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A Landmark Gothic Metal Album (Edited) - 97%

Gothic_Metalhead, February 3rd, 2019
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Peaceville Records

(This review has been moved and edited from my previous profile punkmetalhead which is now deleted)

During the early 1990s, Paradise Lost were breaking new ground in the extreme metal scene for slowing down the tempo and rhythms of death metal and combining that sound with their love of doom metal like Black Sabbath and Candlemass. A band that followed suit was fellow peaceville band My Dying Bride, who released their first album "As The Flower Whiters" two years after Paradise Lost first album. Like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride starting breaking boundaries within death metal by combining their love of Candlemass into their own music. However, by 1993, My Dying Bride began reaching for a more melodic but still aggressive tone with their second album "Turn Loose The Swans." Strange as it sounds, "Turn Loose The Swans" might be the most underrated gothic metal album. It has been highly classified as a landmark album in doom metal and death-doom, but started to change up their direction to incorporate more gothic elements with the release of this legendary album. What was going on during the time "Turn Loose the Swans" was released, Paradise Lost had recently moved into gothic metal with their fourth album "Icon," Type O Negative released the groundbreaking "Bloody Kisses" back in the United States, and Anathema (still in their death-doom roots) had just released their first album "Serenades." So what did "Turn Loose The Swans" do so differently that became a contribution to the recently developed gothic metal scene?

To start, out of all the peaceville three, My Dying Bride were the first to move into a more melodic and dark direction in their music. This was heard in the first track "Sear Me MCMXCIII," where the track in its entirety is a dark piano song with Aaron Stainthorpes muttering melancholic vocals The first track gives the listener a dark atmosphere of what the rest of the album has in store, as "Turn Loose The Swans" will feature a lot of dark moments thanks to the use of keyboards and piano. "Turn Loose The Swans" also has songs that are considered to be more death-doom than gothic. An example being the fourth track, The Snow in My Hand. Sure the song starts with a melancholic opening but by the next few minutes sped up into more death metal territory. The song is showing that the album can go two ways without completely abandoning its aggressive behavior. They continue to do that with the title track of "Turn Loose The Swans" as well. However, unlike Paradise Lost with theire first three albums, My Dying Bride has more diverse vocal approach than to just do death growls. While it still death-doom songs they are doing, adding singing to their songs gives My Dying Bride more sensitivity to their music.

My favorite track off of "Turn Loose The Swans" is "The Crown of Sympathy," a twelve minute epic song that represents dark and powerful atmosphere that would become synonymous to future gothic metal bands. The song makes due of doom inspired guitar and throughout the song, it remains a depressing, slow, and atmospheric piece of work thanks to Aaron's depressing vocals, violin sounds, and a part where it has its own keyboard that brings more darkness midway into the song. After the super slow chugs of the death-doom sound of the title track, the album ends with yet another dark piano song with Aaron muttering in the background called "Black God," where it sums up the end of the album as it gives the listener a feeling of a dark and mournful end.

"Turn Loose The Swans" is no doubt an influential album within the doom and death-doom metal scenes, however it also left an impact to the gothic metal sub genre during the time where the pioneering bands were moving away from their aggressive sound. While Paradise Lost was still talking about angry things at the time they released "Icon," My Dying Bride made both death-doom and gothic metal more sensitive and romantic. Simple lyrical themes of romanticism, religion, and loneliness as well as having dark atmospheres from piano and keyboards can make listeners who are interested in gothic metal feel more sadness in a good way. The guitar riffs and tone was really well crafted and had fantastic hooks that gives it that death-doom sound from almost all its songs. Upon listening to it for the first time, I remember being in awe with how both beautiful and dark it sounded. At the time I was only listening to few gothic metal bands, and upon listening to "Turn Loose The Swans," it helped me discover My Dying Bride and "Turn Loose The Swans" became one of my all time favorite metal albums. "Turn Loose The Swans" and My Dying Bride in general is a great underrated band to start with when you already heard Type O Negative and Lacuna Coil.

A Sorrowful Masterpiece - 88%

Deathdoom1992, May 8th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, Peaceville Records (Digipak, Remastered, Limited edition)

Coming a little under a year and a half after the release of their first full-length As the Flower Withers, My Dying Bride did something not many bands would dare to do. Instead of using their sophomore effort to refine the good elements on Flower, they did an about-face and almost completely abandoned the sound demonstrated on their debut. Gone were the guttural growls, replaced by a plain, mournful wail and spoken segments, the guitar parts slowed even further, the balls-out death metal tracks gone, and the violins now fully a part of the MDB sound. But the question is, did it work? The answer is a resounding yes.

Beginning inconspicuously enough with the opener "Sear Me MCMXCIII", as the title suggests a reworked version of "Sear Me" from My Dying Bride's debut, which, along with album closer "Black God" demonstrates the extremity of the sonic makeover underwent, as the songs feature no guitars, bass or drums at all. The unquestionable highlight for me is "The Crown of Sympathy" a twelve-minute brooding epic about love in a way that only Aaron Stainthorpe could write, however the release is held down by the title track, not too dissimilar to "The Crown of Sympathy", but always seems to rub me the wrong way whilst listening. Also of note are "Your River" and bonus track "Transcending (Into the Exquisite)", the latter of which features an arrangement which is pure headbanger's joy.

