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This album is totally inconsistent, both in MDB's career and in its shifts between songs. Kudos to the band for pulling in a few ideas from way outside the box, but goddamn are those ideas patchy as fuck! If I slice the album into pieces, I'm left with a delicious 20 minute slice, an appetising 20 minute chunk, and a stale hunk of pie left over.
'The Whore, the Cook and the Mother' is delicious and was probably the least surprising thing on here when it came out. The lyrics are sexually driven (though no longer poetic, as on previous and later albums), but the real gold is the huge, overpowering guitars that sweat and soar and swoon all over the soggy bed - the ascending guitar "chorus" is one of the best things Bride have recorded, and even the quiet mid-section is great. The two closing tracks are also pretty tasty, but don't progress the good ideas they begin with to any real conclusion. 'Base Level Erotica' is slow and full of effects and menace, which MDB would return to on songs like 'Le figlie della tempesta', while 'Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms' is a great closer that only feels long because it's a fast song for Bride and seems to get away from them. The guitar tone imitates the fullness of 'The Whore...', giving great washes of riff that focus more on strumming and chord patterns than Bride's more traditional plod-and-harmony affair. The lyrics and title of 'Under Your Wings...' seem as well to be a surprising (and interesting) take on Stainthorpe's rather rocky relationship with God, though that might be just my reading.
The parts of this album that are average are at least average and interesting which, looking back over MDB's discography, isn't always possible to say, so it's refreshing to hear weird but mediocre songs like 'The Stance of Evander Sinque' or 'Der Überlebende', since they approach the problems of faith, loneliness, and melancholy from a very different angle to the doom death norm. The obsessively rhythmic, deliberately uncatchy riffs of the former strike me as the sort of metal that Helmet might come up with if they were given a lot of meds and a renaissance history textbook, while the slow repetition and monotone nature of the latter almost brings to mind some of the more difficult Brit rock bands that were clogging up the late '90s. It is worth noting that Stainthorpe's vocals take on not only a completely clean style here (that also happened on the last album), but they drift into a kind of Northern sneer that isn't a million miles away from the regional accents of Oasis and all that followed in their wake.
That voice and that street-level grit is perhaps what prompted MDB to write a song like 'Heroin Chic', which abandons metal and goes for a nasty, miasmic trip-hop vibe that really doesn't suit the band, though isn't actually that horrible. Drums are distinctly processed, which doesn't surprise as much as it might, since this album uses the drums more like a downer rock band than a doom metal one, and bass pops up for a rare moment, though of course it's not the moment that any Bride fan was looking for. Not a pointless experiment, but should not be on this album. 'Apocalypse Woman', on the other hand, is so inoffensive, it actually offends me. Unlike 'Der Überlebende', there is no hope of turning its directionlessness into an advantage. There's a kind of post-punk bass riff, but other than that I cannot remember anything about this song after more than 20-30 listens. It is unforgivably boring, simple as. There are no guitars that hook or to pound the listener, not even in the same billowy unrifflike way that Bride manage to master on some of this album's better songs, but there is simply a slow drift with nothing to anchor the song, a lack of substance that drills a hole right through the heart of this album.
Bride broke free of their post-'The Angel and the Dark River' stagnation and tried to experiment, but produced a half-hearted album with some fairly worthless tracks and a few beautifully unique moments in their career.
I can't help but feel that the dislike/indifference towards this album is based on the title moreso than the music. The title alludes to a bunch of pretty irritating things- an arrogant boast from MDB that it's a rush job, a failed attempt at being deep (which based on interviews seems to be what it is), and just general shittiness all round. But really, aside from Heroin Chic this isn't that big of a departure from the typical MDB fare, and some of the material here sits easily among their best. It's hell of a lot more interesting than most of their mid-era stuff, anyway.
My generally favourable viewpoint here can probably be entirely attributed to that flat out beast that's the first song (first impressions and all that stuff). "The Whore, The Cook and The Mother" is one of the finest songs MDB have done. Aaron's nasal, soaring vocals over that massive guitar riff is hard to beat. The album seems to carry a theme of "having sex with someone while on drugs" (or alternatively, drugs in general), and the ecstasy fueled moneyshot that's this song is a fantastic example of. Sure, the ambient section is a bit long but it just makes the return to the massive intro riff even better.
