Review Summary: A Map of All our Failures is an amalgamation of MDB's essential elements, and it has enough quality to stand among the band’s best works, thus, it is recommended to their older fans and to new listeners alike
The mention of Odysseus in a My Dying Bride record seems somewhat ironic at first. Their musical journeys were neither long nor dangerous. When Paradise Lost and Anathema set sail for seas unknown, doing their best to rediscover their sound’s essentials through different musical styles, MDB never strayed from the doom/death path they had chosen since their earliest days. They explored and defined the genre, but only within its limits. In that sense, they resemble the faithful Penelope more than they resemble Odysseus. Then again, the true aim of Odyssey is to honor the man who never loses grip of his goals, stays the course regardless of the difficulties and temptations that may appear in his way, even if the price he has to pay is loneliness.
A Map for All our Failures is yet another manifestation of the fact that doom/death metal is MDB’s only nature, however it is surprising that the bells heard in the beginning of Kneel till Doomsday are not this record’s only relation to the band’s previous EP, The Barghest O’ Whitby. Just like the latter, A Map of All our Failures finds MDB embracing their past and reconnecting with such legendary records as Turn Loose the Swans or The Angel and The Dark River. A Map of All our Failures is, slower, heavier, much bitterer and more stripped down than any of the records they’ve released since the Light at the End of the World. This results in some of MDB’s best material in many many years; Kneel till Doomsday finds them creeping from funeral doom to Morbid Angel-like death metal, with some faster paced terrifying riffs in between. Hail Odysseus features scary, archetypical doom metal, gloriously accompanied by horns-the band’s one-two march behind Stainthorpe’s growls may be simulating Odysseus companions using oars to make their ship move, in a journey that ends with Bride performing a sour double guitar harmonization. In Abandoned as Christ, the funereal tension is unparalleled-Stainthorpe has Christ screaming “Where was God when I most needed him?” and with this scent of divine solitude they round off MDB’s best song this side of The Dreadful Hours.
Not that MDB have totally dismissed what they’ve been doing for the last 15 plus years; there are more than enough moments which feel beautifully melancholic rather than desperately mournful (a major difference between recent and early MDB), to the point where in songs like The Poorest Waltz (which includes a Paradise Lost friendly melodic pattern) and a Tapestry Scorn these feelings are absolutely dominant. The same could be said about the title track which starts with Ahab-like fragile, acoustic guitars and it even features a cathartic melody towards the end that could fit in a song like My Hope the Destroyer.
Despite Stainthorpe’s annoying obsession with stories of (unfulfilled) romance –have in mind that even Hail Odysseus is a love story under cover- MDB’s main advantage compared to any other doom band remains their depth of dramatic expression, due mostly to Stainthorpe himself, something amazing if you consider that this record is relatively naked instrumentally. MDB retain their talent for raising feelings of sadness, nostalgia, horror, anger and despair. This way, songs that don’t actually offer that much to the quality level of this record (but could never be seen as sub-par either), such as Within the Presence of Absence and Like a Perpetual Funeral, still make you feel as if you were trapped in a room with no doors, no windows and no lights, something which ultimately makes them equally addictive.
A Map of all our Failures proves that MDB is not only one of doom’s most reliable bands, but that they remain one of its pillars. It is an amalgamation of their essential elements, and it has enough quality to stand among the band’s best works, thus, it is recommended to their older fans and to new potential listeners alike. Excellent album.