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Monster comeback - 91%

gasmask_colostomy, November 2nd, 2016

As I gradually bought my way through the band's back catalogue (more or less chronologically), I started to lose interest in My Dying Bride between Songs of Darkness, Words of Light and A Line of Deathless Kings, and I lost hope for the band after I had listened to Songs... enough times to realize it was utter toss. That's not to say that the albums that followed it weren't better and that I haven't given them a chance, because some of the songs from the last 10 years of Yorkshire's finest have been right up there with their best, such as 'The Blood, the Wine, the Roses' or 'My Body, a Funeral' (commas in titles, it would seem, is one route to success). But last year, after spotting the festive cover of Feel the Misery, I listened to that album and its predecessor and found that they possessed some of the fire and creativity of old, not to mention some rumbling heaviness. Feel the Misery isn't quite sure enough of its own identity to stick to classic Bride heaviness for an hour, but my god, if you're looking for heavy you'll be wanting this one - A Map of All Our Failures.

One may have expected a slight shift after Evinta, the entirely symphonic album Bride released in 2011, but most fans probably expected The Barghest o' Whitby EP to be a one-off fling with the old doom death style of the original hoary Peaceville Three. However, that style carried itself over into this full-length and the heaviness - while not as nasty as in the standalone song - is present in abundance, without a single trip into weeping ballad territory, nor even a tinkle from the piano through the whole thing. The two guitarists do something here that they have almost never done in Bride's history, and that is to play slowly throughout every song, barring one or two flurries of death metal aggression: they maintain the elegant style that Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw (here replaced by Hamish Glencross, though since returned) made their own all the way back in the early '90s, though sometimes the pace and heaviness exist at almost funeral doom levels. The sheer sloth of 'Like a Perpetual Funeral' or the extended squalls of feedback during 'A Tapestry Scorned' is evidence of a decidedly extreme element that I had considered extinct until hearing this release, while the brutal doom riffs that grind forth from 'Kneel till Doomsday', 'A Map of All Our Failures', and 'Hail Odysseus' are also evidence of the band's return to grimness without the loss of their poetic beauty.

That poetic beauty usually came from several different elements of the band, not only Aaron Stainthorpe's "romantic" lyrics and mournful voice. Here, the wisest thing has been done with the charming side of the Bride's face - keeping it turned to the shadow. Having been totally sick of all the gothic cheese by the time Songs of Darkness... was shat out, it makes an astonishing change to hear Stainthorpe singing without whining about subjects other than being sad all day with nothing to do and women dying of vampirism. Here, he surprisingly reverts to the more varied and literate poetry of days gone by, including tales of creepy love ('A Tapestry Scorned'), wistful nostalgia ('The Poorest Waltz'), religious doubt and betrayal ('Abandoned as Christ'), and Homer's Odyssey (err...that's 'Hail Odysseus'). The ambiguity, mystery, and atmosphere that his lyrics and subtle performance brings to the album is a great step back to the band's prime, where Stainthorpe was the most exciting member of the band, and he is backed up by an equally emotive performance from Lena Abe, who spends more time finding haunting violin melodies than fiddling about with her keyboards, as on previous performances. Her work is stellar throughout, but the old-school fan in me loves the screaming violin and backdrop of organ that capitalizes on the climax of the story in 'A Tapestry Scorned'. The guitarists, it goes without saying, do their best job of playing Bride-specific slow counter-leads for over a decade.

It's all very well looking at the constituent parts of the band, but where the Bride have also fallen down in past years is on songwriting. Never ones to resort to anything as simple as a verse-chorus structure, most songs tend to plow ahead without returning to more than one or two select sections, although the glorious rebirth of the main riff in 'Kneel till Doomsday' is truly something to behold. On A Map of All Our Failures, Bride generally avoid most of the pitfalls they have been known to fall into: namely, they step round aimless structures as well as possible, they differentiate songs from one another, and experiment with little that would alienate long-term fans. It's true, the album does promise rather more than it can deliver by putting the superb 'Kneel till Doomsday' and 'The Poorest Waltz' upfront, what with those two songs having as many dynamic shifts as the rest put together, but the quality just about sticks around for 64 minutes. The slightly calm patch in the middle of the album requires greater concentration to reap its rewards, as does 'Within the Presence of Absence', though 'Abandoned as Christ' is the right kind of closer, clawing at God in its dying moments to ensure the listener's attention until the end. On first listen, everything might seem rather gradual and understated after the openers, but further listens will reassure most sceptics that Bride were justified in including all eight songs, even if losing one wouldn't have hurt the total effect.