For all the album's resounding successes, (and believe me there are many- there are just two songs I dislike) it is not without fault. A prime example of this being Rick Miah's drumming. Given his incredible performance on their first full-length, I would expect wonders from him, but sadly the drumming is fairly poor. It seems as though he was told to go into the studio and play randomly at random times. And as much as I love the violin playing on this album, at certain points it forces itself too much to the forefront. My main issue though, is the repetitiveness of the lyricism. Don't get me wrong here, Stainthorpe's lyrics are beautiful, literary, intelligent and well-written but they all revolve around much the same topics: love, loss of love, death of a loved one etc. The only exceptions to this are "The Songless Bird" and "The Snow in My Hand". The stucture could use a little work too , as the depressive tracks are placed at the front and the more death-doom oriented ones places at the back. Also, 3 consecutive songs beginning with 'The'. Not significant, but just sayin'.

Summarily, although normally I would say it would be unfair to say it is better than Flower given how different the two records are, in this instance it is clear in my mind that this one is better. While the poor production suited Flower, this one has a much better production, meaning the bass is much more audible, (and Adrian Jackson's performance on this album is epic) and the guitars have an altogether better tone, rather than the pseudo-Scandinavian slight buzzsaw sound on their early work. Another significant change is the balance of emotions on display, although the emotions themselves are the same- hate and sorrow. Whereas on their first full length the sorrow was in the background, playing second fiddle to the hatefulness of it all, the depression is turned up to the max and shoved in your face here, so it is virtually impossible to listen whilst upbeat. Horribly magnificent, this opus remains to me their best and defining record.

Come inside, never leave - 93%

gasmask_colostomy, November 16th, 2015

I waited a long, long time to review this album, and I think that wait may have been necessary. My Dying Bride has a very special significance to me and nothing is more significant than 'Turn Loose the Swans', though I feel that if I had reviewed it a few years back, when I was so deeply bond up in its labyrinthine depths, I would not have been able to give an accurate representation of the music. For an album as strongly emotional as this, a little personal context is perhaps forgiveable, since it will most likely incite a personal reaction rather than a general one.

Some years ago (5 if we're being exact), I had the longest summer of my life, which, for many reasons, also turned out to be the gloomiest period of my existence. Depression, or boredom, or angst - call it what you will - I was pretty miserable for several months. Looking back, I can't say specifically what caused it, but I do know that music played a very important role at that time, both driving me deeper into the darkness and bringing me back to the surface of reality. I mostly dwelt in the expansive precincts of doom metal, favouring the crawling, ugly doom death to the more traditional Sabbathian exponents. 'Turn Loose the Swans' had been sitting in my collection for more than a year at that time, largely ignored due to its plodding speed and occasional lack of metal influence, but I returned to the album during that time and found myself captured by contrasting beauty and monstrosity, finding that I could hide in the twisting song structures and escape into the anachronistic lyrics.

Things have changed over the years and I no longer find myself using 'Turn Loose the Swans' as a crutch, though the album hasn't lost its original magic, which is more than I can say for several of the band's other efforts. The reason that this kind of music works so wonderfully for some people and leaves others completely cold is that you must be completely invested in the experience to profit from it. Those who arrive expecting crushing riffs and morbidity aren't going to depart empty-handed, but they are going to struggle to comprehend what all the fuss is about and start asking questions about song lengths, structure, and instrumental choices. Arguably, listening to Paradise Lost at a similar period in the band's development is a more musically satisfying experience, but I would rarely find PL an equal for the sheer distance that MDB put between the listener and reality. 'Turn Loose the Swans' is the band's most successful example of this because of its complexity: it doesn't cop out and become lyrically familiar or musically self-referential like their later works, nor does it spend too much time in the grim dungeons from which their earliest squalid releases oozed. We are provided here with the whole gamut, from the bitter fury and faith-turned-to-scorn of 'As the Flower Withers', the doubt and regret that beckons sensations of misery and hopelessness, plus the ephemeral gothic beauty on which the band overindulged later in their career. That mixture is carefully yet idiosyncratically balanced, feeding the listener first the shimmering mirage of hope, then the poison of despair, which grows sweeter and stronger as one returns to the mirage for solace. It's a captivating cycle, and, once inside, it can be tempting to stay trapped.

Without that additional personal attachment, 'Turn Loose the Swans' doesn't make a great deal of sense. It has none of the pure riff nirvana of Trouble or Pentagram, doesn't project itself with deathly heaviness like Paradise Lost's debut or Autopsy, has little of the epic triumph spawned by Candlemass and ably upheld by Solitude Aeturnus, possesses none of the morbidity of Cathedral, though the esoteric nature of that band is recognizable here, yet they hardly sound similar. The closest comparisons also sprang out of 1993, those being the debut albums of Katatonia and Anathema, both of which make use of the melodic lead style (all these three albums include lead guitar playing, but definitely do not include solos or lead breaks), unconventional structures, and atmosphere of gruelling emotional trials that are found here. Those leads, played here by guitarists and violinist, are intrinsic to the density of the compositions, sometimes overpowering the rhythms and causing the likes of 'The Crown of Sympathy' and 'Your River' to float and drift hypnotically instead of thudding and plodding along. The sinuous melodic riffs thus open the songs wide and lengthiness never becomes a problem, since time expands to accomodate the listener, as should happen with all great doom metal. What is also vital to that encompassing experience is that the songs never progress simply, eschewing verses and choruses, sometimes progressing linearly, sometimes referring back to familiar themes, though the shifting of gears rarely sounds awkward. As such, once inside the album, the listener is swept along and never quite gains a full mastery of the musical patterns, leaving a slightly mysterious quality long after the first listen.

