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Turn Loose the Swans is the second full-length album from My Dying Bride. Released in October 1993, this album marked only a passing moment in the ever-evolving identity of this band, yet is most often thought of as their 'classic sound'. For a lot of people, this record captured the perfect balance between the raw feeling of the earlier material and the sorrowful approach that would continue to develop. Of course, a critical listen reveals that Turn Loose the Swans was already showing a certain amount of decline in their creative integrity and a good number of flaws the renders this album somewhat ineffectual, compared to that which came before.
The album begins with “Sear Me MCMXIII”, which is a reworked version of a song from the first record. It is somewhat unnecessary and only taints what was accomplished in the past. If the band wanted to start the album out with something similar, they could easily have come up with a different piano intro. Something a bit shorter would have been better, as a lot of listeners may get impatient waiting nearly eight minutes for the first strains of Metal. In fact, the wait would go on even longer.
“Your River” continues the soft flow of weak sounds that had begun with the first song. Finally, after a minute and a half, the long-awaited guitars and mournful violin erupt forth and weave a musical tale of misery and hopelessness. This track does not fully get underway until the halfway point, with a couple pointless riffs that do nothing to add to the sombre atmosphere. Once it gets going, this one provides the listener with a very dreary and lifeless soundscape and will help fuel countless nights of despair. Aaron's clean vocals are not yet fully developed, but they work well enough to convey the appropriate feeling. He returns to the harsh vocals, later in the song, sounding as vicious as ever. It is too bad that more of this style was not implemented on this album, especially on the following track. “The Songless Bird” is rather average, but may have had a better chance without the ill-placed clean vocals during the early verses. The sound is all wrong and does not suit the music, at all.
“The Snow in my Hand” is another one of the better songs on Turn Loose the Swans. The riffs are powerful and imbue you with a feeling of total despair and helplessness. Even discounting the miserable vocals, the music alone is enough to conjure up the image of a man that is near death. The sound heard here is like that of the final moments as all of the blood has rushed from deep wounds and life is soon to cease. There is a mixture of the harsh and clean vocals, as well as some more Death Metal-oriented guitar riffs, giving this one more of a sense of balance. Obviously, the doom riffs and violin passages are what the band had become known for and for good reason, and there is no shortage of either. There is an epic feeling that comes across through all of the bleak melodies and the atmosphere of impending death. While one may feel weak and tired, there is a great sense of relief as the end draws ever-nearer.
The next song is “The Crown of Sympathy”, which clocks in at over twelve minutes. This one possesses more of a gothic feeling, at certain points. It may be slightly longer than it needs to be, but it does well to create a gloomy atmosphere. This track is another that utilizes only clean vocals, yet it works a little better within this context. The closing guitar melody is quite epic and is very memorable.
"For deadened, icy pain covers all the earth"
Following this is the title track, which is the best song on the entire album. It is only a couple minutes shorter than its predecessor, yet feels much more coherent. There is an emphasis on heavy riffs that deliver a crushing doom upon all who listen, while the powerful harsh vocals tear right through your chest. This is reminiscent of the previous album, a style at which My Dying Bride truly excels. The violin slithers in and out, like a poisonous serpent, leaving you ever-weaker and all the more prepared for oblivion. All of the sorrow and regret of an entire lifetime comes crashing down on you, as the song progresses, and it becomes nearly impossible to crawl out from underneath such weight. There is a brief section with clean vocals, which works very well in draining the life from you even more, before the grim end descends upon you with its full fury.
The album ends with “Black God”, which is more of an outro. It features a piano and violin, as well as Aaron's clean vocals and those of a random woman. It is more concise than the first track and serves a similar purpose. In this case, it would seem that they pulled it off a little better with this attempt. This helps to accentuate the utterly hopeless feeling that was pounded into the listener with the previous song.
In the end, Turn Loose the Swans is a very solid album of death / doom, though not without flaws. This would mark the end of an era, for a time, as the next album would go in an even softer direction that would last several years. What listeners can expect from this is a continuation of what began on As the Flower Withers and The Thrash of Naked Limbs. However, despite the number of people that wished for the band's development to end here, this too was but a passing phase in the musical history of My Dying Bride.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
My Dying Bride present us their second full-length with an impressionist, moody piece artwork adorning its cover. It imparts a feeling of bitter loneliness, of a funereal march, of gray clouds bringing its rain, of being powerless against an imposing darkness, of rage against the god who has abandoned us, of hurtful melancholy for unrequited love. This striking piece of art is indeed representative of the qualities you'll find in this record.