A resounding success if ever there was one, A Map of All Our Failures deserves the stamp of approval not only for going back towards Bride's grimy roots, but for doing so without aping the specific sounds and images of any other album in particular. The performances are all good and the overall sound as overwhelming and encompassing as you would hope, while the songs run along the scale of quality from excellent to above average. Put quite simply, if you had lost hope in My Dying Bride, this is probably the album to bring it flooding back through your veins like the rays of the evening sun.

Dying Bride is still alive! - 90%

zhay777, February 24th, 2013

My Dying Bride is one of my favorite bands, but I wasn't that excited when I heard that they are going to release new album. After 'Songs of darkness, words of light', they have been taking steps backwards. Although I was satisfied with 'For lies I sire', I lost my hope for this band. I'm not talking about 'Evinta' at all. One thing that still kept desire for this band in me was 'The Barghest o' Whitby', really epic EP, which still has spirit of old My Dying Bride.

When I finally had chance to listen to 'A Map of All Our Failures', I understood that I had been wrong with them. They didn't only satisfy me, they seem to be going back to roots. First of all, sound is heavier in comparison with previous two albums. It isn't as heavy as in 'Turn Loose the Swans', but ideal for death/doom metal band. They didn't make guitar riffs less melodic or less painful too. There are many great moments, when guitars from smooth and melodic sound, suddenly turn into brutal and back to melodic too. For example in the songs 'Kneel Till Doomsday' or 'A Tapestry Scorned'. Also here are very melodic songs too, like 'The Poorest Waltz'. Every song here has its catchy moment, which gives them the place in the listeners mind after the first try. Aaron is growling again, that makes me very glad. Also, you are able to hear quick double-basses in drumming, which were forgotten in their previous two albums.

I want to highlight two songs, 'Hail Odysseus' and 'Abandoned as Christ'. 'Hail Odysseus' is my personal favorite in this album. It has strong and heavy intro and then it moves into sad atmosphere by melodic riffs on guitars and Aaron's beautiful voice. In this album he sings like in good old times again. He still feels pain of every character of every song, which makes his vocal perfect. 'Abandoned as Christ' is most interesting song here. It has special atmosphere, which drags you into the another world.

Effect like this has every song on this album. They just lead you into the world you fear most. There is dark, there is cold, but also there is beauty too. All the dark emotions gather while listening to this album. Be it 'Like a Perpetual Funeral' or 'A Map of All Our Failures' itself, every single song here is unquestionable masterpiece. It seems that old My Dying Bride is resurrected and these gods of doom metal can still give us good example of real art.

Status: already waiting for their next album...

A Map Of All Enjoyment - 93%

lordazmolozmodial, November 1st, 2012

The heritage of the doom/death metal music that has been granted by the golden days of the 90s is the main inspiration for most of the current doom/death metal bands, and most of the fans think that this heritage has run dry by the modern sound of the guitars and by the disappointing changes of the musical genres of the pioneer bands. This year has proved that the heritage of extreme doom metal music is not dry, and even the pioneer bands can get back to their original musical influences to create more memorable releases. My Dying Bride is back to clear away all the dull modern doom metal releases with a very powerful album entitled "A Map Of All Our Failures".

My first impression about the genius and freaky artwork was really epic, and this impression improved more and more after the band has released the track "Kneel 'till Doomsday". As many people said that My Dying Bride is turning away into a new direction, I had a completely different opinion, because I think the new My Dying Bride is influenced by the old My Dying Bride. I am not saying that the new album sounds the same as the old MDB era, but I just can notice the analogy between the new enigmatic structures and the old epic pieces that the band released in the 90s. As I was drowning inside the waves of the tracks "Like A Perpetual Funeral" and "Abandoned As Christ", I found the touches of the classic releases "The Angel And The Dark River" and "Like The Gods Of The Sun" are painting the solid peaks of the clean vocals and tainting the tune of the guitars in a tragic/epic way.

The harsh vocals in the tracks "A Tapestry Scorned" and "Kneel 'till Doomsday" are full of abominable feelings and anger, I didn't hear such feelings since the album "The Light At The End Of The World", I was expecting more harsh vocals sections in the tracks but MDB didn't extinguish these flaming needs !

Every track in this album has its own world of mystical lyrics and dramatic melodies, the flowing slow chords of the down tuned guitars are creating a lot of theatrical scenes for the listeners, the tracks "Within The Presence Of Absence" and "Hail Odysseus" show exactly what I mean. The using of the clean guitars and the violin helped really well to complete the sound of the guitars, and the total atmospheric sound has been enhanced by the amazing performance of the keyboardist. The bass and the drumming actually blew my mind, the accurate drum rolls and the viscous sound of the bass gave more strength and consistence to the sound of the distorted guitars. I couldn't pick any flaw in this record, the band tried carefully to wipe off every single defect from the past release to produce such an interesting album/journey.

If you miss the old sound of My Dying Bride and you don't like to hear the old tracks over and over again, you have to check this record and live a brand new experience with these genuine musicians. I recommend this album for all the fans of doom metal, and for all the fans of the real music because the songwriting and the performance of the band will take your breath so far away.

Originally written for:

Outstanding - 95%

Dead By Dawn 15, October 26th, 2012

Wow, after all the great albums that My Dying Bride have already put forth, they still have enough to release an album like A Map of All Our Failures. You can clearly hear that there is still passion within the music and like most bands that have made the amount of work that MDB has made, most of the time it becomes contrived and almost forced, but this album still invokes the same emotions as the great albums (Turn Loose the Swans, Like Gods of the Sun, The Dreadful Hours, etc.).

The album is filled with great instrumentation. The guitars sound fantastic and have some great and memorable riffs, most notably the opening riff to Kneel Till Doomsday, a riff that will singlehandedly beat you into submission and force you to sit where you are just to hear the entire album. The bass is also a plus, for at some points it is audible and it's a treat because Lena Abe is a talented player and deserves recognition. The drums are also spot on and help keep the song together with some flare and awesome drum fills. The violin...what more can be said? It's as welcome to a My Dying Bride album as meatballs are to a spaghetti dish. They are one of the main highlights and really bring out one of the many original traits that make My Dying Bride great.

Last but not least, we have the most important instrument, Aaron's voice. This singer, that on the right note, may bring a tear of absolute sorrow to your eye. However, one thing I can hear is sometimes the vocals get a little forced, but that's a minor flaw and sometimes it adds to the melancholic atmospheres, but at other times it can be an annoyance. But other than that, his growls on this release sound great. It seems as though on every album they sound better and better.

Concluding this review, I shall say that if you enjoy MDB's music, this is a worthy addition to your collection, but if you're just starting out and want to know more about the sound of MDB, you should check out the albums Turn Loose The Swans, Like Gods To The Sun, and The Dreadful Hours. After you check those albums out, you then should expand into the other albums and indulge in what is in my opinion the greatest gothic death/doom metal band to ever write music.

Definitely not a failure - 92%

Slynt, October 24th, 2012

I have been a fan of My Dying Bride since a friend of mine copied his CD of 'Turn Loose the Swans' for me to a good, old-fashioned cassette. I played it until the tape wore out. It remains one of the best albums I have ever heard, with its oppressive gothic atmosphere, haunting melodies, crushing riffs and thought-provoking lyrics. With the exception of 'Turn Loose the Swans' and 'The Light at the End of the World', all My Dying Bride albums have required a lot of spins before I finally made up my mind about them; the band has always experimented with their sound, not much perhaps, but each album is always a little different from the others. And now, in 2012, they release 'A Map of All Our Failures', their eleventh studio album, and once again they have mixed a few new ideas into the fabric of their more recognizable musical elements. There is no doubt we're listening to My Dying Bride, of course; Aaron's characteristic voice is present and correct, Andy's crunching riffs are back and more than welcome, the drum fills are as they should be, and the lyrics and atmosphere are top notch My Dying Bride.

However, at the same time, the band has taken their music in new directions. Perhaps most surprisingly is the fact that most songs have moved into funeral doom territory. Slow and ponderous, heavier than anything they've released so far (with the possible exception of last year's excellent 'The Barghest o'Whitby' EP), with the type of harmonies that fit this kind of music so beautifully. Another fresh element is that Aaron has injected more melody into his vocal lines, and also uses to great effect doubly recorded vocals to give the music an extra layer.

