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A bold, but ultimately boring concept - 45%

lord_ghengis, June 23rd, 2011

These days there are a lot of ways to offer up some kind of fan gift of your previous works, starting from simple compilations to rerecordings, bands have moved on and given us remixes, rewrites and all sorts of things. With that said simply rewriting songs into orchestral versions would still be pretty unique, but My Dying Bride have gone even further than that. Not content with merely translating their old songs into orchestral versions the band have created entirely new compositions, scattered with familiar sounding melodies and tunes but never being a mere "violin cover" of anything. This idea is as bold as it is unique, but sadly not as successful as it should have been. In fact the only other example I think of a band doing a similar project, Drudkh's Songs of Grief and Solitude also failed to live up to hopes too. I can be more forgiving of this band than the Ukrainian black metal legends because the scope is much greater, sure Drudkh had unique acoustic compositions built around a bunch of melodies from their metal efforts, but this is considerably deeper and more thorough in that it’s a complete deconstruction of everything these songs were, to turn them into something new. This is truly an effort to be respected and admired, but sadly it's just not as entertaining as it should be.

So what exactly have My Dying Bride done that is so much more than "Replace guitars with violin, add extra layer of piano"? There's actually a lot more than you would expect, these songs do not move at the usual Bride pace or have any familiar aspects, instead Evinta takes everything in a surprisingly minimalist direction. This change is actually where the album fails for me; it lacks drama. The band are an exceedingly melodramatic and overwrought band for most of their material, while this does leave them in a position where songs can get cheesy and even embarrassing it does let the band create brilliance at times, so it's a necessary evil. This music lacks any kind of drama or potency to it; it ranges from pretty and unobtrusive to flat out bland and ambient in design, there is nothing to drive emotion. It's like they were worried for being seen as making movie soundtrack music so avoided anything with any kind of oomph that could be seen as resembling that type of style.

The other notable sounds of the album are of course the vocals, which involve Aaron's deep narration (And the odd sung line) and a genuine opera singer. Not like your usual goth metal operatic style; this is a genuine fat lady singing out on the stage type stuff. She's obviously classically trained and a professional so people into that sort of thing would find themselves in heaven, I personally can't stand the stuff, so the fact I count her as a negative is purely a matter of taste. Stainthorpe's narration is solid, he has a very theatrical deep voice which interplays with Lucie Roche's huge voice quite nicely. His lyrics are typically pretty good, he delivers enough of the sinister sounding stuff ("And the stone, That lets you drown, You are not worth stopping for") to get a pass from me, despite a few horrible wanky lyrics about lost love and whatnot with "That Dress and Summer Skin" being the biggest offender.

Each disc seems to have a clear direction, the first disk is more active, more overt in it's references to previous albums, yet still a very laid back and drama free effort, while disk two almost lays down into pure ambience, with most sections being padded thoroughly with soothing keyboard drones. There are fuller pieces of music, but they are few and far between. Disk 3 is more active again, and in fact attempts to bring in some of the melodrama I mentioned earlier with a more bombastic sound, but it seems to be too little too late. The disk one sound is actually quite bearable, it doesn't take you anywhere but the overall reliance on fully violin and piano driven songs does create some of the more outwardly beautiful moments and the bands lead melodies translate very well into the format. Three disks worth of it would be a bit tiresome so I understand the change in ideas, but it really is where most of the enjoyment is to be found. I do like the durations of each album in the set, the tedious nature of much of this is alleviated somewhat by the 45 minute run times of each disk.

The second CD is probably the weakest; it's got a lot more ambient soundscapes, so you get neither beauty nor the ability to hear that many old songs reborn in classical glory. It drags a lot and while there are more interesting parts on each song you usually have to sit through four minutes of lifeless keyboard nonsense to get there. Things pick up a little again on the third part of the release, it finally brings on some of that melodrama I was talking about earlier. Tunes attempt to be distressing instead of just pretty, there is more thunderous drum work and there is an increase of the more attention grabbing vocals. There are piano runs during the ambient bits and all sorts of little additions to make it deeper than just being a bleak tone. It actually does get a little cheesy and soundtrack-y at times, so I guess there's a reason for the avoidance of the more bombastic stuff, but it at least provides more thrills.

I really can't praise the band for the concept of Evinta enough. It's great to hear a long time band willing to step outside the bounds of what is normal, and not just rerecord a classic album, or make a little box set, or chuck a bunch of old songs and a few discarded demos on a disk and call it a compilation; this is project of epic scope and vision, just of exceedingly understated execution. As always execution will outweigh the concept, and that’s why I can't really praise this as something to actually listen to. I applaud the band for their efforts, but the actual music here doesn't conjure enough to really impress.