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My Dying Bride presents us their second release this year, after the Evinta compilation, in the form of a 27 minute EP. A conceptual work about an otherworldly demon, featuring some of the darkest tunes they’ve written in a long time.
This is a band that hardly needs any introduction, being part of the “Peaceville Three” and an assiduous and important presence during the formative years of the British death/doom scene, bringing the so vaunted traditional doom a new and more brutal approach. Each part of this trio composed also by Anathema and Paradise Lost has had a differing approach during their careers, with My Dying Bride being the one that kept the doom flame always lit during all this time, even though they’ve had an always present gothic presence ever since the release of The Angel And The Dark River back in 1995. The mournful cries of Aaron or the creepy violins have been part of the band’s story and back catalogue and those elements are back again in full force.
As referenced before this is a conceptual work that tells the story of a demonic force, an evil presence of the British folklore featured here in the shape of the cover art’s monstrous black dog. Ever since it was immortalized in literature by names like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, this animalistic demon that preys on lone travelers and careless townspeople has been some sort of “boogeyman” if you want of the post-medieval times in British towns such as Whitby. This 27 minute EP has only one song, which could prove a daunting task even for a band used to make 13 minute songs, telling the story of this evil spirit and is seemingly divided in three acts.
The sound of winds howling and thunder cracking opens the way for this monumental song, building up the atmosphere and darkening the air when all of a sudden comes a riff from the golden years closely accompanied by the discording violin. The production is raw like in the early days of the band and such can be witnessed in the pounding drums and bellowing roars that Aaron spits forth. The pace is slow but the rhythm is well kept by the good drumming with a single riff being repeated by the guitars with just enough variation to keep you holding your breath, while a trembling fear dominates you. But it’s when the drums take the aural assault into double bass territory with shivering cymbals hits, colored only by the dreadful guitar work that this song begins to show its true grace. The song keeps building forward as I witness a melody that brings me back to their 1995 opus, with its unmistakable gothic and melancholic approach and again some brilliant violin work that sets the mood perfectly.
This brings the end of the “first act” around the 15 minute mark, making for more than half of the song already. A perfect example of a long My Dying Bride anthem of yesteryear that thankfully doesn’t end here.
Instead, and after a fade out that lasts only a few seconds, the sounds of storm return with the echoing guitars hovering over them and again we’re presented with some perfectly executed drum work and the melancholy of Aaron’s clean singing. The guitars are the main drive here and this remarkable riff keeps your attention until it turns into something uglier, something darker that now approaches you and threatens to consume your very soul. This is the creepiest part of the song that howls at you just before it explodes at the 22 minute mark for one of the harshest and heaviest moments the band has done in a long time. This takes me back directly to 1992 with Aaron sounding anything but melancholic or soothing. Here he sounds like a roaring demon and the guitar riff is totally infused in old school death/doom, with the drums returning to double bass patterns. Again you’ll notice the rawness of the production as the distortion and reverb make you tremble with fear with the menacing yells of the black demon himself eating away at your sanity. Here is where you find the apex of brutality in this work and it’s as daunting as you’d expect from the band in the beginning of the nineties, letting go only at the very last seconds where the wind and thunder close the circle full.
The band succeeds here in many fields. It manages to make an appealing conceptual work that reeks of folk horror without being cheesy while going through a single 27 minute song that never loses your attention. The fact that the song is sort of divided into three parts or acts makes for enough variation to always keep it interesting and even provides for some brutish and muscled moments like they hadn’t done in a long time. If anything this EP shows that My Dying Bride are still alive and not dwindling as some may have thought. It proves also that the band is able to recapture the old school feeling of their formative years if they search for that mindset. And ultimately they achieve on bringing to the table one of the strongest efforts on their career, one that can stand tall against works like As The Flower Withers and The Angel And The Dark River in both the brutal approach of the first and the melancholic yet darkened feel of the second.
Describing this work is like describing Bram Stoker’s masterpiece Dracula, it’s as beautiful as it is creepy and dark, it’s long but never lets your attention whither because of all the detailing and compelling storytelling, and it’s a work that is set to be remembered by many because of its grandeur. This is definitely one of the good releases on an already great year for metal and another stroke of near genius by the bride that refuses to die.
Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine