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I was kind of expecting that by now MDB would be doing some extremely soggy gothic rock stuff; while I loved their first few albums it seemed that they were going to take a fairly logical (and disappointing) route to particularly whiney atmospheric rock. But it seems that somehow they've managed to mostly avoid those pitfalls, and what we have here is a pretty cool doom album with a tiny bit of goth, death, and cheese.
Well, it's not that cheesy, it's just that when Aaron sings he uses maybe four words, tops: Breast/Flesh/Pain/Love. Aaron, and I guess the rest of the band really, tread a fairly fine line here between over the top melodrama and genuine emotional impact. The whole seriousness of the thing does seem a bit unnecessary; I can imagine the band rocking up to the studio in suits and recording everything while just staring ahead and glaring at the walls. Whereas the earlier stuff had plenty of death-y parts where you could loosen up a bit, that's not really here, and it does get one-dimensional after a while.
It's still pretty cool though. Riffs abound and MDB seemed to have sorted out the occaisonal songwriting hiccups that they had in their earlier career. The slow motion weep fest of "L'Amour Detruit" is quite surprising in that it stays gripping and engrossing over the whole nine minutes; certainly that's something these guys have struggled with before. Indeed most of the tunes are fairly well written and arranged- tempos rise and fall, riffs (of slightly inconsistent quality, I'm afraid, a bit of unmemorable filler here) move around from teary doom trudges to some more midpaced, death-y riffs, and it's all done quite well (let's pretend the ending of the final song never happened, right?). While doom newbies may struggle a little bit with this most people should be able to handle it, and it's good to hear MDB throw in some small surprises -Love's Intolerable Pain's brief excursion into black metal, the surprisingly crushing album intro to the album, the fairly catchy, short doom excursion that's Thy Raven Wings this isn't the most progressive or surprising record but it's good that MDB have varied things up a bit throughout.
The mood of the thing is a little bit pointless and aggravating, though. MDB try to keep us as interested as possible, throwing in the occaisonal soaring synth and head-banging portions (the opening to Love's Intolerable Pain is quite the mid paced crusher), but the whole thing just has an extremely annoying "I have regret and I am crying" atmosphere, which while initially powerful and engrossing quickly outdoes its' welcome. I'd liken it to Xasthur or any of the depressive black metal bands- the atmosphere is done powerfully, but it's not really an atmosphere you want, especcially throughout a rather lengthy record. There's rarely any anger, just said regret and tears. Perhaps I'll need this record badly after I've broken up with someone, but until then the whole thing seems kind of pointless.
But while it may be a bit of a struggle to get through the whole album fact is that most of the songs are pretty good on their own. Aaron's vocals are a bit melodramatic, perhaps, and he'll never have the best tone in the world, but otherwise the band is tight and the songs are good, it just gets a little bit repetitive, that's all. Worth getting, I guess, because while it's quite repetitive the whole thing manages to balance the melancholy and the crushing riffage quite well.
In the past few years My Dying Bride have arguably crafted their finest works to date. 'A Line of Deathless Kings' is no exception to the newer, fresher sounding material as there is a little something for everyone in here.
This album has been subjected to an array of mixed reviews due to Aaron's choice to sing "properly". This is the first time he's sung clean for an entire album and as such probably won't be the last. The biggest difference in this and say 'Like Gods of the Sun' is that he's actually singing and not just speaking. His grim vocals have been in decline in more recent years and as a result most of his growls sound forced and dry. This album truly shows his versatility as a vocalist.
The guitars are thick and heavy and generally menacing. This is due to the stellar production job. This album has a lot of attitude in its riffs and leads. All of the bands hallmarks are here, but this is far from being rehashed. This is MDB at the top of their game. This is possibly one of their crunchiest (if not their crunchiest) album to date.
The bass is more or less what we've come to expect from the band. The drums (which have always been a standout point for the band) are just as brilliant as ever with session member John Bennett bringing yet another original color to the bands already bright pallet.
The keyboards add the requisite atmosphere where it would have been otherwise lost by the guitars. While Sara is certainly able to hold her own, she's no Martin. They lyrics are the usual Doom & gloom that we've come to expect.