Added to all this, the vocals and lyrics are a shining example of how inspiration can come and go in a flash. Aaron Stainthorpe has disappointed me on almost every MDB album since this one, in part due to the abandonment of his original lyrical style, but also because the sincerity of his performances have fallen so far behind this. On 'Turn Loose the Swans', he has all the advantages of diversity, when a song like 'The Snow in My Hand' starts off with slow harmonic cleans, suddenly bubbles up into quaking death metal with truly dangerous - not merely perfunctory - growls, snapping the trembling tension of violin and guitar leads and branding the meaning of lines like "Get away from me, man of stories, robe of lies" into the listener's mind. His cleans are used more sparsely than on future efforts, which results in a deliberate and necessary delivery of these parts, often following riff or violin melody, as if in a moment of weakness or carried away by the overriding emotion. It's a stark contrast to the deliberately lamenting style that he would later pursue, which felt forced and occasionally monotonous. With the lyrics, we are treated to personal anguish performed convincingly, in addition to the more narrative/poetic escapism included in the title track:
"My quill it aches.
Turn loose the swans that drew my poets craft.
I'll dwell in desolate cities.
You burned my wings.
I leave this ode, splendid victorious through the carnage."

The main issue that I can foresee others having with this album is with those knotty structures, some rare weak musical ideas, and the opening and closing pieces. The structures, as I have mentioned, aren't conducive to casual listening, while there are a few riffs and instrumental parts that don't attain the same high level of quality found elsewhere. Parts of 'The Songless Bird' are slightly plain, though these are offset by the gorgeous middle part of the song, with clean guitar gradually growing into a fuller swell augmented by violin; however, the outburst that cuts it off is abrupt and unseemly within the context of the composition. A similar event occurs in the title track, which pursues a rather mindless riff for too long, yet the smoothness of the interplay between guitar and violin which follows it, plus the charmingly clean vocals from Stainthorpe ensures it is quickly forgiven. The opening and closing songs are more problematic, since 'Sear Me MCMXCIII' and 'Black God' are both performed exclusively by violin and keyboard, with no metal elements and gradually narrated lyrics. In fact, both are well-developed, particularly the former, which sounds grandiosely baroque and romantic, but the slow pace renders them of little interest to metal fans beyond their atmospheric appeal. For me, both have their place on the album, even if the running time could have been cut down slightly to avoid prolonging the musical ideas beyond the necessary limits.

This review has basically taken me five years to write, commencing from the moment I discovered the Metal Archives (my first reviews were of MDB material) and ending when I click "publish" in a few minutes. Even now, I'm not satisfied that I can fully express why this album is good and what its problems may be, though I can't stress enough how a measure of its quality must take both objective and subjective arguments into consideration. 'Turn Loose the Swans' is arguably the pinnacle of My Dying Bride's recorded output, in large part due to the successful combination of twisted and beautiful music and lyrics, plus the emotional range and intensity that it exudes. Music of this nature will not be equally attractive to all who experience it, though from my own experience I recommend that you give the album some time before judging it too strongly. Either way, I've still not been turned loose from its nets.

An Utterly Timeless Masterpiece - 100%

ElfJuice, October 10th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Peaceville Records

The first time I heard this record back in 1993, I was only able to hear the first song on the record (a neoclassical piece). I liked it, but it was not until the second time I heard this record that I felt its’ full impact. I was in the middle of the woods, staring at a full moon in the winter sky (which was a hazy shade of deep blue at the time). We had just finished listening to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, and a friend put this record on. By the end of the record, my perception of what was possible in metal and music in general had been drastically altered. It was perhaps the most impactful listening experience of my life, and it quite literally changed my life. It is a moment that is frozen in time, forever to be revisited with a sense of awe.

What does this album entail? While it does have some gothic elements, those elements are not nearly as dominant as in later releases. A cryptic, avant-garde style of riffing permeates the record during the doom-death passages. The death metal element is tuned down a bit from the debut (no blast beats for example), but this general style encompasses about half of the music. Whether it be the creeping doom of the title track, or the more intense sections backed by double bass drumming, the death metal riffing could not be more convincing. Nary a single riff is of poor quality; rather, I have given 6 of the 7 songs a five star rating (the lone holdout, The Songless Bird, receives a 4 star rating but it just misses the cut). The other half of the riffs on this record are beautiful, melodic, and atmospheric (to a degree that has never quite been equaled). Whether we look at the verses on Your River, The Crown of Sympathy, or The Snow in My Hands, these sections are utterly haunting. Aaron's clean vocals are superb. Although he is a better singer at this time, the way the vocals are sung and the melodies in place are breathtaking.