So what's the actual music like? Heavy, melancholic, dark, despairing, atmospheric, pathetic. My Dying Bride use elements like heavy guitar riffs, hateful growls, sorrowful clean vocals, moving keyboard and violin pieces, and immature yet romantic poetry to paint a picture that might seem imperfect on the listener's mind, but incredibly affecting to it's heart. The riffs don't make you want to move your head, they crush you and your hopes against the floor. The vocals aren't sung, they are cried. The lyrics aren't refined or made with the intention of being catchy as much as they are emotions transferred on to paper with ink made of blood and tears.
This is one of those albums that are much more than the sum of its parts. You know that the production could be a bit better. You know that most songs have a similar structure and some elements can get repetitive. You know that 'The Crown of Sympathy' is a bit overlong, that the first few minutes of 'Your River' don't flow perfectly, that the lyrics are awkward attempts at romantic poetry, that 'Sear Me' and 'Black God' aren't even metal songs... yet, somehow, it all works. This is not an album that needs to be understood and analyzed, but FELT. This is not a simple death/doom album, it's a piece of art.
Favorite moments: The hateful intonations of 'The Songless Bird' and it's moving violin piece, the crushing riffs and the longing, romantic lyrics of the title track, the depressing funereal atmosphere of 'The Crown of Sympathy', the sorrowful first verses of 'Your River'...
But do listen to the whole album in one sitting, preferably alone on a cloudy day while reading the lyrics to really be able to appreciate the complete picture.
In 1993, doom legends My Dying Bride released what would go on to be one of the most influential albums of the genre and their biggest masterpiece, "Turn Loose the Swans". Where as their previous release "As the Flower Withers" was essentially just slow death metal, "Turn Loose the Swans" really took their music in bold and majestic directions.
The first big change from their debut would be the dominance of clean vocals. Now many may prefer Aarons agonizing gutturals, but his cleans are simply beautiful and fit the music perfectly. His low melancholic voice really adds to the drama and pure essence of sorrow, (and on the track "The Songless Bird", resentment) found throughout the album. Fans of harsh vocals should not fret though, as they are still here and are in top form. Aaron's gutturals are, much like his clean vocals, very distinctive with a certain raw aspect to them that really adds a sinister edge to their music. The way the music plays between the bleak cleans and insidious harshes really adds to the beauty of the album.
The music is both moving and theatric, with Aarons lyrics setting the mood for the entire album. His lyrics should be given special attention, especially on this album, as they take the art form as a whole to a new level with its basis in 18th century poetry.
Another defining aspect of this album (along with many of My Dying Bride's future works) would be the violin. Martin Powell has a very distinctive style, and it is best represented in this album. His style has a very cold, sad and desolate sound which really adds to the power and beauty of the album (as can be seen on the gorgeous album opener "Sear Me MCMXC III" and the haunting closer "Black God", which are both essentially just violin music).
Guitarists Andrew and Calvin create something truly memorable with riffs that range from beautiful and drenched in sorrow (see the opening riff to the title track, “Turn Loose the Swans” as the best example) to being grand and crushing (see the absolutely classic track, "The Crown of Sympathy").
The album has a great flow to it that makes it best listened to as one piece of beautiful flowing music, rather than 7 separate songs. This can only be linked by the masterful song writing on the album with each drum fill, guitar riff, vocal section and violin part being placed in the perfect spot. It may be bold of me to say, but "Turn Loose the Swans" is a dark, elegant, theatric and completely original masterpiece that should be experienced by any fan of doom metal, gothic culture or hell, music and art in general.
I'm fucking sorry. Really. As much as I've grown to absolutely LOVE [/fanboy] this band over the last year, I can't say I'm at all pleased with their back catalog; releases that are hailed as 'essential' or 'pivotal'.
In all honesty, this just fucking sucks. It may be an early representation of what this band was to BECOME.. but what they WERE (Thankfully) was just a god awful Gothy-doom band. This album was in no way making me feel gloomy or dark. In fact, it generally just pissed me off. Listening to this album pricked at my patience, because all the songs were shitty, and they ALL were ridiculously long. Sure, there were SOME (in this case, very few) moments where I went, "Wow. Not bad. That's pretty awesome!" However, the entire thing was just plain awful in my opinion.
The guitars were really thin. There was really no crunch to them in my eyes, compared to later releases, and even the band's previous album, 'As The Flower Withers', which was an average release, but very heavy compared to their material nowadays. The bass is barely there, so it really doesn't help the thin and sickly guitars at all.
The drums are not that bad. Everything sounds well, and effectively mic'd. The only real issue with them is that there are no good songs on this record. Due to this, they basically go to waste.
Aaron's vocals... how much more displeased can I get? His death metal vocals are fine. I've okay with those, but damn. His singing is atrocious. He's practically whining! When did the singer of Korn join My Dying Bride!? All I want to know is where the melodic, mournful cries of later albums like 'The Dreadful Hours' and 'Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light' went?