This album, while sorrowful and bleak is also tough and robust. There is a lot going on here in terms of mood and feel. The harmonies and leads only add to the misery brought to life by the lyrics. This is by far one of the best MDB albums to date. This album takes the heaviness of the 'Dreadful Hours' and mixes it with the pure Doom that was 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light'.
You could certainly do far worse in the bands catalog. This is highly recommended to any and all Doomsters. However, with that being said, those who might be new to the band might find this a decent starting place as it literally encompasses some of the bands better/best sonic attributes.
This was a difficult, almost painful, CD to review, especially since it not only comes from one of my favorite bands, but it ALSO comes on the heels of what I consider to be My Dying Bride's BEST fucking album to date: "Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light." THAT particular album touched on just about every emotion under the sun, and complete with the newest MDB addition of blackened styled vocals, complete with songs that will take you from snarling, dark and demonic rage to extremely beautiful, melancholic and light hearted fare all in one song, "Songs Of Darkness..." is probably one of the most emotionally exhausting albums they've ever made.On the other hand, "A Line Of Deathless Kings" is confusing, jumps around quite a bit, and by the album's end your last few songs make you go "didn't I hear those elements in earlier songs... ON THE SAME ALBUM?"
Nevertheless, let's start from the beginning. CD opener 'To Remain Tombless' didn't make the greatest impression. Yes, the guitar work is very dark, heavy and almost thrashy at times, certainly one of the biggest highlights of the CD. MDB's DARKEST instrumentation to date, certainly, but the harsh vocals are limited to about three spots on the entire album. I thought for such a heavy and dark atmosphere the vocals on CD opener 'To Remain Tombless' could have been a LOT heavier, one of very few instances I have a problem with Aaron's vocal delivery. The next piece 'L'Amour Detruit' doesn't help either, as you have very nice emotional synths and guitars opening up (incidentally, the amazingly atmospheric synths seem to be absent for the most part from this recording as
well), and from the start you think "Ah, what amazingly emotional atmosphere,
fuck this could have been on "Songs Of Darkness!" But then halfway through the
darker tone with the instrumentation proves to be a double edged sword, as the
heavier parts could have been fleshed out better. It almost threatens to drag
the song down (The ending brings back the sounds of the beginning).
Let me say right now though that the most amazing passage on the album is the 4th track 'And I Walk With Them,' you'll know this ultra melodic passage when you hear it, as it features some soaring vocal work and trust me, it'll bring tears to the eyes (especially when you read the lyrics along with it). Why the rest of the album couldn't take this pace is beyond me.Nice piano notes open up 'Thy Raven Wings,' but for the life of me it just didn't grab me. Is there too much darkness overpowering the overall tone of the record? By tracks 6 and 7, I am DEFINITELY
hearing a band start to repeat themselves, and I'm STILL confused, as Aaron is still sounding sharp.
No song on here is terrible, or even godawful, but the MDB fan will definitely have to pick and choose his moments. I don't know if I'm just so into "Songs Of Darkness" that anything after that has been ruined or if the songs TRULY don't hold weight well. I'll give you what I think is the biggest clue, the HUGE piece to the
puzzle that makes me understand WHY this album isn't as good as it SHOULD be:
A recent interview I read in Metal Maniacs (which would NORMALLY have NO BEARING on ANY review I do) had Aaron stating quite matter of factly that THIS
album was recorded VERY QUICKLY, even by My Dying Bride standards. Let me
rephrase that, it was WRITTEN very quickly, Aaron going on to state that not only were lyrics not written until they were IN THE STUDIO, but FOUR songs were written while IN the studio. Had they spent more time on these songs, I dare say the album would have turned out better. That being said, any other band writing and recording an album like this would have far worse results.
While the last few years certainly have been up and down for My Dying Bride, a promise was made to make a return to their majestic doom/death style of old with this album. I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but this certainly isn't doom/death metal aside from a few small moments. A Line of Deathless Kings sees MDB continuing to explore even more progressive gothic metal territory without losing their edge. The thing is, the whole album is very samey, a fairly exhausting listening experience, and seems to be straight-out boring sometimes. This does a favor for the album in a very strange way, though.