Yeah, the first song doesn't really get touched by the rest of the record but that's hardly surprising; it's a fantastic song and MDB always have that one song per album that rises above the rest. Things continue on a fairly solid note throughout the album, however. "Der Uberblende" is typically solid death/doom/sob rock from these guys, "Apocalypse Woman" a competently done faster track with some pretty cool riffs, and the one-two punch of the last tracks end this on a really solid note- wah pedal abuse aside "Base level erotica" mines a rich vein of slow, desperate and hypnotic doom- the majestic and really damn depressing outro is a really fine bit of music, whereas "Under Your Wings..." is typically solid My Dying Bride; a few excellent riffs and leads arranged with a very careful hand, graceful, despairing, pretty damn solid.
One amazing song, two great songs and a few decent ones.. no different from the usual, then? The whole "not really all that different from the usual" theme is continued by the one typical a-grade turd (and ironically the only genuinely weird song on the album), "Heroin Chic". It's not a bad idea and I can sort of applaud them for trying something genuinely different, but the simple fact is that 8 minutes is way too long for a trip-hop song, especially one as lacking as this. Not really any progression, just a repetitive drum beat, the instruments meandering on uninteresting, worthless patterns, and a rather boring vocal delivery by Aaron. It's a really, really average bit of work, just a bunch of ideas thrown together for no real reason then, perhaps, to be different. It's an awful song.
But again, when we come down to it, when you have a look through their catalogue, this is nothing new. Heroin Chic is musically their worst song, possibly, but it's no more boring then, say, "Shadowhaunt", it's less cheesy then "The Blood, The Wine, The Roses" and it's a lot more daring then the entire "Like Gods of the Sun" album. Ok, so perhaps the production and mix is somewhat weak; keys are too loud in places, drums sound flat, the vocals sound cheap and fairly average. Nonetheless, with a skip button handy I think this is quite a good album; not MDB's best, perhaps, but certainly a few of the songs hold their own with anything else they've done, and most of it is decent enough. I'd recommend this to everyone, whether you're a fan or not you owe it to yourself to check out the first song.
(originally written for www.heathenharvest.com)
After the loss of a major band member, most bands are often stuck at a crossroad. They ether try and find a replacement and continue releasing albums in the vein of the ones prior,or take the loss as an opportunity to experiment and try thing they wouldn’t have otherwise. In the case of My Dying Bride, with the loss of violinist Martin Powell, they took option B.
“34.788%... Complete” is sort of the black sheep in the My Dying Bride discography. Fans are often divided on it, some calling it a masterpiece, wishing that they never returned to their doom roots, while others treat it like an unwanted child cursing its very existence. My stance is somewhere in between, it is a very strong and unique album indeed, but it lacks the beauty that makes a majority of My Dying Bride’s releases so special.
First off, this is not a doom album, not in the least. It has doom elements but it has a more industrial, gothic and experimental sound. The music is still dark, but in a different way than previous albums. While albums such as “Turn Loose the Swans” are dark in a more tragic and theatrical sense, “34%” is dark in a more dirty, scummy and drug fueled way.
This may not be apparent on the first three tracks as they all retain their doom roots to a certain degree but once the almost dance like synth of “Heroin Chic “ starts up, the album keeps descending in this direction. “Heroin Chic” is possibly one of the strangest and dirtiest songs My Dying Bride have ever made. The song itself is very synth driven song, with Aaron pseudo-rapping over a very Euro- pop sounding female vocal sample. The lyrics revovle around a very blunt description of the drug lifestyle, and are void of the poetic nature of their previous albums.
The next two songs “Apocalypse Woman” and “Base Level Erotica” both are lyrically centered on raw dirty depictions of sex, which is a major change from the romantic depections of sex and love portrayed on their album's up to this point. “Apocalypse Woman” is probably the highlight of the album as it features one of the best bass lines and catchiest choruses in any My Dying Bride song. Another major change can be found on the album closer “Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms”, which is probably the catchiest and most upbeat song in the bands career. The main riff is very bouncy, and dare I say it….fun.