There is a healthy dose of variety. Clean guitars, intricate harmonies, ambient keyboard sections, the dual vocal style, and classically inspired violin sections appear frequently (with every note falling perfectly in place). How rare is it to hear an entire record where every note played by each musician, on every song, sounds flawless to you? Although I have thousands of records I enjoy, I rarely resonate with one to this extent. The interplay between slow sections, the heavy/chunky sections, and the more intense death metal parts contributes to the diverse listening experience even further, although it all works together seamlessly. There is nothing on the album that sounds disjointed, uninspired, or poorly written. You get the feeling that the young men who created this record some 22 years ago were very inspired and creating music without boundaries, paving a new path. As for that weeping violin, the melodies and the note selection are flawless. The violin is so critical to the emotional impact of the record that I can’t quite put its’ impact into words. At times, after ingesting several beers and partying with some friends, I’ve been moved to tears by the record.

The lyrical content tends to match the obscure doom-death style of the guitar riffs. It is cryptic, obscure, very poetic, and often influenced by classic literature. There are often lyrical passages that require you to dig deeper to reveal the true meaning – nothing is obvious, it is all open to interpretation and cloaked in mystery. While the band's lyrics would become much more straightforward and obvious around the Like Gods of the Sun LP (a good record but nowhere near the majesty of Swans), the work here is masterful. You could read the lyrics alone and experience a harrowing journey. I remember reading the CD booklet without listening to the music and being carried away to a beautiful world of frost and melancholy. Despite the darkness and grimness enveloping the record, a feeling of hopefulness somehow bleeds through the fog - listening to this record has always lifted my spirits. As the title of the review indicates, this is an utterly timeless masterpiece.

I died for that moment, one more time - 100%

GardensofGrief, August 22nd, 2013

I die inside every time I hear this album, listening to this album brings back so many emotions and memories that at times becomes hard to bear. This album was the start of it all for me. Turn Loose the Swans was the first doom metal album I ever purchased, I was with my brother at a CD Trade Post a few years ago and he gave me a spending limit, I quickly filled it up but had enough room for one more CD, I wasn't sure what to get I already had nine cds by bands such as Misery Index, Hypocrisy, Meshuggah, and Darkthrone among others, bands I already owned albums of and knew quite well but this one album sparked my interest, the cover and the logo got my attention, I couldn't think of what other album to get so on impulse I decided to pick this one, Turn Loose the Swans.

When I got home this was the first cd I listened to, I popped in the cd and kicked back. The first sounds I heard were pianos and the violin, not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting Metal not classical, I still liked though, the first song is entirely like this and it was very melancholic and atmospheric, but not what I was expecting at all. Then came the next song Your River, by this point I was pretty confused I was wondering what I got myself into. The intro to this song starts of quiet and atmospheric until finally all the other instruments came in and after about four minutes the vocals came in, so sorrowful and bleak. At the point I fell in love, I knew I stumbled across a masterpiece.

This album is different than their debut in that Martin Powell (violins and Piano) is now a full time member and the violins are prominent in every song, this definitely adds to the sound immensely, and helps give the album the melancholy and depressive atmosphere. Another notable change are the vocals, Aaron uses his now signature clean vocal style on this album for the first time which has also since become a trademark of the band, he hasn't abandoned the growls at this point yet, they're still on the album. The music contained within is gothic tinged death doom metal, and is very melancholic and is the earliest example of an album that I can think of that was both crushingly heavy yet melodic and beautiful (except for the likes of Anathema and maybe even early Paradise Lost, which were also experimenting around the same time, both were good but not quite as good as this), other bands might have tried it before but as far as I'm concerned My Dying Bride are the first to pull it off successfully and has since become one of the trademarks of the genre.

There are a total of seven songs on the album, both the album opener and closer are both piano and violin tracks and the five tracks in between are the metal ones. Each track is essential and not a moment is wasted, the opening and outro tracks are both gorgeous and deeply moving. The metal tracks are just as moving, the lyrics are romantic poetry and are quite sad, and they fit the music perfectly. Aaron’s vocals are easily recognizable; I have never heard anybody else that sounds quite like him. His vocal style is deep and sound filled with grief, loss, and depression. The guitars are crushing but also get quite melodic at times too. Most of the songs for the most part are long, two of which surpass the ten minute mark, yet they manage to never get boring which is quite a feat in itself.

I'd say the best song here is Turn Loose the Swans, words cannot describe how brilliant this song truly is and to date is my second favorite MDB song (only beaten by A Sea to Suffer in). The song Turn Loose the Swans is the heaviest song on the album and reaches the ten minute mark, this song predominantly features Aaron's harsh vocals which are very strong throughout the album. This song is so fucking bleak and crushing, in then in the middle portion of the songs the heaviness stops and the sound of rain and the violin come in, moments later Aaron's vocals come in at his most sorrowful, this part gets me every time it is so moving it has even got me shed a tear before very rarely does a song do that to me. Then the song once again reverts back to the crushing despair and Aaron sounds his most violent on the album. The song is perfect just perfect like the entire album. All the songs are good and every note is well thought out.

