It’s my philosophy that every genre provides every person a band that they can enjoy. As long as the music listener is willing to take the time to appreciate the quirks of a genre, and accept some of the flaws, I think no genre exists where this isn’t some kind of masterpiece. I didn’t always feel this way, as I touched on in my review of Kayo Dot’s “Dowsing Anemone in Copper Tongue”. But I’ll be the first to admit, Kayo Dot isn’t really technically pure “metal”, while they sure experiment with the genre as they do with many, they have probably more sections in their sound that could be consider something other than metal. So, once again, after discovering Kayo Dot I came to the realization that maybe some metal bands were for me. After searching around for bands similar to Kayo Dot, I found that the lead singer of Kayo Dot, Toby Driver was an avid fan of “funeral doom” metal band My Dying Bride. Now, just reading the name “funeral doom” made me feel kind of cautious to even attempt to get into this band, but I figured what the hell and downloaded what is regarded as their most experimental and best album “The Angel and the Dark River”. Over the months I quickly fell in love with the album, the depressing vocals, the ridiculously slow riffing, the subtle key playing, everything on this album came together to create an extremely depressing experience that is almost one of a kind. While Kayo Dot and their two releases got me to dabble in metal, My Dying Bride and “The Angel and the Dark River” had me diving head first.
The first thing that struck me while listening to My Dying Bride was vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s style of singing. While death is well known for its primal grunt and black for its sometimes ridiculous growl, doom metal really capitalizes on associating its vocal styling with the overly depressing feel of its musical end. Stainthorpe’s vocals can only be sound as the cries of a dying man, they are extremely low in his register and he basically sounds like he’s about to breakdown after every line. While this may pose a problem for some metal fans that are used to the typical growls, grunts, and screeches, like most metal bands, My Dying Bride is using its vocal styling for atmospheric purposes and if you want to get into them, you’ll have to understand that fact. The full power of Stainthorpe can be seen on the best track on the album “Two Winters Only”, a tale of what was once held and how it was lost that is perfectly orchestrated and paced in anger and sadness by My Dying Bride.
To my understanding My Dying Bride contains two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboardist. While the bassist, drummer and keyboardist both add excellently to the music, the two guitarist approach seems wasted. While they both seem to play, at times it’s as if My Dying Bride has two guitarists just to have two guitarists. Anyways, opener “The Cry of Mankind” is an excellent example of the musical prowess of the band. A keyboard line weaves itself in between slowly heavy riffing and steady bass drum interplay. Stainthorpe relieves his pains through his flawless vocal performance and the song slow treads along. While most bands with twelve minute songs usually build up to a crescendo, My Dying Bride kind of just marches along it utter painful relentlessness. “The Cry of Mankind” wraps up with a few minutes of swamp ambience which can easily be related too the ambience that is found on Mars Volta “Frances the Mute”, in it’s essence it’s a device to further connect the songs on the album so it feels like an entire piece, rather than a collection of songs. Musically, this band is extremely repetitive and while this could be considered a flaw, in my opinion it once again exists to the endless depressing mood they are attempting to create.
“The Angel and the Dark River” is an important doom record, in that is one of the most flawless in its genre. While it does get boring at times basically due to its genres hold ups, at the end of the listen I’m usually entirely satisfied. Well, not satisfied due to the depressing nature of this album, but satisfied for what it’s trying to present. While I certainly wouldn’t consider “The Angel and the Dark River” the most depressing album I have heard (That title goes to John Frusciante’s “Smile from the Streets You Hold), this band is certainly pros at creating a great atmosphere and writing semi-epic doom metal songs. For metal fans trying to find some experimental music in their favorite genre, I suggest giving “The Angel and the Dark River” a heavy look.