“34.788%... Complete” is not a bad album, quite the opposite in fact, but those looking for a doom album with the traditional My Dying Bride sound might want to look elsewhere. Fans who embrace change or who may not have liked My Dying Bride prior should give this unique and drug fueled album a chance, its well worth it.
At first I did not know what to make of this album. But it kept haunting me. The first song, “The Whore, The Cook and The Mother” is a dark voyage on its own. Let alone the rest of the album. You might find yourself repeating this song over and over again on your playlist. Needless to say, the music is very mysterious, the lyrics are erotic and it keeps on rolling and rolling over and over again for the first few minutes and then suddenly there is a total breakdown and it just gets more and more mysterious as some sort of hypnotherapy can be heard in the background. It ends with a “fuck you!” and then the song returns back to something I guess you could call a “normal state”.
The rest of the album is also very unique and neatly done. “Heroin Chic” contains some very chaotic sound and lyrics that irritated me first, but later I realized that this song is quite a masterpiece, as it makes you aware of the maddening effect of heroin. “The stance of Evander Sinque”, “Apocalypse Woman”, “Der Uberlebende”, “Base Level Erotica” and “Under Your Wings and Into My Arms” are all very unique in their own way, as each one of them attributes a deep, dark gothic and doom type of sound to make this album one of the best gothic doom metal albums I’ve ever heard. What also amazed me, was the way the lyrics of “The stance of Evander Sinque” was written – it tells a story of an anti-hero type of guy and what makes it so unique, is the fact that the story ends in a tragic, dark humorous kind of way. The music on this song also sounds like some sort of death march and it is as if you can feel the Angel of Death approaching to take poor Evander Sinque away from his miserable life on earth.
The whole album’s lyrical content is a mixture of erotic material and dark, sinister philosophy that keeps on repeating over and over in your head. What is so brilliant is the way in which the music complements the lyrical content. Each song has a very unique intro and it is as if the intro prepares the listener for the dark opera that is soon to follow.
This album is a coherent work of art that does not contain seven songs, but seven dark operas that will enlighten the human mind!
As stated once before, every band or at least most bands have a point in their career where they change and/or experiment which always causes an issue with the bulk of their core fan base. This happened to Paradise Lost on 'One Second' and to Avernus on '...of the Fallen. After My Dying Brides' style defining album 'Turn Loose the Swans' they significantly lessoned their deathlier side and opted for a more tradition yet highly original Doom Metal sound. This has often and wrongly been confused for Gothic Metal when there's absolutely nothing "Gothic" about it. This album is many things to many people but one thing that no one can deny is that it left its mark on the Metal underground.
This is a curious and sprawling release. The production is excellent and as such, helps to bring out the ponderous nature of this work. The guitars sound as if the are tuned to standard, but they remain heavy all the same. The bands trademarked drawn out guitar dirges and crunchy riffs are here, but in a new light. This is the album where MDB learned how to reinvent themselves while staying true to their original vision. There are no solos, but the riffs and leads are memorable.
The bass follows the guitars for the most part deviating in places here and there. The drumming is somewhat standard, but in the bands classic form, creative and complimentary to the music. Martin left after 'Like Gods of the Sun' and his loss is felt as there is no violin and the keyboards are missing his trademarked influence but the music doesn't suffer for it.
The vocals are decent at best with Aaron opting for a more clean/spoken word approach. His lyrics are deep and abstract for the most part. There is some humor as well specifically on the song "Heroin Chic" where he intelligently mocks the European drug scene. The only real complaint would be that the "foul language" is fuzzed out on this song. This could be a joke however as it is fairly amusing. There is also a female vocalist sharing duties on this track. This track is also interesting as its very trip-hoppy and ambient while during the choruses and various verses it’s undeniably Doom Metal.
The last track on this is more in the vein of older MDB but still unique to this recording. This album has a rather odd atmosphere to it, drifting between ponderous and creepy, from sexy to odd. There is a lot going on if you pay attention.
This album is an accomplishment in the fact that it's so different from anything the bands done before or since. This is truly a masterful work of art that they need to revisit at some point in their illustrious career. This is one of the best experimental Doom Metal albums ever. Even the album's art work is different as it’s perhaps their most abstract to date, it only adds to this odd little gem. This is a must have for any true MDB/Doom Metal fan.