A few small details also add to this half-new perspective, such as the acoustic guitar strumming along with the electric guitars, and we get a nod to 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light' with the return of the church organ. In "Abandoned as Christ", we get an unusual sort of riff from the band, a riff more reminiscent melodically of a band like Deathspell Omega (which I believe Andy's been listening to). Only in this case, the riff is played against a slow-moving, epic background of beautiful synthesizers and Aaron's sad vocals. It's a great part.

Classic elements like the violin and the growling have been pushed into a corner for this album, however. I was misled by the pre-released edit of "Kneel till Doomsday" into thinking we'd be getting a more savage album filled with bestial growls and shrieks, but this is reduced to a couple of lines in a couple of songs. True, the band hasn't used much death metal vocals since 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light'. Personally, I prefer the albums where there's a good mix of both clean and growled vocals, but on the other hand most songs on this offering have excellent clean vocals and so I can't really complain; after all, I can go back to previous albums any time I want to hear them be more aggressive.

Though one can argue that the album is their slowest and heaviest, there is still room for elements from all previous outings, making it in some ways a good representation of everything that the band is. "In the Presence of Absence" echoes the longer material from 'The Light at the End of the World', as does "Hail Odysseus". The excellent "Abandoned as Christ" both reminds me of the darker parts of 'For Lies I Sire' and the doom elements of 'Turn Loose the Swans'. Explosive growled parts in "Kneel till Doomsday" and "A Tapestry Scorned" takes me back all the way to 'As the Flower Withers'. The drumwork in the title track could have been on 'A Line of Deathless Kings', the last half of "A Tapestry Scorned" would fit snugly into any song on 'The Dreadful Hours'...and so I could go on, finding small bits here and there that remind me of previous work -

- but the great thing is that, even after eleven albums, My Dying Bride still manage to come up with songs that stand on their own, with their own identity so to speak, and have yet to copy/paste any of their previous material. It's fresh, it's a band high on creative energy, and I dearly hope they will continue with many more albums.

"Kneel till Doomsday" is the standout track on the album, not because it differs wildly from the rest of the album, but because it's simply a great song with a lot of variety, good chugging riffs, some death metal aggression to offset the haunted clean vocal parts, but the other tracks are also great though there is less variety within each track. They are long, drawn out, mournful dirges - with the exception of the second track on the album, "The Poorest Waltz", which feels a bit more upbeat than the rest. It is not a happy tune by any means, but less depressive than the others. It also features some great sing-along lines, making it the 'hit' of the album, like "Bring Me Victory" was on 'For Lies I Sire', or "For You" on 'Like Gods of the Sun'.

"A Tapestry Scorned" took me a couple of spins to fall in love with; on first listen, the track sounded somehow disorganized; the vocals did not seem to mesh rhythmically with the rest, but like a black rose opening up, the song has become a favorite with its unusual hooks. A song to get used to, then. The melodies employed in this track are beautiful and dark, the song structure somewhat progressive.

These first three tracks then are the odd ones out; with "Like A Perpetual Funeral" and onward, the songs become more cohesive and stylistically more similar, making it harder to differentiate between them on the first rounds of listening. These songs will need more time to stand out, but I am sure they will, as most My Dying Bride songs eventually do. At the same time, these songs are what gives 'A Map of All Our Failures' its identity that separates it from earlier works. Of these five songs, it is "Abandoned as Christ", the last track on the regular edition of the album, that is currently whispering for my attention, making me want to listen to it again. It is strange to think that in a month or so, these songs will be ingrained into my being just as the other eighty or so My Dying Bride songs are, and I'll have no trouble keeping them apart.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the lyrics. I am a huge fan of the early lyrics from Aaron Stainthorpe, when they reveled in grotesque and disturbing imagery, and were more profoundly hateful toward Christianity; ever since 'The Angel and the Dark River', Aaron's lyrics have become softer and less original (in my opinion). The gothic vibe is still present, and especially "Kneel till Doomsday" almost reaches that height where Aaron's lyrics used to hang out, but unfortunately many of the lyrics here are more on par with what we've been given on the last six or so albums. It's a minor nitpick, to be sure. I just find it harder to engage with, say, the story about Rosie in "A Tapestry Scorned", than the apocalyptic visions presented in classics such as 'Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium'' or the gothic poetry of 'Return of the Beautiful'. There are flashes of inspiration, to be sure, and I believe these lyrics on a whole are an improvement on albums like 'A Line of Deathless Kings'.

