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I'm going to be honest with you; I haven't bought a My Dying Bride album in 8 years, and I never had that many of their albums to begin with. They were one of the first metal bands I discovered, but I guess I just got bored with their sound and started getting into other things. But when I heard about this, it intrigued me. I listened to some of their samples and went for it. I guess I just like radical departures from bands sometimes, even if many others don't. It also has sparked my interest in the band again, and I am certainly going to go back through their catalog and catch up on some of the better albums I've missed.
Yes, this album is perhaps on the opposite side of the metal spectrum. There isn't really a hint of metal here at all, but this album perhaps showcases their darkwave/gothic themes with a neoclassical twist. There is heavy keyboard, piano, and violin use, along with spoken word and some opera vocals. The music is very sparse - perhaps a bit too sparse at times, without kicking up much of an atmosphere. In fact, several parts of it are just downright boring. There are many sections of this album that I really enjoy, especially the gentle, trickling piano melodies heard throughout, but all of them seem to be tied together so loosely and indolently that it doesn't really form anything solid. Maybe it's because all the parts are derived from past songs, jumbled up and regurgitated into new compositions. Maybe totally new material would have been more complete sounding, who knows, but that wouldn't have been very fitting for a special 20th anniversary of the band.
Obviously, this album is extremely long - the triple album is over two hours (even though it could have fit on 2 discs... hmm). Still, it's certainly one of the longest albums I own, and the sparseness makes it seem much, much longer than that. Listening to the whole thing at once almost requires some sort of mental preparation and special attention if you expect to get anything out of it. Keep in mind that disc 3 does not come with all versions - might have to buy the one that says "box set."
My biggest complaint is the vocals. I'm not a huge fan of the opera vocals, and I'm not a huge fan of the spoken word thing either. It's OK, but it seems to break the ambiance too much, even though the ambiance is usually pretty boring. Sometimes the music almost halts completely to showcase some of these vocals. While the opera singer is definitely talented in her respective field, I'm not sure those kind of vocals really belong here too much. Maybe a few here and there would have been nice, but they are pretty much in the spotlight. Also, Aaron's "spoken word" is something he has done on many MDB albums, but it just seems to fit with a metal atmosphere much better than this.
My favorite track is probably "The Distance, Busy with Shadows," which features a gorgeous piano melody dancing quaintly with several different synth melodies, the track constantly swirling and transforming with a simple elegance to it. Sounds like it could almost be a ballet score. The best part is there are barely any vocals; in fact, I wish there were none at all. Another favorite is the second half of "And Then You Go," consisting of eerily gorgeous keyboard harmonies with some feathery opera vocals that I actually enjoy, creating some of the most layered and soothing parts of the album. The atmosphere here continues into the next track, "A Hand of Awful Rewards," which is perhaps the most ambient and minimal tracks here. The third disc has a bit more variety, "The Burning Coast of Regnum Italicum" being another one of my favorites, going through many different movements, including tender piano melodies, ambient keyboard harmonies, and even sounds of a thunderstorm.
Even though I see the many flaws in this album, it is something I keep going back to, which tells me it's either growing on me or certain parts are just strangely addicting. The whole album is still very intriguing to me, probably because it's just so different from anything I own. I kind of wish I could give it a better score, and maybe if all the best parts of this album were smashed down into one hour, I would, but in its current state, this is the best I can do.
British doom legends My Dying Bride have never been a band shy in expressing their emotive sides given their two-decade long existence in doing just that, but this "Evinta" release, which actually came out back in May, might just reveal how emotionally fragile the pioneers work has been. That very factor, however, is liable to create problems for a lengthy album release like this, where many of the band's past works have been reconstructed in a simple, classically-influenced acoustic affair, based around the somber vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe, hired French opera vocalist Lucie Roche, keys and classical strings. My edition consists of just 9 songs in 87 minutes over 2 discs - get yourself the full whack and enjoy a third disc with another 5 songs totalling 42 minutes - and has been a very difficult listen on every attempted occasion these recent weeks.
