Now, who here knows of Black Sabbath? All of you, of course.
But, who of you know of that underground metal movement "Doom Metal" and all of its subgenres?
Again, probably all of you. But still, this is something completely different.
My Dying Bride were signed to Peaceville Records in 1991, after being together for a year and releasing a 7" demo. Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium, their first EP, was released that year on CD, and in 1992 we were granted their first full-length, As The Flower Withers.
What is displayed on this record is not traditional doom. It has none of the stoner, trippy vibe of Electric Wizard. It has none of the power metal, cheesy adventures of Candlemass. None of the 70's, mystic early-Cathedral riffs. What you hear is more of a "black-metal" album. Their lyrics are not all depressive "graveyard mongering" poems, instead they are pretty typical "whores are good, dead girls don't say no, we can speak latin" Death metal odes.
The riffs do not twist, twirl and groove like the high priest of Doom riffage, Tony Iommi, churned out of his six-string. All they do is drive into your ears, not with the power of Electric Wizard, but a different kind of monolithic power. Then there's the sections of the CD where the band decides to stop this charade and SLAM the chords and blast the bass drums as fast as they can. "Come on, a Doom band that tries to play fast should sound like crap", I hear you say. Well, the crackling distortion, relatively-good production and sheer SPEED of the guitars is more exciting to me than any of those thrash/speed metal bands, and also most black metal I've heard.
Also, it is worth noting of the violin. A Black/Doom Metal record... with a violin? You'd better believe it, and although it's used very sparsely, its affect is felt throughout. It's slow, wailing and the production brings it out very well.
Aaron Stainthorpe is perhaps more known for his melodic, baritone moans on their later albums, but on here he does a slow, barbaric death metal grunt that sounds completely inhuman and is executed better than most bands these days, and I hear that he even alternates between this style and the moan on the newer records. Versatile.
The production is cheap enough to give it a dark, black metal atmosphere, but it lets the distortion of the guitars through wonderfully.
Now, onto the track-by-track we go. I mean to make this short and sweet, because I've gone into a lot of depth already.
SILENT DANCE: 2:13
My Dying Bride began their career wanting to show everyone that Black Metal didn't need to be fast. So, being a Black/Death Metal album, we get the obligatory orchestrated introduction. Freaky synth effects and howling violin make this one of the creepiest, yet coolest, introductions I've ever heard. But I'd like it better if it were a full song, not just a little ditty. 4/5
SEAR ME: 9:05
THE Doom Metal song. On two other MDB albums there are songs titled Sear Me (Sear Me MCMXIII and Sear Me III) so they're darn proud of this, obviously. Odd for a Doom Metal group. Anyway, we get the traditional MDB intro, with the drums playing a simple little beat (the drummer is excellent in his subtlety on this release), a fuzzy guitar playing some very ominous notes hid under the mix, then a howling guitar, then violin playing along (the effect is astounding) and after a while, when you begin to think "is this an instrumental band?" Aaron's vocals come in and scare the living daylights out of you. He does a good job at sounding scary (a lot of reverb provided) yet badass. The section keeps dragging on until it collapses, falling into a pile of feedback. Song over? Hell no! The drummer gives four bangs of the sticks and WHAM the ultra-fast guitars slam into you. Whenever I'm listening to this song and walking I just go into a fit. Then a highly memorable riff comes in, this actually does remind me of Forest of Equilibrium era Cathedral. After the schizo section we get a MASSIVE chord slammed into our ears, the beginning drum beat resumes, and the feedback resumes. This goes for minutes, it's just power chords played once every 5 seconds or so and then the Cathedral-ey riff played much slower. This is the most powerful, epic, soaring section I've ever heard in a song. I would die to hear another band pull this off, but it won't happen. It's just POWER. Then the feedback keeps going, and then we're left alone with just the drums, whispering vocals and Aaron sounding like a Minotaur bellowing orders into your ears. I couldn't listen to the CD past this point for a while... his vocals just freaked me right out. Then we go back to the guitar/violin interplay from the beginning, and it finishes.
I would love to hear another band play a 9 minute song with just 4 riffs. This is the quintessential Doom Metal song, if you haven't heard it, download it NOW. 6/5
THE FOREVER PEOPLE: 4:09
Oh, another slow son- WHA!? I'm certain that will be your reaction. No build-up here, it just slams right into your face with the intensity of stampeding elephants. Then a very typical Death riff, with two chords followed by a spurt of feedback. Aaron shouts a word at each burst of feedback, with feedback to the craphouse bouncing around. Then a doom-riff for a while, with more reverb than I've ever heard, then after a very thrashy interlude we get the fast section again. Everytime Aaron lets off a shout, the instruments speed up for a second... wonderful. Then a very typical riff, not as fast but still intense, with Aaron bellowing over a synth tune which follows until the end of the song.