I honestly cannot praise this album enough to me it is literally one of the few perfect albums I have ever heard. This album opened up a whole genre of metal to me that before I had little interest in, after I heard this album I had to go check out other death doom albums and found so much to love, but this album will always be one of my favorites. This album brings out so many feelings and emotions I have never felt before while listening to music, there is just so much emotion in this album. My opinion might be a little biased, and it might seem like an exaggeration, but to me this album has a lot of personal importance, this for a while was my go to album, I've listened to it countless times, and it still seems fresh to me every spin. Despite all the praise I've given this album it is actually not my favorite My Dying Bride album! Yes in my opinion they release one more album which is just slightly, but only slightly better in my opinion and that would be The Angel and the Dark River, but to me both albums are flawless masterpieces. I give this album the highest recommendation possible.

Turn Loose the Swans - 87%

Noctir, October 12th, 2012

Turn Loose the Swans is the second full-length album from My Dying Bride. Released in October 1993, this album marked only a passing moment in the ever-evolving identity of this band, yet is most often thought of as their 'classic sound'. For a lot of people, this record captured the perfect balance between the raw feeling of the earlier material and the sorrowful approach that would continue to develop. Of course, a critical listen reveals that Turn Loose the Swans was already showing a certain amount of decline in their creative integrity and a good number of flaws the renders this album somewhat ineffectual, compared to that which came before.

The album begins with “Sear Me MCMXIII”, which is a reworked version of a song from the first record. It is somewhat unnecessary and only taints what was accomplished in the past. If the band wanted to start the album out with something similar, they could easily have come up with a different piano intro. Something a bit shorter would have been better, as a lot of listeners may get impatient waiting nearly eight minutes for the first strains of Metal. In fact, the wait would go on even longer.

“Your River” continues the soft flow of weak sounds that had begun with the first song. Finally, after a minute and a half, the long-awaited guitars and mournful violin erupt forth and weave a musical tale of misery and hopelessness. This track does not fully get underway until the halfway point, with a couple pointless riffs that do nothing to add to the sombre atmosphere. Once it gets going, this one provides the listener with a very dreary and lifeless soundscape and will help fuel countless nights of despair. Aaron's clean vocals are not yet fully developed, but they work well enough to convey the appropriate feeling. He returns to the harsh vocals, later in the song, sounding as vicious as ever. It is too bad that more of this style was not implemented on this album, especially on the following track. “The Songless Bird” is rather average, but may have had a better chance without the ill-placed clean vocals during the early verses. The sound is all wrong and does not suit the music, at all.

“The Snow in my Hand” is another one of the better songs on Turn Loose the Swans. The riffs are powerful and imbue you with a feeling of total despair and helplessness. Even discounting the miserable vocals, the music alone is enough to conjure up the image of a man that is near death. The sound heard here is like that of the final moments as all of the blood has rushed from deep wounds and life is soon to cease. There is a mixture of the harsh and clean vocals, as well as some more Death Metal-oriented guitar riffs, giving this one more of a sense of balance. Obviously, the doom riffs and violin passages are what the band had become known for and for good reason, and there is no shortage of either. There is an epic feeling that comes across through all of the bleak melodies and the atmosphere of impending death. While one may feel weak and tired, there is a great sense of relief as the end draws ever-nearer.

The next song is “The Crown of Sympathy”, which clocks in at over twelve minutes. This one possesses more of a gothic feeling, at certain points. It may be slightly longer than it needs to be, but it does well to create a gloomy atmosphere. This track is another that utilizes only clean vocals, yet it works a little better within this context. The closing guitar melody is quite epic and is very memorable.

"For deadened, icy pain covers all the earth"

Following this is the title track, which is the best song on the entire album. It is only a couple minutes shorter than its predecessor, yet feels much more coherent. There is an emphasis on heavy riffs that deliver a crushing doom upon all who listen, while the powerful harsh vocals tear right through your chest. This is reminiscent of the previous album, a style at which My Dying Bride truly excels. The violin slithers in and out, like a poisonous serpent, leaving you ever-weaker and all the more prepared for oblivion. All of the sorrow and regret of an entire lifetime comes crashing down on you, as the song progresses, and it becomes nearly impossible to crawl out from underneath such weight. There is a brief section with clean vocals, which works very well in draining the life from you even more, before the grim end descends upon you with its full fury.

The album ends with “Black God”, which is more of an outro. It features a piano and violin, as well as Aaron's clean vocals and those of a random woman. It is more concise than the first track and serves a similar purpose. In this case, it would seem that they pulled it off a little better with this attempt. This helps to accentuate the utterly hopeless feeling that was pounded into the listener with the previous song.

In the end, Turn Loose the Swans is a very solid album of death / doom, though not without flaws. This would mark the end of an era, for a time, as the next album would go in an even softer direction that would last several years. What listeners can expect from this is a continuation of what began on As the Flower Withers and The Thrash of Naked Limbs. However, despite the number of people that wished for the band's development to end here, this too was but a passing phase in the musical history of My Dying Bride.

