Review Summary: No real surprises here, but it's still worth a listen.
My Dying Bride must love making things difficult for their fans. The simplest way to explain this statement is to ask the question: How many MDB fans can say they like this band’s entire discography. You could take this one step further and ask how many casual listeners actually enjoy more than one or two of the nine (ten, now) albums this band has released. In case it isn’t apparent, I’m basically saying that this isn’t the most consistent band in the world. For every Turn Loose the Swans we have a 34.788%... Complete and even when things aren’t that extreme a lot of their albums just feel like they could be better. If this band is constantly producing disappointment with their albums than that must mean they’ve lead a pretty mediocre career. While some would agree with that statement, the fact is that their albums are almost all enjoyable; they’re just disappointing at the same time and that’s what we’re presented with again.
It just feels as though the band can’t find an element that works and stick with it. For every good thing they bring in they seem to drop another one just as quickly. This time they’ve brought back the violin, but they’ve dropped the growls. It’s a shame about the growls because musically this is some of the best material they’ve released in over a decade. The band has managed to create an album that is full of endless guitar melodies that run from epic to miserable. In addition to the melodic element, they were also able to maintain a pretty consistent level of heaviness with some of the best riffs of their career. Another notable facet of this album is the creative way that the keyboards are used. Rarely are they used to simply saturate the songs, instead they provide an ambient backdrop of ominous noises and subtle flourishes. Of course there’s also the welcome return of the violin.
When Martin Powell left the band in 1998 he took his violin with him and the band felt it was OK to replace him with a simple keyboard player. This was a bad idea because it was Martin’s sparse violin parts that often helped push the grief to another level. It worked because the violins were used sparingly in a way that allowed them to always be a surprise when they came in. Their new violin/keyboardist, Katie Stone, seems to have realized this and delivers her violin parts in much the same way as Martin did. Katie’s violins never become just another common element within a song because she saves them solely for key areas that deliver the most impact. A good example is on the opening song, “My Body, Your Funeral”. Here, the violin is used in a way that seems to extend the lyrics despite the lack of any words. It’s this strategic placement that works through out the entire album, and makes me happy that she didn’t come in like some drunken pixie trying out for the latest folk metal band.
The thing that makes me unhappy is Aaron’s decision to drop the death growls again. It’s not that his clean singing is bad it’s just that his range… ok, really he doesn’t have any real range and I’m not going to pretend that he does. The honest fact is that his depressed Elmer Fudd impressions can only take a song so far. That means that no matter how dark or epic the songs get, they’re always bogged down by the same limited vocal style as every song before it and every one that’s going to come after. It was Aaron’s growls that were able to provide a bit of variation as well as help to push the songs to new heights. The only song with any extensive growling is “A Chapter in Loathing”, and it only serves to prove that the growls are needed. That song is actually exceptional for a few reasons, including their use of a fast black metal riff contrasted with the slow drum beat of doom in a few parts, but it is also exceptional because it shows how much better the songs move with something other than Aaron’s clean vocals.
My Dying Bride are a talented group of musicians. They must be because there’s no other explanation for how they can be so consistently disappointing yet still deliver enjoyable albums anyway. I’ve listened to this album quite a few times and every time I find myself enjoying the music and even most of the vocals, but I’m also constantly waiting for a little extra kick that never comes. In the end, it’s going to come down to whether you find the lack of growls a problem and also how well you deal with disappointment. If you can deal with those two things you’ll find an album that is one of the best musical endeavors of the band’s career despite being bogged down by an angry hunter looking for wabbits.
The second of my two re-writes for the reviews that were accidentally deleted. Again, if it seems like I rushed this or whatever it's because it's frustrating to re-write the damn thing just because I was stupid... that's also why they're posted so close together. The Pestilence one should have been posted last Monday.
I kind of agree with this review a lot. I expected something lower though. TBH for me I just enjoy the album a lot and the growls don't really hamper me. I like the music on offer and his monotone vocals don't bother me that much. I listen to the music more here.
This was a monumental disappointment for me, especially considering the nice roll they were on with their last three albums. Dropping the growls and introducing a more accessible, mainstream goth metal atmosphere bolstered by the hilariously bland, second rate, uninspired, and ultimately misplaced violin playing easily makes this the second worst album in their discography. Stone's violin playing and placement is far and away inferior to Powell's and I'd suggest to anyone who disagrees to compare the usage of the violin on this album to "The Black Voyage" or "The Cry of Mankind" from The Angel And The Dark River.
I kind of agree with this review a lot. I expected something lower though.
Yeah, it was a high 3 or low 3.5, but after considering the band and how his vocals have never really "made" the music I went with a 3.5
Dropping the growls and introducing a more accessible, mainstream goth metal atmosphere bolstered by the hilariously bland, second rate, uninspired, and ultimately misplaced violin playing easily makes this the second worst album in their discography. Stone's violin playing and placement is far and away inferior to Powell's and I'd suggest to anyone who disagrees to compare the usage of the violin on this album to "The Black Voyage" or "The Cry of Mankind" from The Angel And The Dark River.
I wouldn't say that it's any more accessible than past releases. It does have a smoother sound to it, but listen to most their albums and they're not much less accessible than this.
I'll take that suggestion because off the top of my head I don't agree.
Ok, Zoo, I've done some refreshing and I think you're being too harsh on her. Yes, those two songs you mentioned are pretty damn good, but what about everything else? His playing on As the Flower Withers doesn't nearly match what's on here. His playing on "Turn Loose the Swans" is better that "As the Flower..." but her playing here is just about as good. Of course, since he had the most free-reign on "Angel..." and he had more time with the band it is pretty impressive... but then listen to what he does on "Like Gods of the Sun" and "34.whatever% Complete". Like Gods has some good stuff on it, but again, no better than what's here.
To be fair Willie, this reviews comes across more as a 2.5/3 rating. However, this small criticism can be overlooked by your fantastic intro and how you play it into the rest of the review. I will most likely check this out since I'm on a doom role as of lately. Check out some of their back catalogue perhaps?
Thanks Wizard, but you might be right about the rating now that I re-read it. I don't want to go back and write anything more, but I should have made a better effort to emphasize that the music is really good, and Aaron's vocals aren't deal-breakers, just that it's obvious something is missing.
I'm not saying she's a bad violinist by any means. Just when compared to Powell's playing and arrangements, she falls short. 34.788% Complete is really the only album that I found his playing to be sub-standard.
I don't know how much power she held in the mixing process in terms of determining where the violin playing would be placed in each song but I do know that the things she definitely had full control over, such as the violin melodies and the keys didn't contribute enough depth to the atmosphere of the album that might draw even the most remote comparisons with the traditional dark and depressing MDB sound that we all know and love. In other words, the mood here sounds manufactured rather than organic, forced rather than blended. As a result, I'm left with an unpleasant after taste every time I listen to this album.
And I'm not, in any way, making her the scapegoat for this album's mediocrity. There are other problems that plague this album such as the aforementioned monotonous vocals in addition to an overall lack of murkiness in the guitar department. Hopefully this is just a "down" album for her as even Powell had his one lackluster performance out of five albums.This Message Edited On 03.22.09
You really think that "As the Flower Withers" is their only flawless album?
That album kind of blows. Still need to check this out. I have to check out Heartwork by Carcass too, which I was planning on doing today, but I wasn't fucking home all day. I'll get both tomorrow after school.
I would say get A Line of Deathless Kings. I only have two MDB albums and thats easily the better of the two. The other is As the Flower Withers. I need to get a lot more from this band.This Message Edited On 03.22.09