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Another Romantic Classic - 97%

chaos_aquarium, July 9th, 2009

After the release of the groundbreaking classic, “Turn Loose the Swans”, it could be thought that the band couldn’t reach a level of majesty higher than that. Fortunately, My Dying Bride has different plans. From the first opening notes of the elegant, “The Cry of Mankind”, you become quite aware that you are in for an experience like no other.

The album catches you right from the start, with the opening track “The Cry of Mankind”. This is by far one of the strongest pieces My Dying Bride has written to date. Everything from the hypnotic guitars and haunting piano to the pounding drums and sedative vocals, makes this one of the most dynamic and memorable songs of their career. This leads into the stunningly beautiful song, “From Darkest Skies”, which with a heavy bass line and morose sounding violin accompanying a very pained and defeated sounding vocalist, starts as very beautiful and sad piece of minimalist music but with the introduction of guitar and piano progresses into something much more grand and regal.

The album keeps up this same level of beauty and elegance for the next pair of tracks, “Black Voyage” and the quite theatric, “A Sea to Suffer In”. These two tracks both interweave noble violin and piano, somber vocals, grand riffs, dreary bass, and heavy drums masterfully and prove to be essential chapters in the epic which is “The Angel and the Dark River”.

At this point the album may seem to be a depressive masterpiece possible of surpassing their previous classic “Turn Loose the Swans”, that is until you reach “Two Winters Only”. The song starts beautifully with Aaron singing a very touching lament to the loss of someone very close to him over a very gentle sounding guitar riff. This keeps up until the drums start to kick in at about 3:50 and the violin is introduced. This is by far the emotional climax of the song and it is presented beautifully. Unfortunately, after about the 5 minute mark the song starts to feel slightly repetitive and grows a little thin.

The album closer “Your Shameful Heaven” starts with a gorgeous violin intro that leads way to a much different song. While the album up to now has consisted of slower paced tracks soaked in romanticism, “Your Shameful Heaven” is a fairly heavy and upbeat song, with Aaron taking a much more angry and bitter tone.

It should be noted that this release proved to be a very important one for My Dying Bride as it marked the absence of harsh vocals for the first time. This may be seen as a minus to some fans, but I feel that it benefited the somber and romantic atmosphere of the album.

“The Angel and the Dark River” is an absolute gem of an album. From beginning to end, the album displays a sense of wounded intelligence that makes for a truly engaging listening experience.