Written for

Funereal Masterpiece - 97%

FantomLord17, April 21st, 2012

My Dying Bride present us their second full-length with an impressionist, moody piece artwork adorning its cover. It imparts a feeling of bitter loneliness, of a funereal march, of gray clouds bringing its rain, of being powerless against an imposing darkness, of rage against the god who has abandoned us, of hurtful melancholy for unrequited love. This striking piece of art is indeed representative of the qualities you'll find in this record.

So what's the actual music like? Heavy, melancholic, dark, despairing, atmospheric, pathetic. My Dying Bride use elements like heavy guitar riffs, hateful growls, sorrowful clean vocals, moving keyboard and violin pieces, and immature yet romantic poetry to paint a picture that might seem imperfect on the listener's mind, but incredibly affecting to it's heart. The riffs don't make you want to move your head, they crush you and your hopes against the floor. The vocals aren't sung, they are cried. The lyrics aren't refined or made with the intention of being catchy as much as they are emotions transferred on to paper with ink made of blood and tears.

This is one of those albums that are much more than the sum of its parts. You know that the production could be a bit better. You know that most songs have a similar structure and some elements can get repetitive. You know that 'The Crown of Sympathy' is a bit overlong, that the first few minutes of 'Your River' don't flow perfectly, that the lyrics are awkward attempts at romantic poetry, that 'Sear Me' and 'Black God' aren't even metal songs... yet, somehow, it all works. This is not an album that needs to be understood and analyzed, but FELT. This is not a simple death/doom album, it's a piece of art.

Favorite moments: The hateful intonations of 'The Songless Bird' and it's moving violin piece, the crushing riffs and the longing, romantic lyrics of the title track, the depressing funereal atmosphere of 'The Crown of Sympathy', the sorrowful first verses of 'Your River'...

But do listen to the whole album in one sitting, preferably alone on a cloudy day while reading the lyrics to really be able to appreciate the complete picture.

A Dark and Elegant Masterpiece - 100%

chaos_aquarium, July 5th, 2009

In 1993, doom legends My Dying Bride released what would go on to be one of the most influential albums of the genre and their biggest masterpiece, "Turn Loose the Swans". Where as their previous release "As the Flower Withers" was essentially just slow death metal, "Turn Loose the Swans" really took their music in bold and majestic directions.

The first big change from their debut would be the dominance of clean vocals. Now many may prefer Aarons agonizing gutturals, but his cleans are simply beautiful and fit the music perfectly. His low melancholic voice really adds to the drama and pure essence of sorrow, (and on the track "The Songless Bird", resentment) found throughout the album. Fans of harsh vocals should not fret though, as they are still here and are in top form. Aaron's gutturals are, much like his clean vocals, very distinctive with a certain raw aspect to them that really adds a sinister edge to their music. The way the music plays between the bleak cleans and insidious harshes really adds to the beauty of the album.

The music is both moving and theatric, with Aarons lyrics setting the mood for the entire album. His lyrics should be given special attention, especially on this album, as they take the art form as a whole to a new level with its basis in 18th century poetry.

Another defining aspect of this album (along with many of My Dying Bride's future works) would be the violin. Martin Powell has a very distinctive style, and it is best represented in this album. His style has a very cold, sad and desolate sound which really adds to the power and beauty of the album (as can be seen on the gorgeous album opener "Sear Me MCMXC III" and the haunting closer "Black God", which are both essentially just violin music).

Guitarists Andrew and Calvin create something truly memorable with riffs that range from beautiful and drenched in sorrow (see the opening riff to the title track, “Turn Loose the Swans” as the best example) to being grand and crushing (see the absolutely classic track, "The Crown of Sympathy").

The album has a great flow to it that makes it best listened to as one piece of beautiful flowing music, rather than 7 separate songs. This can only be linked by the masterful song writing on the album with each drum fill, guitar riff, vocal section and violin part being placed in the perfect spot. It may be bold of me to say, but "Turn Loose the Swans" is a dark, elegant, theatric and completely original masterpiece that should be experienced by any fan of doom metal, gothic culture or hell, music and art in general.

No. - 54%

Lunar_Strain, March 25th, 2009

I'm fucking sorry. Really. As much as I've grown to absolutely LOVE [/fanboy] this band over the last year, I can't say I'm at all pleased with their back catalog; releases that are hailed as 'essential' or 'pivotal'.

In all honesty, this just fucking sucks. It may be an early representation of what this band was to BECOME.. but what they WERE (Thankfully) was just a god awful Gothy-doom band. This album was in no way making me feel gloomy or dark. In fact, it generally just pissed me off. Listening to this album pricked at my patience, because all the songs were shitty, and they ALL were ridiculously long. Sure, there were SOME (in this case, very few) moments where I went, "Wow. Not bad. That's pretty awesome!" However, the entire thing was just plain awful in my opinion.

The guitars were really thin. There was really no crunch to them in my eyes, compared to later releases, and even the band's previous album, 'As The Flower Withers', which was an average release, but very heavy compared to their material nowadays. The bass is barely there, so it really doesn't help the thin and sickly guitars at all.

The drums are not that bad. Everything sounds well, and effectively mic'd. The only real issue with them is that there are no good songs on this record. Due to this, they basically go to waste.