Musically speaking, this isn't too far from the band's past two albums, except for one huge issue that I was forced to take points off for: the interplayed gothic harmonies on guitar and keyboards are barely present here. In fact, keyboards in general are almost totally absent from the songs, with "I Cannot Be Loved" and a few others being slight exceptions. Most of the songs are more guitar-based, but truth be told, there are only a handful of good riffs during the entire album. There seems to be less focus on atmosphere, (one of the things that made this band brilliant) and more emphasis put on the song structures, which are slightly more complex than anything else the band have done. You wouldn't think so when listening to this album, though; many of the songs follow a rigid tempo template that ranges from scorchingly to the lower end of what many would call mid-paced. As a result, most listeners will get bored quite easily and think the band are treading waters of lacking inspiration.
But that's the handle of this album; though things may seem boring, this may very well be MDB's heaviest and darkest offering since The Angel & The Dark River. "Deeper Down," while a bit generic and long-winded, shows the band balancing powerful palm-muted riffs and double bass with a dragging, unchanging tempo. While not as sonically heavy as past offerings, A Line of Deathless Kings takes the band into even more dirgy, menacing territory, and it is indeed a demanding listener that grows over time. "And I Walk With Them" is a perfect example, where sacriligeous lyrics play perfectly into the sparse, brooding guitar riffs. The repitition in riffs sometimes kills this, but songs like the tragic "L' Amour Detruit," which is one of the more melodic outings, brings back the long-missing Gothic flair to the band's sound that we have long yearned for. Aside from that, there's not much on an ear-candy level; the despair in the music is channeled through the pounding and slightly technical drumwork, eerie clean guitar interludes, and bludgeoning, fully voiced power chords, rather than the traditional keyboard melodies or searing guitar harmonies.
Aaron only uses growls two or three times during the whole album, but his clean vocals shine through wonderfully. Some may say that his voice sounds weak and uninspired here, but the darker context of the music brings out the bleakness of his voice. The opener "To Remain Tombless" shows Aaron's most fragile and sensitive performance, which coorelates perfectly with the lifeless lyrics. One of his best performances here is "I Cannot Be Loved," where a renewed sense of melody brings a sort of catharsis to everything. Though on the surface Aaron may seem to be inferior to even his own past offerings, his desperate croonings are as effective as ever, especially on "Love's Intolerable Pain." Lyrically, it's about the same for MDB, but songs like "One of Beauty's Daughters" take an almost sardonic, sadistic approach to dark love affairs. The album's closer "The Blood, The Wine, The Roses" is a grand tale of lust and damnation, and may be some of the best Aaron has ever written.
The rest of the band is a bit of a double-edged sword; it's certainly heavier in a round-about way, it just takes a few listens to realize and grasp it. Generally, the guitars still have quite a bit of melody, but most of it has been ditched in favor of a darker style that relies less on keyboards. When the keyboards do enter the mix, it's generally a miniscule role for background ambience, which is a shame in my opinion. The drums have a somewhat "broken" feel to them, and by that I mean that there's a return to the style where amourphous time changes interject with the songs through the means of jarring fills and stop-go cycles. This is a refreshing breath of air from the lumbering, bleak drone of everything else in the music, and adds a little bit of ear candy to the mix.
It comes down to this: some people will like this album, some will hate it, and some won't know what to think. Whatever it may be, keep in mind that this album is a grower; a a difficult one at that.
Favorite tracks: All tracks 2-5, "One of Beauty's Daughters," "The Blood, the Wine, the Roses."
This is as old as My Dying Bride: this band has always played with a dangerous double-edged sword. The one consisting in changing style with almost every release. We’ve known them playing death-doom, then softer clean-vocals driven melodic doom, then avantgarde music, eventually gothicized death-doom on their two last full-lengths – and now, they seem to have switched to another trend once again. Though this little game enables the British act to always explore new horizons and arouse the listener’s curiosity, it nonetheless ends up becoming a tad frustrating. Being one of those who considered The Dreadful Hours and its follower as the best MDB outputs, I was expecting a third one from the same flour. But I was forgetting this band had NEVER released three successive similar albums.
