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It's a Grower... - 77%

woeoftyrants, May 5th, 2007

While the last few years certainly have been up and down for My Dying Bride, a promise was made to make a return to their majestic doom/death style of old with this album. I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but this certainly isn't doom/death metal aside from a few small moments. A Line of Deathless Kings sees MDB continuing to explore even more progressive gothic metal territory without losing their edge. The thing is, the whole album is very samey, a fairly exhausting listening experience, and seems to be straight-out boring sometimes. This does a favor for the album in a very strange way, though.

Musically speaking, this isn't too far from the band's past two albums, except for one huge issue that I was forced to take points off for: the interplayed gothic harmonies on guitar and keyboards are barely present here. In fact, keyboards in general are almost totally absent from the songs, with "I Cannot Be Loved" and a few others being slight exceptions. Most of the songs are more guitar-based, but truth be told, there are only a handful of good riffs during the entire album. There seems to be less focus on atmosphere, (one of the things that made this band brilliant) and more emphasis put on the song structures, which are slightly more complex than anything else the band have done. You wouldn't think so when listening to this album, though; many of the songs follow a rigid tempo template that ranges from scorchingly to the lower end of what many would call mid-paced. As a result, most listeners will get bored quite easily and think the band are treading waters of lacking inspiration.

But that's the handle of this album; though things may seem boring, this may very well be MDB's heaviest and darkest offering since The Angel & The Dark River. "Deeper Down," while a bit generic and long-winded, shows the band balancing powerful palm-muted riffs and double bass with a dragging, unchanging tempo. While not as sonically heavy as past offerings, A Line of Deathless Kings takes the band into even more dirgy, menacing territory, and it is indeed a demanding listener that grows over time. "And I Walk With Them" is a perfect example, where sacriligeous lyrics play perfectly into the sparse, brooding guitar riffs. The repitition in riffs sometimes kills this, but songs like the tragic "L' Amour Detruit," which is one of the more melodic outings, brings back the long-missing Gothic flair to the band's sound that we have long yearned for. Aside from that, there's not much on an ear-candy level; the despair in the music is channeled through the pounding and slightly technical drumwork, eerie clean guitar interludes, and bludgeoning, fully voiced power chords, rather than the traditional keyboard melodies or searing guitar harmonies.

Aaron only uses growls two or three times during the whole album, but his clean vocals shine through wonderfully. Some may say that his voice sounds weak and uninspired here, but the darker context of the music brings out the bleakness of his voice. The opener "To Remain Tombless" shows Aaron's most fragile and sensitive performance, which coorelates perfectly with the lifeless lyrics. One of his best performances here is "I Cannot Be Loved," where a renewed sense of melody brings a sort of catharsis to everything. Though on the surface Aaron may seem to be inferior to even his own past offerings, his desperate croonings are as effective as ever, especially on "Love's Intolerable Pain." Lyrically, it's about the same for MDB, but songs like "One of Beauty's Daughters" take an almost sardonic, sadistic approach to dark love affairs. The album's closer "The Blood, The Wine, The Roses" is a grand tale of lust and damnation, and may be some of the best Aaron has ever written.

The rest of the band is a bit of a double-edged sword; it's certainly heavier in a round-about way, it just takes a few listens to realize and grasp it. Generally, the guitars still have quite a bit of melody, but most of it has been ditched in favor of a darker style that relies less on keyboards. When the keyboards do enter the mix, it's generally a miniscule role for background ambience, which is a shame in my opinion. The drums have a somewhat "broken" feel to them, and by that I mean that there's a return to the style where amourphous time changes interject with the songs through the means of jarring fills and stop-go cycles. This is a refreshing breath of air from the lumbering, bleak drone of everything else in the music, and adds a little bit of ear candy to the mix.

It comes down to this: some people will like this album, some will hate it, and some won't know what to think. Whatever it may be, keep in mind that this album is a grower; a a difficult one at that.

Favorite tracks: All tracks 2-5, "One of Beauty's Daughters," "The Blood, the Wine, the Roses."