If anything... I'd simply avoid this album. It's a Black Sheep within the My Dying Bride discography. Listen to 'As The Flower Withers', 'The Light At The End Of The World' and 'Like Gods Of The Sun' for an introduction to this band's early material. If you're feeling lucky, try '34.788%... Complete' and see if you like it. Despite negativity, I loved it.
As I conclude this review, I am beginning to listen to 'The Angel And The Dark River.' I hope it's not as bad as this album was.
High on the list of 'bands that I never want to listen to because of the terrible band name', My Dying Bride were a band that I had avoided for quite a long time indeed. It's hard to think about this band (and still is) without thinking of all sorts of pretention and terrible gothicness, for some reason the band's name also brings to mind some terrible sort of faux-Shakespearian attempt at poetry, but I digress. Terrible name, perhaps, but this is pretty good nonetheless.
I guess a good comparison would maybe be a more depressed and much better Opeth; certainly there's some similar elements between the two, but whereas Opeth fail to get any sort of good momentum and flow between their riffs, My Dying Bride manage to give everything a good sense of flow and momentum, changing around with the riffs and offering some li'l bits of flowing, classically inspired clean parts just for shits and giggles. Certainly this sort of 'flowing' sense doesn't always work for the band; the riffs tend to blend in a fair bit together and overall it's not always clear as to which song is which.
Still, as far as problems go it's not that big a deal. My Dying Bride may sound a little bit samey in this album but there's still plenty of good moments. The title track offers a rather tasty selection of powerful doomy death riffs before everything sinks into a slower sort of dirge, where everything gets all the more heavier and despondent. While My Dying Bride are quite good at their faster (albeit still mid tempo) moments, it's when they fully embrace the doom metal that things get seriously good. There's plenty of examples throughout the album, certainly it's no surprise that the deep, (to borrow a phrase off another reviewer) subterranean keyboard break in 'The Crown of Sympathy' is one of the best parts in the album, and the duel guitar 'lead' at the end of the song is also freakin' excellent.
I guess the main problem with this band is that while most of the songs have some truly marvelous moments, with the possible exception of 'Crown of Sympathy' the songs seem to be stuffed with some filler. Again there's Opeth comparisons to be made here; MDB aren't as bad as Opeth when it comes to adding in unnecessary parts but there's certainly some filler riffs and changes that don't need to be there scattered throughout the album- 'The Songless Bird' opens up with a real turd of a riff that has absolutely no reason to exist, and 'The Snow in My Hand' wanders around pointlessly for a few minutes then ends. Combined with Aaron's occasionally awful vocals (main offender being Songless Bird, again), you'd be surprised as to just how much there is to hate here.
However, a panning is definitely saved by some songs and riffs. When My Dying Bride get their formula right it's quite breathtaking indeed. The best songs here have got a very elegant touch to it that for some reason reminds me of Thergothon; no idea why but I guess its, again, the "flowing" nature of MDB's stuff. The best of MDB's stuff flows along at a very dignified, stately pace, and Aaron's excellent lyrics really work in favour of said dignity. It's worth mentioning, again, that "Crown of Sympathy" is an absolute beast of a tune, a rather nice mid tempo doomy beginning flowing (there's that word, AGAIN) into a truly chilling keyboard break with some excellent vocals from Aaron. Sure, the trumpets are shit but the end riff is immensely satisfying, slow doom at it's finest, and overall you can't help but think that it's one of the best songs ever written by anyone. The title track is a similar stunner, albeit in a fiercer, doomy-death style and the symphonic intro and outros are both well worth mentioning, as they're really, really good, the piano and strings combo coming off as quite tasteful and well played.
I guess it also helps that even when MDB are indulging in a bit of filler, or just going through the motions, they still sound quite good. Aaron's angsty/bored vocals get on your nerves occasionally, but they're rarely all that bad. The riffs are sometimes a bit unsatisfying, but I would hardly say that they are offensive- either they're good or you don't really notice that they're there, which isn't that bad a thing. There's no place here where My Dying Bride drop below the "average" sort of quality; it's all either really really good or somewhat mediocre but still quite ok, and while that's not a good thing I don't really have much of a problem with it.
To conclude, then. I quite enjoyed this album, it's got some excellent stuff and it's quite solid all round. Recommended if you like your Doom deathy or your death doomy, although chances are you've already got this if you like this genre.
My Dying Bride are one of those bands that, like Opeth, seem to loathe the idea of actually ending a song. Even the mostly instrumental opening track draws close to eight minutes in length. A problem? Not when the songs are crafted as well as those contained on Turn Loosed The Swans. The music here is mesmerising, alternating between soaring beauty, pummelling aggression and suicidal melancholy, and often managing all three at once.
It must be said that it is hard to pick out any particular highlights, as this works as an album rather than seven separate songs. The one exception is 'The Crown Of Sympathy', the album's desolate centrepiece, which is enough to take the smile off the face of someone who has just won the lottery. It is a woeful abyss of haunting, funeral march riffs, painfully slow drumming, and vocals that are so lifeless they sound like a desperate cry from beyond the grave.