The change isn’t drastic though – another 34,788%... Complete it isn’t. My Dying Bride haven’t turned to nu-metal, industrial, pop music or whatever (fortunately). No, they still play fully honest, straightforward doom metal. But the gothic elements of their previous releases are gone – exit the emphasis on atmospheric keyboards, the bass-driven songs or the distorted vocals, and exit the growled parts as well! Indeed, this is another all-clean vocals album, the first since, precisely, 34,788%. Actually, the work the guys were willing to mimic becomes quite obvious listening to the song they chose as herald of this album, the one they released on EP, that is, Deeper Down: said track is furiously reminding of Like Gods of the Sun, save that Sarah Stauton’s keyboard is now replacing Martin Powell’s legendary violin.
So, Like Gods of the Sun part II? That means mellow, kind of sleep-inducing tracks which all sound more or less the same, with a little spark of melody here and there, doesn’t it? Well, you’re partially right, and that’s the main weakness of this release. Several very linear parts are revealing an obvious lack of effort, imperfectly compensated by the overuse of old recipes coming from earlier albums, especially the one quoted above, hence an occasional annoying feeling of déjà-vu. The aforementioned Deeper Down for instance amounts to one of the less interesting songs, which is moreover likely to twist the listener’s opinion as it is supposed to be the most representative one. Similarly, most of And I Walk with Them is filler and, coming to the closing The Blood, the Wine, the Roses, it’s nothing more than an upbeat, fundamentally ridicule track. And what can be said about those grotesque titles, “I Cannot Be Loved”, “Love’s Intolerable Pain”, “The Blood, the Wine, the Roses”? How couldn’t have the guys noticed they’d fallen into the worst self-parody ever?
You’d have understood by now, everything is combined for this album to give a very negative first impression. But then, everyone paying a bit more attention to it will notice great musicians are still behind. Most of the time the less inspired, easiest bars are soon redeemed by both crushing and melodic passages MDB are renowned for or, at the other end of the spectra, acoustic parts – even if those are overall scarce. Love’s Intolerable Pain, which combines both, is consequently and in spite of its stupid title one of the most agreeable tracks, maybe the most reminding of the two previous releases. Furthermore, it remains the only song exhibiting a little, tiny bit of growls (well, there’s The Blood... as well, but let’s just forget it) which only makes anyone regret there aren’t more. Not that Aaron is a bad clean vocalist, he can even sometimes sound incredibly moving, but he nonetheless always tends to get a bit whiny, which is the main reason why none of the exclusively clean-sung MDB albums can really pretend to the masterpiece status. All the more as A Line of Deathless Kings already shows a large amount of spoken or whispered parts, what isn’t what the band has made best either.
While Love’s Intolerable Pain is a truly impressive song, a couple of others don’t have anything to envy it, like the long, melancholic L’Amour Detruit and its creepy central part once again reminding of Songs of Darkness, Words of Light and its predecessor. By contrast, Thy Raven Wings is a short, but intricate track from which suddenly emerges a haunting tune which may stick in your head for longer than you expected. Without forgetting To Remain Tombless and its slow, harmonious chorus – and the list could go on.
Don’t believe those who’ll tell you this album is crap. They’ll most certainly have listened to it only once, as I more or less shared their opinion the first time I heard it. But after one or two more listens it began to reveal itself far more complex than it looked at first glance – and far better as well. Though, considering the two previous MDB full-lengths, A Line of Deathless Kings remains undoubtedly disappointing, it may still perfectly get a place on the shelves of every doom lover.
Highlights: To Remain Tombless, L’Amour Detruit, Love’s Intolerable Pain
I have respect for this band. My Dying Bride shows how a good band should evolve. On each album they bring something new, I dare say even something I never heard before [which alone most bands miserably fail to do ever]. And yet they still remain the same band with riffs and melodies typical for them [unlike bands for which "change" means completely different style or even genre]. Even after 14 years, you can hear this is the same band that recorded "As the Flower Withers".
I have gotten used to the fact that I have to listen to MDB's new albums several times before i can really appreciate them. First listening gives various impressions, some passages feel strange but others are catchy enough to keep your attention and for you to have patience with the album. The more you listen to it, the more you grasp these new and "strange" ideas and find their peculiar beauty.
