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I could come up with a snappy summary, but... - 100%

Kronisk, December 15th, 2018

In other reviews, I have cited what I refer to as "money moments", moments in songs or films or whatever the hell that make me respond emotionally in such an extreme way that you could play the song or the film whilst I turn into Iron Man or something. But before I get into that, let me tell you something germane to my whole fandom of My Dying Bride and where I am coming from. I first started buying discs with their music on them in the early to mid 1990s. Buying As The Flower Withers, seeing their name styled as My DyING BRIDE in the liner notes, and hearing the way they seemed to take the closing rhythm of Electric Funeral and capture that mood for fifty straight minutes, my whole view of the world and of music changed irrevocably in a matter of months. For years, I could not go through a whole conversation without mentioning the band and how their music was heaven squeezed out of Odin's dickhole. When I was on the train with some people, discussing music and my naïve ambitions in music with some people, one person in particular, this man said one instrument they should have in all things metal is the violin. You can already guess how I responded to that. And whilst violins are still not commonplace even in doom metal, violins are also germane to this discussion because this, their last album that is of the standard I came to expect of them, does not have violins.

You might be tempted to claim that I am expecting too much of My Dying Bride from 2002 onwards. But when discussing My Dying Bride on all but four albums and one compilation (plus a demo tape, of course), everything ties up neatly into a bag on which big words are stencilled. Words like FAILURE, DISAPPOINTMENT, UNDERWHELMING, and synonyms thereof.

You see, if The Dreadful Hours proves one thing about My Dying Bride and doom metal in general, it is this. You can have all of the violins, keyboards, and choirs full of boobs in the world, and if your underlying material is underwhelming, that will shine through. Because The Dreadful Hours is both My Dying Bride's best album, and the last album they released that could ever be called good. This is where my statement about money moments comes in. A song in which we recount an infanticide from the perspective of father/murderer, mother, and baby in turn? Done well? Done brilliantly? Sign me the fukk up! And even if the remake of The Return Of The Beautiful does not entirely float your boat, the other six songs keep up that DOOM momentum so hard that you need that fourteen and change minutes of cooldown just to recover. When Aaron, in one of those rare moments when he is contributing to the music rather than detracting, sings to walk with, with him, he will be your shadow god, you sway about to the music and say sure, be my shadow god, because the overall mood of the music is giving you no room to argue. This is what I am talking about when I say that The Dreadful Hours is basically a seventy-minute money moment. Every moment just screams that this is a band that wants you to revel in the fact that if things stay as they are, if they continue as they are, Humanity is going to be facing extinction during this century. That is why they call it doom metal.

In the press releases leading up to some albums around this era, members of My Dying Bride have said that the violin is not missed. Whether this was a rebuke personally to their violinist, or whether it was just trying to affirm to the audience that their music was just as good without it, it hearkens back to what I said before. All the violins in the world cannot save you if your underlying compositions are shit. Which makes it so very frustrating that in seventeen years, two violinists, and the return of one guitarist, nobody seems to have noticed that My Dying Bride have not released another single good album. I know this is the wrong place to talk about it, but there are albums with this band's name on it where there are fifty-nine minutes of music and only one four and a half minute song that makes me feel something other than disappointment, a crushing sense that I hate that album. And I suspect this boils down to two things. One, Aaron was saying as early as 1996 that it was getting harder and harder for him to come up with good lyrics, and two, My Dying Bride seem to not only feel a need to get a new album out every other year, but they also seem to go into the studio with only the bare minimum of material necessary to fill up the album. It is really just a happy accident that The Dreadful Hours' material was gold from go to woah. Because damn if this band does not strike out more often than a minor league pinch hitter suddenly called up to the World Series.

I try to temper praise with conditioning. To say "yes, it is a masterpiece, but there is this little detail that you have to overlook to see the greatness". Not so with The Dreadful Hours. Even the slow moments, the moment for example where men hum and Aaron growls that your soul is my desire that he cannot control, is perfection here. If I were to go to another planet tomorrow, show them examples of what doom metal is, say to them, this is the music of a planet that cried out for help and died as the cries for help were ignored, and I would play them The Dreadful Hours. I am not certain of how many albums I would play for these Men From Mars, but unless the choice is only one, The Dreadful Hours would go last because you always conclude with your strongest material. Whether you agree or not that The Return To The Beautiful was a great closing note or not, it fits the general drive of this album and the whole "away, bastard dog" moment, the "you're not here for the sunset" ending, you certainly cannot accuse My Dying Bride of phoning that one in. Hell, even the titles on this album are amazing. I should know, I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to call a novel, and The Raven And The Rose played through. The title I gave the novel is not an exact replica, but it sure is not far off.

Can you measure the greatness of an album by your disappointment that every album in the following seventeen years has failed to live up to it? I have told people that I have ceased even following My Dying Bride, and that is mostly true because of how apt A Map Of All Our Failures is as a title or what a stupid, childish title Feel The Misery is, and how the music on them reflects these things. But even today, as I realise that my expectations are so low that you could dig a hole to China trying to find, I still vaguely hope that somewhere, in their completely unaware, unknowing minds, the brains of the My Dying Bride operation still have another album like The Dreadful Hours tucked away somewhere. But when you stop and consider it only took six years between Turn Loose The Swans and The Light At The End Of The World, the mostly-good predecessor to the piece of amazingness presently under discussion, the seventeen and counting years since The Dreadful Hours does not bode well. At all. So whilst I am trying to heap praise on one of the few albums that leaves me with tears coming out of my eyes during the first song and then has me growling along for the other sixty or so minutes, here I am getting more and more worked up that it is like the proverbial flash in the pan. Has My Dying Bride burned out? Faded away? Or were they always just talentless hacks who were just blessed for a handful of albums and EPs?

I wish Aaron and his bandmates all the best going forward, but if I were a betting man, there will never be a My Dying Bride album that makes me pay the purchase price and encourage others to do the same the way that The Dreadful Hours did. It is honestly perplexing that such a disappointing band in the overall sense favoured us with something so goddamned exemplary. Long story short, if you only ever buy one My Dying Bride album, any other than this one is a lot less than their best.

And when The Dreadful Hours was first released, we had no idea if they would ever have a real violin in the band again. There is a lesson in that, budding musicians.