Across the whole album, it's the variation that raises this above other misery - metal outfits. Not content to merely wallow in grief all the time, there is a fair bit of anger to be found here as well.
Also worthy of mention are Aaron's exquisite lyrics. With lines such as "We dance and the music dies", and "Couple your name with cruelty, the mother of dying children", he creates a darkly romantic yet desperately bitter atmosphere. If hearts could speak, they would sing these songs as they break.
A long time ago, I didn't like My Dying Bride. Everytime I pop this CD in, I wonder what the hell was wrong with me. This disc is simply a masterpiece of grief. When you're depressed, listen to this. You'll think they wrote it just for you. From killer vocals to violin, this CD has it all.
Yeah, the violin. If MDB is famous for something, it's for having a live violin player on their earlier albums. And, while he's not there all that much, it's the moments when that piercing sound comes that you really know that this CD is something. The openning song is, in fact, just violin and keyboard, so you get a taste right at the beginning. However, at times the violin sounds a bit keyboard-esque, so it makes me wonder...
The riffs on this album are for the most part incredibly solid, very emotional, and at times beautiful. The guitar when the vocals start in Your River is enough to make someone cry, I think. However, at times the riffs seem uninspired. On what I consider the worst track on the album, Turn Loose the Swans (i.e. the title track), the guitar riffs are just kinda... there. They get better near the end of the song, however. The riffs on this album go between heavy, slow power chords, and some beautifully picked slow (though often times still super distorted) parts, mixed in with some off riffs that one would be likely to find in a prog metal band, rather than just a doom metal band. Hrm, maybe that means something about MDB.
Aaron's vocals are something people either love or hate. On this album, I love them. His clean vocals are deep, not whiney, but still very powerful. His growls are sharp, intense, and convey the contrast between the beauty and harshness perfectly. The lyrics are... odd. Most of it seems to just be stream of consciousness, not really having coherence, but it somehow fits within the contexts of the songs.
I must make a quick metion of the drums, which I find quite enjoyable. Well played, and precise (precision is incredibly important when the music is this slow!). Their production is slighly weird however, and they can sound oddly like a person shouting... but maybe that's only me.
Simply put, this album is the epitome of doom, of depression, of beauty. If you want a good doom album, this is it. Beautiful, and dark... nothing is better!
This album is just utterly enthralling, for every second of its length it holds the listeners attention with its dark beauty and cold power. Each of the seven songs are notable in themselves but 'Turn…' must be listened to as a whole to be fully appreciated.
The first and last tracks, 'Sear Me MCMXIII' and 'Black God', feature not a single note played by guitar, bass or drums, instead relying on sombre piano and violin melodies to drive the songs. Aaron’s dark, poetic lyrics are delivered in a low singing voice that perfectly fits the tone of the songs. When the guitars do appear they are slow and crushing but carry the melody of each song brilliantly, each riff is given time to grow and breath before changing to keep the song moving. Nothing outstays it’s welcome and despite the bands tendency to repeat passages everything stays sounding fresh even after extreme repetition.
This is especially important due to the mostly slow pace of the songs, even when MDB choose to speed up slightly as they do on 'The Songless bird' you can be sure that a snail-paced doomy part is never far away. The atmosphere is kept consistently melancholic and bitter throughout; the lyrics vary between tales of love, insanity and pain, as well some vicious attacks on Christianity. As far as metal lyrics go these are some of the most memorable I have heard, and give depth and weight to the music around them. Aaron’s delivery is certainly an acquired taste, his clean voice is a bit weak at times but this seems to actually add to the sorrowful atmosphere and it fits the lyrics perfectly.
Each instrument holds it’s own and the musicians show considerable skill without ever feeling the need to go off on a “technical” session which would detract from the overall impact of the material. The utilisation of the violin in the mix as a main instrument is one factor that sets MDB apart from their peers. Unfortunately in modern times we have become accustomed to hideously cheesy string arrangements from many terrible bands, but here we can see what it can sound like if done properly. Martin’s slow tragic melodies complement the riffs and bring the music a strangely relaxing feel, but not in a puts-you-to-sleep way.
The production deserves a mention for the clarity and quality of each instrument within the overall mix. The drums may be slightly too quiet in places but this is not obvious and most of the time they propel the songs where they are going without just becoming background noise. All the songs are of similar quality in their song writing and individual performances but my favourites would have to be 'Your river' and 'The crown of sympathy' simply because they seem to combine the aggressive and melodic sides of the band most seamlessly switching from harsh to haunting at a moments notice.
This album is the highlight of a prestigious career and a landmark for the doom genre as a whole. If it’s not in your collection, shame on you.