Even though sometimes I like new MDB album more than its predecessor and other times less, I have yet to hear a bad album from this band. "A Line of Deathless Kings" is giving me somewhat better impression than previous "Songs of Darkness, Words of Light", though I can't explain why and it's probably a very subjective feeling. What I am sure about is that if you were following this band's works from the beginning like me, and haven't given up on them by now, you will definitely not throw this album away. I advise to give it at least 3 listenings though before you judge it. It gets better every time.
I'm not much for detailed descriptions of each song, it's simply a good album as a whole. The production is flawless, needless to say in case of such a band. Some melodies remind of previous albums and a few of them may feel perhaps a bit "too familiar" but it's not to an extent that would disturb me. If you get the impression some riffs seem too familiar the first time you hear "ALoDK", it will probably fade the more you get to know the songs.
There aren't any significantly ultra slow passages on this album [as in the "The Angel and the Dark River" kind of slow], and faster riffs [like "The Fever Sea" from '99] are very scarce. And there's almost no growling voice, but these are things that come and go in case of MDB, so not necessarily a sign that they disappeared for good. Still the pace is quite variable, mostly ranging from slow to mid-tempo and there are at least small bits of everything we are used to hear from MDB.
I must give credit to the drummer. The drums catch my attention quite often in case of MDB. Rarely any band shows that drums can do more than just give rhythm to the song, but MDB is one of the few exceptions. I was surprised how small role keyboards play here. After first listening I wasn't even sure if there were any, apart from the piano at the beginning of "The Raven Wings". There's actually more, but barely noticeable, staying in the background. Lyrically I haven't noticed any changes, the title of the track "Love's Intolerable Pain" sums it up pretty well.
I can't really find a weak point of this album, except things of personal preference & choice. MDB are too proffessional to make mistakes. It may not be the best MDB album and I don't think anyone would expect that either, but it's definitely a good one and the band shows that they're not getting weak. And while most of the bands that i liked 10+ years ago are horrible/boring/ridiculous today, My Dying Bride can easily keep the status of one of the best bands in their genre.
My Dying Bride return with the follow up to Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, which was a somewhat inconsistent/average release in my opinion, lacking a unique identity and only achieving a high level of quality on just a few tracks. Upon first hearing "A Line Of Deathless Kings" I was surprised and a little dissapointed to hear no death vocals (other than a few background screams) until the 6th track, Love's Intolerable Pain. However, after listening to this CD several times, I am amazed at how beautiful and unique this is. There are very few traces of the aggression from the Dreadful Hours here, but in its place is a somber, convincing, and grief stricken performance by frontman Aaron which surpasses anything he has done in the past and a noticeable progression by the band. Aaron's voice has never sounded more amazing....he does some singing here which includes some of the most haunting and heartbreaking moments in the history of this band. His voice is stronger, his vibrato and range is improved tenfold, and vocal harmonies appear consistently, and he employs some interesting and highly memorable melodies, which all but renders the (for the most part) absence of death vocals meaningless, that is how good he is here. The music is equal parts excellent melodic guitar harmonies, which also come across as more heartfelt and convincing than in years, a heavy Candlemass/Like Gods Of the Sun style of riffing (more of a true doom style), your typical doom/death sections which are very dark, and some great experimentation on a large protion of the songs (this is easily their most unique record since 34% but it is not like that record at all...has a few elements of it but is firmly rooted in MDB darkness). There is also a noticeable change in the style of drumming at times compared wiht the last release which does work well. There are absolute gems in the songs in To Remain Tombless, I Cannot Be Loved, L'Amour Detruit, Thy Raven Wings (I almost weep every time I hear this track when the vocals come in...amazing), and Deeper Down. My only complaint with this CD is a few riffs I do not care for at the beginning of The Blood, The Wine, The Roses, Love's Intolerable Pain, and One of Beauty's Daughters (a little too "rockin" for me) but otherwise these tracks are good and this is a band reinventing themselves while also staying true to their inherent sense of sorrowful doom. Absolutely fantastic stuff here, and by far their most unique CD since 34%.