As anyone who's ever read my reviews of doom metal releases in particular will know I can take long, slow, drawn-out albums the musical equivalent of a cricket test match without any hint of boredom, and which combined with my great passion for certain niches of the classical music pantheon should render I a divine target for "Evinta", but the overall emptiness which fills so much of this record and the lack of emotional heaviness of typical MDB work leaves the feeling this is an interesting experiment which does not come off. Had a track like "Of Sorry Eyes In March" as found here been in the midst of a doomier MDB album it could have been a tranquil division between monoliths of true weeping solitude, but like "Of Lilies Bent With Tears", "That Dress and Summer Skin" and so much else on repeated listen it has gotten boring and flatly uninteresting. The classical strings, which seem few and far between when one really craves them, add a small impetus but with so little of the mass keyboard (sounding church organ-like very often) presence pushing my metaphorical buttons it can hardly even claim to hone the oppressive organ sounds of Abandon's "The Dead End", an album possessing the kind of incomprehensible despondency "Evinta" doesn't hold a solitary black candle to.
I've no doubt a small minority of MDB fans will take great pleasure in the reworking of a number of songs from one of doom metal's most pioneering bands but one gets the feeling even a classical, non-metal reinterpretation of their best songs could still have possessed more vigour and intrigue than this, which has unfortunately lost it's interest factor before the second disc even kicks in. Pity.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
For almost every decent band there's that album that most people view with a look of distaste. For Metallica, most would say it was their album "St. Anger." For Alcest it would most likely be "Cailles De Lune". For Amorphis it would have been the moment they stopped doing death metal that their releases lacked any substance. But as far as My Dying Bride goes, it's a bit unclear as to where they picked up, or where they let down. For those heavily into their earliest releases, "Towards The Sinister" and "As the Flower Withers," people would say "Turn Loose The Swans" was where MDB lost it. However, since MDB is best known for their gothic doom metal, let's say for now that was the album where they found their style and really launched off their career. That would lead us to say that "For Lies I Sire" was when they released a truly uninspiring release. The follow up to this being the "Bring Me Victory EP," which was the only song of any decency from the "For Lies I Sire" album, coupled with two covers, and a live song from their first ever demo. And then they gave us "Evinta."
This album had possibly one of the best beginnings I've heard for a very long time. Their song "In Your Dark Pavilion" was an incredibly haunting ten minute track. Launching off with some soft spoken word and elegant violins dancing around each other, female operatic vocals coming in and then fading out. Keys and synth working with each other to create some truly moving moments. Horns accentuated with percussion and organs, once again topped with more operatic sections and then piano coming on it's own before more strings and synth start filling out the background before moving on. All of this works within itself for a good first five minutes of the song. But the whole composition style suddenly changes once it hits the seven minute mark. It's like it stops trying to be a piece of oppression and suddenly becomes a lot more... free. Suddenly it's lighter with piano notes dancing all over the place, horns picking up the atmosphere among "high clouds" so to speak. As though a great big section of light has suddenly forced itself through dark and heavy overcast skies. The song starts picking up, building up, working itself to a very tasteful and incredible crescendo. But even still, it takes it's time to get there. Not forcing you to suddenly face it without some internal preparation. In come Aaron's vocals just when appropriate, saying exactly what needs to be said before suddenly... the song gently drifts itself to an end. After hearing this song... I gleefully anticipated the rest of the album, expecting great things. How wrong I was...
Track number two of disk one then came on. "You Are Not The One Who Loves Me." It started off with potential. Some rather moody piano chords being struck down with a moodiness only the depressed seem to really notice. Violins following that for a short while. After that comes a small piano section. Slightly flavourless, and not terribly inspired to any degree. Aaron starts some rather vague and meaningless vocals that don't really seem to follow any particular direction, story or anything really. The violin comes back, following the same tune it was doing before. Once that finished we get some truly second rate digitally created ambiance. To complete this particularly lifeless song Aaron decided to put in some more uninspiring lyrics not worth paying attention to. Not only are the lyrics rather bland, they don't even fit the particular song. This was to set the bench mark for the rest of the entire album.
Yes, this album does have some sections where the mood captures you and carries you to places of complete melancholic beauty. It does have sections where everything was composed perfectly. And everything holds it's own jewel of elegance. The real letdown is that almost all of those sections are held together by incredibly mediocre and forced sections of hollow sounding emptiness. Songs with irritating out of place harpsichord, horrible lyrics and badly created digital placements.