As I listen more to this album (listening as I write), I'm getting more addicted to it. I just realized there's a great melodic part in the second half of "Like a Perpetual Funeral" that is now working its way into my head; the first sing that the song is making its presence known, so to speak. I look forward to revel in this dark music for a long time to come.

I guess metalheads who are not into My Dying Bride can deduct a cool 10% from my final score.

A return to form for a band once scorned - 95%

absurder21, October 19th, 2012

When it comes to gothic metal, there are two different sounds that are attached to the name, making it somewhat confusing to people introducing themselves to the sound. There’s the original style which immerged in the late 80s/early 90′s that is a mixture of the romantic gloom of gothic rock (specifically Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy), complimented with the heaviness and physical catharsis of doom, doom/death metal such as My Dying Bride, as well as Paradise Lost, Type O-Negative and Tiamat. The other type is a lot more recent and seems to be defined purely on having female vocalists who sing about vampires/werewolves, sexuality or mildly depressing themes, bands of this style include Lacuna Coil, Epica or Cradle of Filth (zing!). This style is generally just a poppier, upbeat version of black, power or alternative metal and it rarely shares any conjunction with gothic rock or death/doom metal, other than the dress code and some lyrical content. While My Dying Bride definitely have flirted with more friendly representations of themselves, later eliminating the death metal elements in their sound and speeding up the tempo past a funeral crawl, on A Map of All Our Failures we see a return of focus on the pure gloomy, doom-based version of their defining sound found on As The Flowers Wither and Turn Loose the Swans.

Right away the album opens up with the appropriately dark ring of a funeral bell, which is then followed by a slow, crushing doom riff that sets the mood to “soul-crushing gloom” instantly – and immediately I got excited for this album. As the riffing sinks even lower into melancholy with the addition of dual-lead harmonization, making the riffs grander and more effective, the emotional and catchy solos effectively demonstrate that playing slow doesn’t imply any sort of lack of talent, and sometimes shows more depth than any whirlwind-tech display. As the guitarist’s Andrew Craighan and Hamish Hamilton bring the doom side of gloom to the table perfectly, they also finally revived the death metal side of My Dying Bride that fans have been pleading for forever. By sprinkling the record with bombastic, pummeling death metal drumming and mid-paced, tremolo picked riffing (which is pretty much light speed in comparison to most of the album), the emotional ride comes full circle as anxiety, aggression and frustration pulls the stress of such dark emotions into place and adds a contrast that at some points is direly needed. These are then pulled together by all sorts of gothic rocks aesthetic, such as dreary violins, baritone croons and church organs, giving the record the same sort of grey, bleakness of 14th century Europe.

The vocal work on this record tends to centre around Aaron Stainthorpe’s morbid bellows, which while still sung with melody, are also more alike to a musical poetry reading, being dramatic and emotionally timed. As mentioned before, he will also break into the barking vocals he uses for the death metal passages, although they have diminished in power since then, but despite this they are still effective. While I probably don’t have to explain to you what the general mood of this album is, the imagery and lyrics are incredibly evocative. Generally evoking images of dark stone work, wolves, ghostly shades and other bleak images, one could definitely relate a lot of this album to old European architecture and art. Lyrically, it’s saturated in the images mentioned above, as well as the depressing and funereal emotions the band has embraced ever so much. And while some may assume its petty whining, the work is actually very well written, being mature and clever and not to mention containing some of the catchiest phrases I’ve heard in metal in awhile, absolutely defeating the plight of naysayers.

All in all I’ve got to say this is one of the most legitimate return to form I’ve ever heard. Not only does the band incorporate a vast majority of the sounds that made them the pioneers of true gothic metal that they are, but they also upped the ante and made sure their riffs matched the heaviness of the modern icons like Reverend Bizarre, Solitude Aeturnus and Warning/40 Watt Sun. While there is the one or two instances where I feel a change in setting would be appropriate, for the most part they do a fantastic job structuring and producing the album to avoid such, and the addition of death metal elements, more dramatic gothic elements and pace changes help with that. With morbid riffs, soul crushing despair, European melancholy and cathartic lyrics, My Dying Bride have effectively been able to do what a lot of bands this old rarely manage to do: release another classic.

[Originally written for AXIS OF METAL as Adam Korchok]