This album starts out with a few distorted chords with delay, twanging, hanging in the air above you for a short second before they come crashing down. The beat is not at all slow, but the strumming is hardly discernible through the distortion and drums. Aaron Stainthorpe begins singing, and it is distorted and sounds quite nasal. “Tell me that I'm a sinner / Lay me down again / I need a soft flesh bed”… It’s sludgy and dirty, and thick with keyboards. A melancholic guitar melody enters and ends. And then, after a few minutes, the music breaks down into feedback fluttering with tremolo effects, finally fading and leaving you with only a distant clean guitar in a bare, clinical building, with what sounds as the bleeping of a medical apparatus keeping a hypnotizing beat. Some murmur is heard after a while; apparently Stainthorpe is answering questions about his life: “Umm… Thirty-one”, “Uh yeah, two cats”. However, you are left guessing what the questions actually are, unless you speak the Asian (?) language they are asked in (or look in the booklet). After one final question, Stainthorpe snarls “Fuck you” as an answer – and another heavy part concludes the song, its final words “Be mine forever more / Until I'm fucking sick of you”.
That monolithic twelve minute track opens this infamous My Dying Bride-album, and is one of the best of the songs. The juxtaposition between the heavy and filthy parts and the slow, ambient-ish interlude is absolutely brilliant. But having listened to other MDB-songs, you might be in some confusion about certain statements here. Distorted vocals? Swearing? Everyday-life-themed? Not slow?!
My Dying Bride is known for their dark, romantic, sad soundscapes. This album, however, while pretty “dark”, is hardly romantic and not very slow. The tempo is mid-paced for most of the time, and the feel is rather “anti-romantic” than romantic, the attitude being quite cynical and the atmosphere dirty. When shutting your eyes and listening to this music, you may find yourself lying sleepless in the shaggy bed of a tiny, untidy apartment; or walking through a littered alleyway at night, tramps and low-lives lying or sitting hunched in doorways and corners. The lyrics deal with loneliness, monotony, and sex. And sex is here viewed as nothing beautiful or tender, but merely a perfunctory routine, a destructive addiction.
The very odd track “Heroin Chic” exemplifies this. The track contains little metal elements at all, it is more of experimental rock. Electronic sounds, a trippy beat, and Aarons vocals sound like a drugged and/or dead tired rapper. Yes, a rapper. As in hip-hop. The line “Calmly walk from slut to slut” pretty well summarizes the theme of the lyrics. The monotonous, apathetic vocals contemplate the utter lack of meaning in the life depicted, and the whole track sounds like a wretched parody of the cockiness in hip-hop and r’n’b-music. The only thing that stops this song from being brilliant is that someone in a deranged moment decided to add white noise to the vocal track whenever Stainthorpe cusses.
In contrast to the rough sexually directed songs there is for example “Der Überlebende”, another of my favourites. The song is 7½ minutes and only consists of three semi-slow riffs, being repeated again and again and again… The slightly distorted chords rock you into a peaceful state of mind and give a pause from the gritty feeling of the other songs. Also the lyrics display a streak of hope, “…but I'm alive, I’m alive”. A very comforting song; something to listen to those days when life feels like shit.
Then there is “The Stance of Evander Sinque”, the probably most accessible song here, about a man living and dying oppressed without accomplishing anything. Heavy and a little doomy.
There is “Base Level Erotica”, another ugly song about sex, with squealing harmonics, and a riff repeated endlessly at the end. The song gives the impression of a sexual act more like a fight. Horrible and great.
“Apocalypse Woman” is a decent song following the same theme of relationships that only bring misery to both parts.
The album ends with yet another song along that theme – or is there some hope here, a wish to break free? “They come, they go / Will you stay here?” - the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways. Unfortunately, the ending is a bit sudden and anti-climactic.
The musicians’ playing skill and style has not been dwelt into in this review, and really, there is not much to say. This is a doom band after all, even if this particular album does not stay within conventional doom boundaries. The whole point is not to play extravagant solos, but to conjure up an atmosphere. With this, My Dying Bride succeeds just as well as they almost always do. Even without violins, without dual guitar melodies, and without playing slowly they manage to convey a bleak, yet strangely comforting feeling, different from anything else they have ever made, and probably ever will make.