Aaron's vocals... how much more displeased can I get? His death metal vocals are fine. I've okay with those, but damn. His singing is atrocious. He's practically whining! When did the singer of Korn join My Dying Bride!? All I want to know is where the melodic, mournful cries of later albums like 'The Dreadful Hours' and 'Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light' went?

If anything... I'd simply avoid this album. It's a Black Sheep within the My Dying Bride discography. Listen to 'As The Flower Withers', 'The Light At The End Of The World' and 'Like Gods Of The Sun' for an introduction to this band's early material. If you're feeling lucky, try '34.788%... Complete' and see if you like it. Despite negativity, I loved it.

As I conclude this review, I am beginning to listen to 'The Angel And The Dark River.' I hope it's not as bad as this album was.

Pretty solid doom/death death/doom. - 77%

caspian, April 23rd, 2008

High on the list of 'bands that I never want to listen to because of the terrible band name', My Dying Bride were a band that I had avoided for quite a long time indeed. It's hard to think about this band (and still is) without thinking of all sorts of pretention and terrible gothicness, for some reason the band's name also brings to mind some terrible sort of faux-Shakespearian attempt at poetry, but I digress. Terrible name, perhaps, but this is pretty good nonetheless.

I guess a good comparison would maybe be a more depressed and much better Opeth; certainly there's some similar elements between the two, but whereas Opeth fail to get any sort of good momentum and flow between their riffs, My Dying Bride manage to give everything a good sense of flow and momentum, changing around with the riffs and offering some li'l bits of flowing, classically inspired clean parts just for shits and giggles. Certainly this sort of 'flowing' sense doesn't always work for the band; the riffs tend to blend in a fair bit together and overall it's not always clear as to which song is which.

Still, as far as problems go it's not that big a deal. My Dying Bride may sound a little bit samey in this album but there's still plenty of good moments. The title track offers a rather tasty selection of powerful doomy death riffs before everything sinks into a slower sort of dirge, where everything gets all the more heavier and despondent. While My Dying Bride are quite good at their faster (albeit still mid tempo) moments, it's when they fully embrace the doom metal that things get seriously good. There's plenty of examples throughout the album, certainly it's no surprise that the deep, (to borrow a phrase off another reviewer) subterranean keyboard break in 'The Crown of Sympathy' is one of the best parts in the album, and the duel guitar 'lead' at the end of the song is also freakin' excellent.

I guess the main problem with this band is that while most of the songs have some truly marvelous moments, with the possible exception of 'Crown of Sympathy' the songs seem to be stuffed with some filler. Again there's Opeth comparisons to be made here; MDB aren't as bad as Opeth when it comes to adding in unnecessary parts but there's certainly some filler riffs and changes that don't need to be there scattered throughout the album- 'The Songless Bird' opens up with a real turd of a riff that has absolutely no reason to exist, and 'The Snow in My Hand' wanders around pointlessly for a few minutes then ends. Combined with Aaron's occasionally awful vocals (main offender being Songless Bird, again), you'd be surprised as to just how much there is to hate here.

However, a panning is definitely saved by some songs and riffs. When My Dying Bride get their formula right it's quite breathtaking indeed. The best songs here have got a very elegant touch to it that for some reason reminds me of Thergothon; no idea why but I guess its, again, the "flowing" nature of MDB's stuff. The best of MDB's stuff flows along at a very dignified, stately pace, and Aaron's excellent lyrics really work in favour of said dignity. It's worth mentioning, again, that "Crown of Sympathy" is an absolute beast of a tune, a rather nice mid tempo doomy beginning flowing (there's that word, AGAIN) into a truly chilling keyboard break with some excellent vocals from Aaron. Sure, the trumpets are shit but the end riff is immensely satisfying, slow doom at it's finest, and overall you can't help but think that it's one of the best songs ever written by anyone. The title track is a similar stunner, albeit in a fiercer, doomy-death style and the symphonic intro and outros are both well worth mentioning, as they're really, really good, the piano and strings combo coming off as quite tasteful and well played.

I guess it also helps that even when MDB are indulging in a bit of filler, or just going through the motions, they still sound quite good. Aaron's angsty/bored vocals get on your nerves occasionally, but they're rarely all that bad. The riffs are sometimes a bit unsatisfying, but I would hardly say that they are offensive- either they're good or you don't really notice that they're there, which isn't that bad a thing. There's no place here where My Dying Bride drop below the "average" sort of quality; it's all either really really good or somewhat mediocre but still quite ok, and while that's not a good thing I don't really have much of a problem with it.

To conclude, then. I quite enjoyed this album, it's got some excellent stuff and it's quite solid all round. Recommended if you like your Doom deathy or your death doomy, although chances are you've already got this if you like this genre.

