Review Summary: The "experimental" album that failed.
My Dying Bride are widely recognized as being one of the forerunners of the doom movement and have probably done more to keep doom on the map then any other one band. While most other doom bands of the nineties started abandoning the genre for other musical avenues, My Dying Bride stuck to their guns and released consistently good albums while doing so. Coming off a fairly successful album (Like Gods of the Sun
) that saw them shorten their song lengths but strengthen their compositional skills, no one could have predicted how bad this album was really going to turn out.
While no one factor could ever be blamed for making an album terrible (unless you’re Watchtower
), a very disapproving finger could still be pointed in the direction of the vocalist, Aaron Stainthorpe. I am a huge fan of this band, but it’s no stretch to say that Aaron isn’t the strongest of vocalists in the first place, but on this album he is mostly terrible. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but his vocals on here often sound like he is Elmer Fudd depressed that he can’t kill any wabbits. His vocals are extremely nasally, monotone, and occasionally out of key as well, and they’re made worse by the next factor. In keeping with what was apparently an album of experimentation, a lot of Aaron’s vocals have the smallest amount of distortion or other processing done to them which only serves to make them more grating. Other bands have proven, though, that if the music is good enough the vocals can usually be overlooked, but this music isn’t good enough.
The music feels uninspired due to its repetitive nature and lack of any meaningful dynamics. A good example of this comes on the opening track where the heavier section consists of basically one riff with an additional melody introduced on a few occasions. That wouldn’t be so bad except the song is twelve minutes of the same thing apart from an excruciating four minutes in the middle that consists of single, quiet guitar notes over which are various spoken-word samples. Another issue that is apparent from the opening track is the boring percussion. This is the first and only MDB album to feature Bill Law on drums, and the lack of the previous drummer is apparent. Whereas the previous drummer was able to add fills and rolling double bass despite the slow nature of the music, this guy generally sticks to the most basic of beats causing the songs to feel as if they’re dragging even slower then they really are.
Later songs don’t do anything to fix any of these problems either. The vocals are still horrible, the songs are still repetitive, and the drums are still boring as hell. Another problem that might not hit people until a few songs in is the total lack of anything heavy or aggressive. Yes, this is still the era where Aaron wasn’t growling anymore, but the music always had enough chunky riffs to make up for it, but they just don’t exist on this album. Of course, heaviness isn’t a requirement but the lack of any real interesting melodies or other substitute makes its absence noticeable. When you add the extremely thin production on this album and you’re not left with much to like, but they do give you a song that is easily the worst they have ever put out called “Heroin Chick”.
“Heroin Chick” is the culmination of everything that is wrong with this album. The percussion is merely tapping with some minor cymbal work and sounds like it was programmed or at least looped. Aaron’s vocals are the most monotone and annoying that I’ve ever heard from him. He simply speaks some of the stupidest lyrics I’ve heard with female vocals in the background. The guitar part is also minimal, and forgettable; basically there isn’t one redeeming factor to this song that also happens to be eight minutes long. When the band nosedives into something this horrendous, anything after is going to sound ok by comparison and that is the case with the track immediately following, but then reality sets back in and the final two tracks hit all the ruts of their predecessors.
If I were the band I would have this album pulled from circulation because I know that if this had been my first introduction to MDB that I wouldn’t have ever tried to listen to them again without a lot of convincing. It’s possible that this album is a blessing in disguise because it was bad enough to shake the band up enough to return to their roots and what they do best, but basically I’m just reaching for something nice to say because this album is horrible and holds no redeeming factors for all but the most dedicated fans.