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My Dying Bride review for An Ode to Woe
One has to wonder what the bands motives were for releasing yet another live album in under a decade, especially when the later can't hold a match to the prior. From a superficial glance it could be a way to show off the bands newest members/material or perhaps another money making scheme from the record label that brought us 'The Anti-Diluvian Chronicles'.
The production is surprisingly weak considering the bands typical wears. The bass is louder than the other instruments and shoddy in a few places. This should come as no surprise to any MDB fan however as anyone who has seen any of their DVD's or live performances’ can tell you that they do have screw-up’s from time to time (this isn't anything terrible though).
The guitars are heavy and fast, almost to the point of rushing in some places. They sound great however and as such one can over look the tempo. The drums are pretty good over all, however they mess up on the intro of the first song.
The keyboards add a good amount of atmosphere to the depressing songs and can be heard clearly through out the entire show. Aaron's clean singing voice is another good surprise in that he pulls it off live for the most part (unlike Nick from Paradise Lost). His grim vocals still sound like they're on the wane.
Two other drawbacks are that this album contains two tracks from the 'Voice of the Wretched' in 'She Is the Dark' &'The Cry of Mankind'. This album consists of mostly newer material with a few odd gems thrown in (see/hear 'Like Gods of the Sun’, 'The Whore, the Cook & the Mother’, ‘For You', 'Blue Lotus' etc...).
This is a needless release however as it feels as though it was thrown together at the last minute. The only "neat" thing about this is the DVD that comes with it. However it’s just a visual companion to the CD with the exception of the DVD only track 'The Forever People'. It offers nothing aside from this and is ultimately a let down.
There is a lot of instrument feedback that could've/should've been cleaned up as it does detract from the music over all. This is something that hardcore fans alone should purchase because its not that amazing and those new too the band might be turned off by it.
There’s a side of me that’s never really seen the point of live albums. You get the studio version (theoretically at least) which has been recorded with multiple takes, produced, mixed, mastered carefully and generally polished to perfection. So why would anyone want a single-take, warts-and-all, mistakes-on-the-night version that isnt going to sound anything like as crisp and clear? Especially from a band like MDB who are known for good production values on their albums.
Well, ‘An Ode To Woe’ just about gets away with it. The songs on offer here are instantly just that little bit different to the original versions, and even though there is far too much guitar reverb on several songs (‘The Blue Lotus’ in particular) and Aaron’s vocals do drop in and out of the mix a little bit, in the main this is a good live sound. Even the drums exceptionally high placement in the mix gives new drummer Dan – ‘the wildman’ as Aaron refers to him – the chance to show off his skills and bring some new flavour to the proceedings with some extra fiddly rolls where previously there weren’t any.
‘To Remain Tombless’ kicks off, which is a sensible choice – a decent amount of energy and the same pace changes which characterise any good set opener. However things really get going with ‘My Hope, The Destroyer’ which was my personal favourite from ‘Dreadful Hours’ and really does roll things on brilliantly. Then things get even better with ‘For You’ with some really inspiring keyboard work. This is another personal favourite and comes across really well as part of this set.
However things are then brought up a bit short by ‘The Blue Lotus’ which is spoilt slightly by the abovementioned excess guitar reverb. Aaron then takes a moment to introduce new members before launching into a spirited rendition of ‘Like Gods Of The Sun’ which brings matters back on course very neatly, followed by probably the best thing they ever did – the awesome ‘Catherine Blake’, which cements the flow again perfectly.
A short version of ‘The Cry of Mankind’ follows and then ‘The Whore, The Cook and Her Mother’ hoves into view, a very odd choice in my opinion. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in the minority that thinks ’34.788’ is a work of absolute genius and that this is the best track on it, but in a live environment the quiet and introspective midsection is lost and this makes the listener lose interest a tad.
‘Thy Raven Wings’ follows, one of only two songs from the new material which does make you wonder how confident MDB are in it. It isn’t one of the stronger ones either, in my opinion, and really only serves as a filler before Aaron garners a huge cheer as he introduces golden oldie ‘The Snow In My Hand’ which brings a renewed energy once again, as does the stomping ‘She Is The Dark’.
Final track is a courageous choice which unlike ‘The Whore…’ works brilliantly. No high-energy romp, but rather ‘The Dreadful Hours’ closes things, the gloomy intro with nothing but a single guitar and Aaron’s dulcet tones building into the classic number that it is.
In short this is about as good as it gets for a live album – I’m still not sure of the point but what the hell, there are some quite good versions of damn good songs on here, so enjoy.