Something out of the ordinary, doesn't jump around too much to seem odd, and the synth at the end is very painful. Yet, never thought I'd say this for a song within this genre, it's too short. 4.5/5
THE BITTERNESS AND THE BEREAVEMENT: 7:37
Guitar, gong, drum fill and then Aaron comes in bellowing like usual, with the violin playing a deadly melody. Scared the living daylights out of me on first listen. The third time Aaron bellows, he does a very painful scream. Evil. Then, another one of my favourite Doom riffs comes in. It's so simple, yet so powerful and epic. And, just like you'd expect it to, it goes for ages. I cannot get enough of it when these guys write a killer riff and stick with it for ages. When the vocals leave, the guitar goes an octave up, I think (don't rely on me for technical knowhow). If I hear ANYONE complain of this riff going on for too long, I'll find and stab you. There's a quiet, short solo, so quiet that I only just noticed it then, actually. Then that thrash type interlude comes in again (darn, one gets sick of it), and a relatively fast part comes in that's really more evil than exciting and fast, then back to our favourite little doom riff again very quickly. So, you "too much repitition" moaners, don't ever get your hopes up with this record. Well, I suppose you can enjoy the varying amounts of reverb, and various amounts of throat-mucus, in Aaron's voice. When his voice stops the violin comes back. After this, it goes fast again with a different, more evil riff, which ends the song.
VAST CHOIRS: 8:15
Those freaky-deaky layered synths from the intro return to kick this off, and then boom, another intense riff chucked, with more of a thrash drum-beat put in which is good variation. And a lovely, evil laugh from Aaron. Then it stops, boom, and we're into the doom again. This time it's more minimalistic than normal, just chord, chord and chord. And when the "chugga chugga" guitar part comes in, it does sound a little Candlemass. Yes, a bad thing; Aaron just does too much, like he's trying to compensate for the slow guitars. THEY NEED NO COMPENSATION you fool. So yeah, another fast bit, another fast riff... then the guitars sit back a little and let the bizarre synth from The Forever People through. Then... GASP! A different guitar effect in another doom section where the rhythm guitar is just doing the "chugga chugga" thing but the lead has a Metallica kind of effect to it, only playing three notes but a good effect. Then... a solo. Very fast, quick, and loud, almost ear-piercing. More, quicker "chugga chugga", intense riffing, then a slow climatic riff to finish it off. The bass drums do a good build-up.
I think this track tries to be a little bit too all-over-the-place, and it doesn't work. The things done with Aaron's voice, the temporarily melodic guitar and awesome minimalist riff at the start keep it from stagnation, though. 3/5
THE RETURN OF THE BEAUTIFUL: 12:49
Wastes no time in getting into the doom, the wailing violins there from the beginning. The violins in this section... at the risk of sounding "emo", are painful. They're the focal instrument in this part. Now, I'm not going to bother describing every moment of the song, because I can sense this review getting boring. Well, there's trade-offs between vocals and violin, the doom riffage is as good as ever and the fast sections are, gladly, not as plentiful as before. This is the "title-track" for the band, seeing as My Dying Bride is mentioned in the lyrics, it's the longest and has the most effects. There is a lot of the symphonic elements, such as a gong and an odd section with the instruments fading out and something similar to Silent Dance played on the synths, spooky, and also a female screaming under it all... horrifying. Like the world is dying. Then, when you actually do think the world is gone, straight into another thrashy section.
That isn't all of the song, like I said I didn't want to describe it all. It's a 13 minute song, how can I fit it all in one review? The violin is more of a lead instrument here, and its mournful affect won't let you go the rest of the day all gleeful and jolly. And, shock, there's a little bit with nothing but the bass playing. I know that's the first time I've mentioned the bass, it's virtually unexistant. Anyway, it's a pretty good song but for some reason I lose interest after a while so it doesn't get good rating... perhaps those fast thrashy parts need to be in there after all. Oh, and Aaron does some spoken parts at the symphonic bit and end. 4.5/5
EROTIC LITERATURE: 5:12
Again with the thrashy drum beat behind the fast guitars, it's still prevented from feeling monotonous somehow. "Cathedrals of immense awe", Aaron can write some pretty, if not cliched, lyrics. Then, gasp shock horror, it jumps straight into a slower, but not quite Doom riff. Then a proper doom riff with an odd sounding synth behind it, and a freaky "woosh" effect everytime a vocal line from Aaron is about to pop in. The synth gives the section a kind of medieval atmosphere. A riff comes in that would be absolutely perfect to end a wonderful album, but no, they had to thrash their way out of this one.
Disappointing way to end the album, but it's still a pretty good track by itself. Odd synth effects keep you interested, but come on, the guys should've finished it with a big sexy doom riff. 4/5
Overall, a lovely album that gets a little repetitive, but has a luscious, dark atmosphere, epic sound and an unrivalled talent for powerful riffs that Electric Wizard could never touch. It has enough little nuances to keep one interested for the ride.And what a ride it is. I haven't got any other My Dying Bride albums, but apparently they're way different to this, so I don't reccomend starting off with this. An essential for both Doom and Black fans, highly reccomended.
Final Rating: 4.5/5