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This one is, for sure, confusing - 72%

Sean16, December 16th, 2006

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