up the pace for really the only time on the entire album, including one section that sounds downright thrashy.

On an album that doesn’t lack for strong moments, the exquisite “A Sea to Suffer In” unquestionably stands as the highlight. It also ranks as among the strongest tracks in the band’s entire catalogue. A thick, heavy riff from guitarist Andrew Craighan — who composed all of the music on The Angel and the Dark River, a first for the band — pairs beautifully with Powell’s dramatic violin, and Stainthorpe tops it off with an especially strong vocal. The studio take is excellent, but live version from Kraków on the For Darkest Eyes DVD might top it.

...

...

...

So Real - A Map of All Our Failures (2012)

Arguably for the first time since Turn Loose the Swans, every facet of the My Dying Bride sound came together perfectly on their eleventh full-length, A Map of All Our Failures. The violin made a most welcome return on their previous record, For Lies I Sire, but the striking similarities between new violinist Katie Stone’s style and that of Martin Powell resulted in an album that ultimately felt kind of regressive. Stone ended up leaving the band shortly after the album’s release and was replaced by Shaun MacGowan.

The band sounds reinvigorated on A Map of All Our Failures. Opener “Kneel till Doomsday” kicks things off with one of the band’s trademark plodding riffs, but also introduces a couple of new elements to the mix: the second guitar acts more like a counterpoint instead of simply doubling the main riff, which adds an exciting tension to the track, and the violin, while used sparingly, adds dissonance instead of melody. The drums sound looser on the track as well, which give it more of a live feel. Arguably the catchiest song they’ve written since “A Sea to Suffer In,” single “The Poorest Waltz” features layer upon layer of guitars — including a crushing intro riff that makes surprisingly effective use of a pinch harmonic — with the violin making a surprise appearance where one would ordinarily expect a guitar solo. The dissonant violin returns on the chorus of the title track, where it provides a tense counterpoint to the mournful vocals. An elegiac twin guitar break near the end of the track makes for one of the records most beautiful moments.

The nakedly emotional “Like a Perpetual Funeral” sounds like almost nothing else in the band’s oeuvre; largely drum-free, Craighan and Hamish Glencross’s mournfully intertwined guitar lines carry the track, along with a stunning vocal performance from Stainthorpe. In fact, he’s in strong voice throughout the record. On the dramatic “Hail Odysseus,” he makes use of several different styles in his retelling of the encounter between the ancient Greek hero and the Sirens, and he uses both death growls and his more dramatic spoken word technique on “A Tapestry Scorned.”

While many gothic and death/doom bands, for good or ill, owe a clear debt of influence to My Dying Bride, the strength of A Map of All Our Failures and its follow-up Feel the Misery show that the band still have plenty of great music left in the tank. Now if only they would do a proper tour of the States…

...

...