You hear a lot of influence from other well created neo-classical masterpieces. "Of Lillies Bent With Tears" has a strong resemblance to Ulver's "A Quick Fix of Melancholy," "In Your Dark Pavilion" has strong Dargaard elements to it. However, that doesn't necessarily work in this releases favour. Regardless of the fact that My Dying Bride re-used a lot of their famous riffs from earlier, popular songs in this three (or two disk if you didn't get your hands on the "deluxe" edition) disk abomination, it doesn't have it's own personality to the release. And by that I mean that this release has been so stretched by outside influences and tedious inserts that it doesn't have it's own soul. It's just a smattering of this and a splattering of that.
At this point, I'm just going to go right ahead and say it. My Dying Bride have finally lost it. And if the next release they have to give us is as mediocre as the compositions they've had to give us in the past three years, then it's pretty obvious they've given up the throne of UK gothic doom and it might just be time for an artist like My Silent Wake to come and hold the torch for the next few years to come.
These days there are a lot of ways to offer up some kind of fan gift of your previous works, starting from simple compilations to rerecordings, bands have moved on and given us remixes, rewrites and all sorts of things. With that said simply rewriting songs into orchestral versions would still be pretty unique, but My Dying Bride have gone even further than that. Not content with merely translating their old songs into orchestral versions the band have created entirely new compositions, scattered with familiar sounding melodies and tunes but never being a mere "violin cover" of anything. This idea is as bold as it is unique, but sadly not as successful as it should have been. In fact the only other example I think of a band doing a similar project, Drudkh's Songs of Grief and Solitude also failed to live up to hopes too. I can be more forgiving of this band than the Ukrainian black metal legends because the scope is much greater, sure Drudkh had unique acoustic compositions built around a bunch of melodies from their metal efforts, but this is considerably deeper and more thorough in that it’s a complete deconstruction of everything these songs were, to turn them into something new. This is truly an effort to be respected and admired, but sadly it's just not as entertaining as it should be.
So what exactly have My Dying Bride done that is so much more than "Replace guitars with violin, add extra layer of piano"? There's actually a lot more than you would expect, these songs do not move at the usual Bride pace or have any familiar aspects, instead Evinta takes everything in a surprisingly minimalist direction. This change is actually where the album fails for me; it lacks drama. The band are an exceedingly melodramatic and overwrought band for most of their material, while this does leave them in a position where songs can get cheesy and even embarrassing it does let the band create brilliance at times, so it's a necessary evil. This music lacks any kind of drama or potency to it; it ranges from pretty and unobtrusive to flat out bland and ambient in design, there is nothing to drive emotion. It's like they were worried for being seen as making movie soundtrack music so avoided anything with any kind of oomph that could be seen as resembling that type of style.
The other notable sounds of the album are of course the vocals, which involve Aaron's deep narration (And the odd sung line) and a genuine opera singer. Not like your usual goth metal operatic style; this is a genuine fat lady singing out on the stage type stuff. She's obviously classically trained and a professional so people into that sort of thing would find themselves in heaven, I personally can't stand the stuff, so the fact I count her as a negative is purely a matter of taste. Stainthorpe's narration is solid, he has a very theatrical deep voice which interplays with Lucie Roche's huge voice quite nicely. His lyrics are typically pretty good, he delivers enough of the sinister sounding stuff ("And the stone, That lets you drown, You are not worth stopping for") to get a pass from me, despite a few horrible wanky lyrics about lost love and whatnot with "That Dress and Summer Skin" being the biggest offender.
Each disc seems to have a clear direction, the first disk is more active, more overt in it's references to previous albums, yet still a very laid back and drama free effort, while disk two almost lays down into pure ambience, with most sections being padded thoroughly with soothing keyboard drones. There are fuller pieces of music, but they are few and far between. Disk 3 is more active again, and in fact attempts to bring in some of the melodrama I mentioned earlier with a more bombastic sound, but it seems to be too little too late. The disk one sound is actually quite bearable, it doesn't take you anywhere but the overall reliance on fully violin and piano driven songs does create some of the more outwardly beautiful moments and the bands lead melodies translate very well into the format. Three disks worth of it would be a bit tiresome so I understand the change in ideas, but it really is where most of the enjoyment is to be found. I do like the durations of each album in the set, the tedious nature of much of this is alleviated somewhat by the 45 minute run times of each disk.