This album stands unique to me; I cannot think of anything it really sounds like. I cannot say who will like it and who won’t, the best anyone can do is judge for themselves, without preconceptions. This album is different.
A few songs that only qualifies as "pretty good" are all that prevents this album from getting a really high rating.
I am a huge My Dying Bride fan... and that’s why I WON'T defend this album. It would be far too easy to hide behind statements like “At least, they’ve had enough balls to try something different” or “They don’t care for selling” or whatever. At least when Moonsorrow, well-known for their epic and bombastic Viking metal, recorded a grindcore album, they had the good taste to release it under a different band name (Lakupaavi). When you release something under My Dying Bride name, make it good or bad, but make it at least sound like My Dying Bride, not like some atmospheric/indus/gothic/avant-garde/noise crap.
Ultra-distorted vocals and guitars, overwhelming use of keyboards, lyrics about sex and/or mental illness, shitty artwork between raw art and industrial trend or neverending tracks filled with useless background sound effects are never likely to give a good release. This is indeed not. The songs here, without being utterly fast, are slightly higher-paced than on any other MDB release, but that don’t prevent them from being incredibly boring. Actually, the majority of MDB slow-paced death/doom songs are NOT boring, while these are. Why? No structure, and far too much of the crappy indus stuff mentioned before, which almost constitute the core of most of the songs.
Overall, this album bears one good track, and the six others rank from average to unlistenable. Average includes Der Uberlebende, a slightly melancholic piece of work with solemn keyboards and not too distorted guitars, but which is just too repetitive and sleep-inducing, and Under Your Wings And Into Your Arms. This last track is said to be the only 34.788%’s song a bit close to usual MDB work, and it’s indeed the only song from this album the band is used to playing live, as far as I’m aware of. Granted, it is less atmospheric and industrial than the other tracks, less keyboard-filled, far more guitar-driven, but it’s still not standard My Dying Bride, if only because of the faster tempo. And to be honest the band has done far better.
Then, mediocre tracks includes first the opener The Whore, The Cook And The Mother, which is one of the best works here musically-wise, but which is ruined by the use of distorted vocals and above all by the awful over-long middle part of noise, electronics and senseless background babble. Then The Stance Of Evander Sinoue and Base Level Erotica which, apart from boasting some of the worst titles I could think of, show just too much guitar distortion and vocal effects to be really enjoyable. A pity, because Base Level Erotica especially exhibits otherwise one of the most haunting and beautiful tunes MDB has ever thought of, and the end, when the aforementioned tune, backed by eerie and majestic keyboards, is repeated over and over again, can stand the comparison with the band’s finest moments. So the connoisseur just feels like screaming: why the fuck didn’t you use all your great ideas to produce a genuine MDB masterpiece rather than wrapping everything in this pseudo-avant-garde shit?
The unlistenable is the fourth track Heroin Chic, which is, well... unlistenable from the first minute to the last. Other tracks may be crappy music, but are still music, while this one is not. This one is pure indus noise, and I’m ready to bet half of my metal collection that the drums and more generally two thirds of the “music” here are programmed. Aaron, singing in duet with some unknown chick, sounds just pitiful, even more pitiful than on The Whore, The Cock And The Loser. Oh, sorry, he doesn’t sing, he raps. I’m not joking. If you like MDB as much as I do, please do yourself a favour and scratch this track to never be tempted to give it a listen.
To conclude on a more positive note I will eventually mention the good track, Apocalypse Woman, some song about a stalker and a slut or something similar, lyrically nothing really different from the rest of the album. Musically-wise it is another story even if it has strictly nothing to do with standard MDB and with doom metal in general. A minimalist semi-acoustic riff, neverending drums rolls and a slight touch of background atmospheric keyboards concur in building a very gloomy and oppressive atmosphere well in touch with the lyrics. And you know what? The song even exhibits a genuine SOLO. To sum up they just should have released an EP with this track and a bunch of live versions of some of their good old doom anthems; I would have been the first to praise them.
The mark is written on the cover. Stupid joke, but My Dying Bride themselves have been stupid to record this album in the first place. Granted, it is art. But it is shitty art.
Highlights: Apocalypse Woman