Review Summary: One of the founding albums of doom metal, and a beautiful, haunting album in itself.
Turn Loose the Swans is the debut album by My Dying Bride, and is a taste of the dominance that this band will show in later years in the genre of doom metal. Along with classic albums like Dance of December Souls (Katatonia) and Forests of Equilibrium (Cathedral), Turn Loose the Swans is one of the foundations that the whole genre is built on. It is an excellent album to listen to, and a wonderful addition to any metal collection.
The album begins with the song Sear Me MCMXCIII, which is a very atmospheric piece. It features slow and mournful singing from Aaron Stainthrope, and utilizes strings and a keyboard to create a emotion-filled introduction to the album. It is a very nice way to begin, and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The next song is Your River, a personal favourite of mine, and a classic track. Again, this one is very atmospheric, and you can feel the tension building up throughout the song until it explodes at the end with a very catchy, yet heavy riff. Stainthrope shows off his harsh vocals for the first time (which he doesn’t do enough of anymore). The song ends with the lyrics:
'Where now? Feed me! Hold me! Save me! Save
yourself! Where now? Which way? Dear god,
show me. Take your own. Struggle free! Arise!
You're Ruined! Stand down! Your kin, piled
thick around you. Save yourself!'
This track will haunt you long after you have listened to it.
The next two tracks, The Songless Bird and The Snow in My Hands follow the same sort of formula, oozing with atmosphere, fading in and out between melodic harmonies and aggressive tones. Special mention must be made of Stainthropes's voice. He has the perfect voice for doom metal, and his harsh vocals are very good. He manages to create a balance between the two vocal styles which gives this release an edge over rival album, such as Katatonia’s Dance of December Souls. Stainthrope’s voice just fits doom metal a lot better than Renske’s. So we're 4 songs into the album, and we've already had 30 minutes worth of music. With albums of this type, you'd expect there to be some sort of short filler to give us a break from the music, but no, we are thrown into two even longer tracks and one shorter one to finish off the album. This can make album hard to listen to, especially if you aren't that patient or don't have a fondness of doom metal. On the other hand, it makes the album a whole lot more powerful and involving, as long as you are willing to give it that extra bit of attention.
The first of these two longer songs, The Crown of Sympathy chugs along at a steady pace, slowing down, and then speeding back up. This is probably the dullest song on the album. It is the longest, and just doesn’t have any brilliant moments which the other tracks all have. Being 12 minutes long, you'd want it to be interesting. Next comes the title track, and immediately sucks you in with an immersing guitar riff backed with strings, before Stainthrope begins the song with a very evil and menacing tone. Turn Loose the Swans is a very strong track, and probably the heaviest on the album. This song, along with Your River, epitomizes what My Dying Bride was trying to achieve with the album: a balance between atmospheric dread and Armageddon. Turn Loose the Swans is the defining Doom Metal song; it literally spells out doom, musically.
Following the title track, we have the final song, Black God. This is a beautiful and somber piece of music, which finishes off the album nicely. At first glance, I thought this was just another song, as it is almost 5 minutes long, but it is just a very long outro. The outro is so important for an epic album likes this, as it sets the mood that one would feel after finishing the album. This gives it that extra something that is missing from a lot of today's music. Black God is just sublime. I cannot give it enough praise. It is probably my favourite track behind Your River and Turn Loose the Swans.
Overall, this album is superb, and achieves everything it sets out to do. I cannot recommend it enough, as it is definitely one of the best doom metal albums I have ever listened to, perhaps only exceeded by Forests of Equilibrium by Cathedral.
Turn Loose the Swans