The second CD is probably the weakest; it's got a lot more ambient soundscapes, so you get neither beauty nor the ability to hear that many old songs reborn in classical glory. It drags a lot and while there are more interesting parts on each song you usually have to sit through four minutes of lifeless keyboard nonsense to get there. Things pick up a little again on the third part of the release, it finally brings on some of that melodrama I was talking about earlier. Tunes attempt to be distressing instead of just pretty, there is more thunderous drum work and there is an increase of the more attention grabbing vocals. There are piano runs during the ambient bits and all sorts of little additions to make it deeper than just being a bleak tone. It actually does get a little cheesy and soundtrack-y at times, so I guess there's a reason for the avoidance of the more bombastic stuff, but it at least provides more thrills.
I really can't praise the band for the concept of Evinta enough. It's great to hear a long time band willing to step outside the bounds of what is normal, and not just rerecord a classic album, or make a little box set, or chuck a bunch of old songs and a few discarded demos on a disk and call it a compilation; this is project of epic scope and vision, just of exceedingly understated execution. As always execution will outweigh the concept, and that’s why I can't really praise this as something to actually listen to. I applaud the band for their efforts, but the actual music here doesn't conjure enough to really impress.
My Dying Bride seem to have really embraced their craft the last few years, playing more live shows than they have in quite a while, putting out live albums, DVDs and all sorts alongside their full-lengths. Now we all know that aging metal bands have to plan for retirement like anyone else, but this a far cry from a band that didn't even want to get on stage previously. Since they are unlikely to appear on MTV or be able to buy gold toilet seats any time soon, I intend to continue innocently enjoying their current prolificness.
This time round they've plumbed the archives for three discs of classically reimagined hits - inasmuch as the word "hits" may be used here. By hits I mean, you know. Songs you or I might recognize. The idea is that, instead of simply re-recording their personal faves in the style of 'Sear Me MCMXCIII' and 'For My Fallen Angel', or as Virgin Black-esque symphonic doom, classical rendering of themes and motifs from old songs have been worked into tracks with new lyrics and titles. That way, we all feel like we're getting something new, and the band can pick the most suitable passages for the project. It's one of the smartest ideas I've come across for a reworking of old material, and a lot of work has clearly gone into it.
There is more than two hours of material here, which consists predominantly of quiet, keyboard-driven atmospheres punctuated with violins, pianos, even flutes and the occasional bit of electronica. 'In Your Dark Pavilion' and 'Vanite Triomphante', with their violins and soaring soprano passages, are at times bleakly exultant, while later tracks like the grim closer 'And All Their Joy Was Drowned' supply a deathly, minimalist climax that is suggested at more and more throughout the album's running time.
Aaron Stainthorpe joins in to mumble distraught stanzas, and occasionally supply a bit of singing. Stainthorpe has been muttering these lovelorn lyrics for twenty years now in his baritone sung lament. However, every now and again the sheer poetic patter of his slow incantations on Evinta can still raise the hair on your arms. For me, it's the sparse moments when he embraces his old, more murderous '90s self for a macabre reminiscence of bitter triumph:
I leave splashed with blood
Your ribbon locks my hair
And all their joy was drowned
Not - of course - that I care
The man should have been on stage with that brandy-soaked voice, the slight northern accent only adding to the various menace and moroseness. But better a loss to theatre than metal.
Part of the fun is the easter egg hunt-like experience of finding and identifying your favourite songs, jumbled as they are into new compositions. These compositions can, of course, never capture the same bleak majesty as the originals they are culled from. 'The Burning Coast of Regnum Italicum' makes me want to listen to the title cut from The Dreadful Hours, and the menacing strings of 'That Dress and Summer Skin' make me want to put on 'She is the Dark.' But the meshing of sequences from albums ancient and recent into classically oriented mood music, with the narration adding to the build of tension throughout, is a very interesting and rewarding experience.
Thing is, you're in the third disc before these sequences from 'The Wreckage of My Flesh' and 'The Dreadful Hours' are introduced, and Evinta's final act acquires a much darker hue. Most versions don't feature this third disc, and for the full experience you need to splash. The packaging makes it worthwhile for collectors, but it's a shame to deprive the un-moneyed or tentative of possibly the best disc in the set.
What with the excessive length and repetitious nature of the material, as well as the complete and utter absence of new songs or guitars, this probably is only something a Bride devotee need pick up. Having heard everything they've done over the past seven years, I'm getting a lot out of it, but it isn't recommended to this feast's latecomers.