Turn Loose The Swans - 91%

torn, May 1st, 2005

My Dying Bride are one of those bands that, like Opeth, seem to loathe the idea of actually ending a song. Even the mostly instrumental opening track draws close to eight minutes in length. A problem? Not when the songs are crafted as well as those contained on Turn Loosed The Swans. The music here is mesmerising, alternating between soaring beauty, pummelling aggression and suicidal melancholy, and often managing all three at once.
It must be said that it is hard to pick out any particular highlights, as this works as an album rather than seven separate songs. The one exception is 'The Crown Of Sympathy', the album's desolate centrepiece, which is enough to take the smile off the face of someone who has just won the lottery. It is a woeful abyss of haunting, funeral march riffs, painfully slow drumming, and vocals that are so lifeless they sound like a desperate cry from beyond the grave.
Across the whole album, it's the variation that raises this above other misery - metal outfits. Not content to merely wallow in grief all the time, there is a fair bit of anger to be found here as well.
Also worthy of mention are Aaron's exquisite lyrics. With lines such as "We dance and the music dies", and "Couple your name with cruelty, the mother of dying children", he creates a darkly romantic yet desperately bitter atmosphere. If hearts could speak, they would sing these songs as they break.

Beautiful and dark. - 92%

BabySchraiberJesus, October 11th, 2003

A long time ago, I didn't like My Dying Bride. Everytime I pop this CD in, I wonder what the hell was wrong with me. This disc is simply a masterpiece of grief. When you're depressed, listen to this. You'll think they wrote it just for you. From killer vocals to violin, this CD has it all.

Yeah, the violin. If MDB is famous for something, it's for having a live violin player on their earlier albums. And, while he's not there all that much, it's the moments when that piercing sound comes that you really know that this CD is something. The openning song is, in fact, just violin and keyboard, so you get a taste right at the beginning. However, at times the violin sounds a bit keyboard-esque, so it makes me wonder...

The riffs on this album are for the most part incredibly solid, very emotional, and at times beautiful. The guitar when the vocals start in Your River is enough to make someone cry, I think. However, at times the riffs seem uninspired. On what I consider the worst track on the album, Turn Loose the Swans (i.e. the title track), the guitar riffs are just kinda... there. They get better near the end of the song, however. The riffs on this album go between heavy, slow power chords, and some beautifully picked slow (though often times still super distorted) parts, mixed in with some off riffs that one would be likely to find in a prog metal band, rather than just a doom metal band. Hrm, maybe that means something about MDB.

Aaron's vocals are something people either love or hate. On this album, I love them. His clean vocals are deep, not whiney, but still very powerful. His growls are sharp, intense, and convey the contrast between the beauty and harshness perfectly. The lyrics are... odd. Most of it seems to just be stream of consciousness, not really having coherence, but it somehow fits within the contexts of the songs.

I must make a quick metion of the drums, which I find quite enjoyable. Well played, and precise (precision is incredibly important when the music is this slow!). Their production is slighly weird however, and they can sound oddly like a person shouting... but maybe that's only me.

Simply put, this album is the epitome of doom, of depression, of beauty. If you want a good doom album, this is it. Beautiful, and dark... nothing is better!

"Dark beauty and cold power" - 91%

Voice_of_Unreason, June 13th, 2003

This album is just utterly enthralling, for every second of its length it holds the listeners attention with its dark beauty and cold power. Each of the seven songs are notable in themselves but 'Turn…' must be listened to as a whole to be fully appreciated.

The first and last tracks, 'Sear Me MCMXIII' and 'Black God', feature not a single note played by guitar, bass or drums, instead relying on sombre piano and violin melodies to drive the songs. Aaron’s dark, poetic lyrics are delivered in a low singing voice that perfectly fits the tone of the songs. When the guitars do appear they are slow and crushing but carry the melody of each song brilliantly, each riff is given time to grow and breath before changing to keep the song moving. Nothing outstays it’s welcome and despite the bands tendency to repeat passages everything stays sounding fresh even after extreme repetition.

This is especially important due to the mostly slow pace of the songs, even when MDB choose to speed up slightly as they do on 'The Songless bird' you can be sure that a snail-paced doomy part is never far away. The atmosphere is kept consistently melancholic and bitter throughout; the lyrics vary between tales of love, insanity and pain, as well some vicious attacks on Christianity. As far as metal lyrics go these are some of the most memorable I have heard, and give depth and weight to the music around them. Aaron’s delivery is certainly an acquired taste, his clean voice is a bit weak at times but this seems to actually add to the sorrowful atmosphere and it fits the lyrics perfectly.

Each instrument holds it’s own and the musicians show considerable skill without ever feeling the need to go off on a “technical” session which would detract from the overall impact of the material. The utilisation of the violin in the mix as a main instrument is one factor that sets MDB apart from their peers. Unfortunately in modern times we have become accustomed to hideously cheesy string arrangements from many terrible bands, but here we can see what it can sound like if done properly. Martin’s slow tragic melodies complement the riffs and bring the music a strangely relaxing feel, but not in a puts-you-to-sleep way.

The production deserves a mention for the clarity and quality of each instrument within the overall mix. The drums may be slightly too quiet in places but this is not obvious and most of the time they propel the songs where they are going without just becoming background noise. All the songs are of similar quality in their song writing and individual performances but my favourites would have to be 'Your river' and 'The crown of sympathy' simply because they seem to combine the aggressive and melodic sides of the band most seamlessly switching from harsh to haunting at a moments notice.

This album is the highlight of a prestigious career and a landmark for the doom genre as a whole. If it’s not in your collection, shame on you.