As I reread a lot of my work on this journal, it occurs to me that it often swings back and forth between media and political musings. This is for a reason. Put simply, I have a very low supply left of patience for examples of normalist prejudice, and getting bombarded with such day in and day out means sometimes I need to blow off steam by sharing examples of good and unusual media. Usually, those two words, good and unusual, come together.
But first, a guarded apology to someone I blew up at earlier today. Yes, my reaction was inappropriate and nasty. But what I was reacting to fits the same description. You do not encourage people in an audience, however big or small, to “shun” a character who basically is the autistic adult portraying him, without him reacting badly. It is like pointing a gun at a police officer and expecting them to not draw one in return if they can. Having said all of that, maybe we can put that behind us in time. But you can also rest assured that I will not ever forget it. As I have written in previous articles, a teacher did something similar during my earlier years of schooling, and I still dwell on it the best part of three decades later.
So this brings me to the subject of the article people are reading now. I first heard the British art-doom metal band My DyING BRIDE late in 1992 or early in 1993. A little late to the party, I am sure some will agree, but at that time, and with the fact that the Internet was still a techie-only thing for the most part, I am sure most will agree that at that time it was a case of better late than not at all.
But as good as the first handfuls of releases by the band were, things started to go a little sour in the mid-1990s. I did not notice it at first. I was still in the midst of getting reacquainted with the musical form that was destined to haunt my ears for the rest of my life. The fact that I also had a sense of latch-on attachment to My DyING BRIDE as an example of how to make music did not help my critical listening skills at all, either. But in 1998, they proceeded to release an album that, the first two songs aside, was so godawful that the fourth song even caused me to spit out my drink and scream that this was the kind of bullshit I got into this band to avoid. To clarify, on three of the four previous albums, and all of three previous EPs, I could count the number of times vocalist Aaron repeated himself on my fingers. So to hear words like “nah nah nah yeah yeah yeah” coming out of my speakers during what was already proving a distinctly tedious listen really destroyed my faith in My DyING BRIDE. Which brings me to the question I am sure people who are seeking an introduction to the world of the music I most avail myself to want answered. Specifically, which My DyING BRIDE albums should I listen to repeatedly, and which should I avoid?
The short version of the answer is that if I do not mention an album, song, or other piece in this article, avoid it. I will be mentioning songs off certain albums, whilst stating the album itself is… shall we say, not a good listen. Avoid those albums and get the songs from them any way you can. If you have a friend with the album in question, get them to make a FLAC of the song. Oh, and yeah, FLAC, people. MP3 is a chickenshit algorithm that cannot handle drums, bass, twin guitars, keyboards, violin, and vocals. It barely handles drums, bass, and a singular guitar.
The first album by My DyING BRIDE is both sort of where and not where I recommend you start if you want to dip your toes into their catalogue. It is a great album, but if you do not already have some previous familiarity with doom metal or underground music in general, it may give a falsely bad first impression. Like a lot of first albums from bands that are not la-la-lollipop guild crap, there are problems and deficiencies in the production. Once you listen past those, however, you are rewarded with something that, whilst borrowing a lot of elements from bands that have come before, also put a very unique and new spin on them.
As The Flower Withers has three stand-out songs. After an instrumental introduction called Silent Dance, the first, Sear Me, begins with a slow, militaristic drum pattern that, in combination with slow, grinding bass notes, urgent, distressed-sounding guitars, and a violin that resembles sustained, distressed screams. Yes, the Latin in which Aaron vocalises over the top is poorly-structured and grammatically illiterate, but he could use the defense that he was putting together the words for their sounds rather than exact meaning. The Bitterness And The Bereavement is another stand-out song, for reasons that you just have to hear to understand. But the crowning gem on As The Flower Withers is the thirteen-minute epic entitled The Return Of The Beautiful. A narrative in song format from the perspective of a warrior going to battle, it has served as part of the inspiration for some of my writings.
My DyING BRIDE‘s second album, Turn Loose The Swans, has often been considered their best by multiple sources. This position has a lot of merit, with a couple of subtle qualifiers. Namely, the first and last songs on the disc. Sear Me MCMXCIII is basically seven minutes of keyboard and violin noodling that never builds into anything, and Black God is a classic example of going out with a whimper rather than a bang.
The songs betwixt these two offenders, however, hoo boy. Your River starts off a little slowly with a clean guitar intro that has a slight delay. I love this guitar intro. For a brief period whilst trying to learn to play a guitar, I even learned to play this part of the song. Having learned all of the parts of the song on the bass guitar, I can tell you without so much as a stutter that if you think the songs on the radio, top 40, or idiotTunes’ promotions are the most complex or skilled to play, you are seriously deluding yourself. The Songless Bird and The Snow In My Hand deliver a one-two knockout punch that cannot be described with words on a screen. The Crown Of Sympathy is a little slow, some would even argue overlong, but one does not forget it easily. Ditto for the titular song, Turn Loose The Swans.
In 1995, My DyING BRIDE released two discs. The first is an album called The Angel And The Dark River. With the exception of a song called A Sea To Suffer In, and maybe Your Shameful Heaven if you are so inclined, you can go the rest of your life without hearing this album and not miss a thing. But the other disc My DyING BRIDE released that year, Trinity, is an essential.
Between 1991 and 1994, My DyING BRIDE released three EPs as part of their contract with Peaceville Records. In order, these are Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium (“the symphony of the burning empire”), The Thrash Of Naked Limbs, and I Am The Bloody Earth. The third has a certain signs-of-problems element to it, but they were all compiled more or less into Trinity after being deleted. The titular songs from each EP justify the price of purchase on their own. Having learned to play I Am The Bloody On Earth on bass and guitar, I can heartily testify that Trinity’s content exemplifies why I abandoned radio/pop/whatever completely in favour of doom metal during my teens. I cannot remember whether The Thrash Of Naked Limbs or its b-side Gather Me Up Forever is the very first My DyING BRIDE song I ever heard, but it was a case of love at first reception.
One of the hidden treasures of My DyING BRIDE‘s catalogue that is not so easy to track down is one of the b-sides from I Am The Bloody Earth. For reasons the band never elaborated on, they allowed one of the members of G.G.F.H. to remix parts of the Turn Loose The Swans album into a dance song. No, I am not making that up. Whilst the song does wear its welcome thin at times, the novelty of hearing Aaron state that if he lives, we will be sorry repeatedly whilst pounding drums and guitar loops evoke images of people gyrating and doing nasty things in the background takes time to wear out. So if you can find Transcending (Into The Exquisite) in any format online, the severe difficulty of finding it by legitimate means gives you carte blanche to download it as far as I am concerned.
Like Gods Of The Sun and especially 34.788%… Complete can both be summed up very simply. One or two good songs on each album, ditch the rest. Like Gods Of The Sun and For You are good songs that are more in line with the My DyING BRIDE we knew and loved. The Whore, The Cook, And The Mother and The Stance Of Evander Sinque, whilst veering far away from that in cosmetic stylings, at least retain the good playing and good arrangements that were My DyING BRIDE‘s trademarks up to that point. Ditch the rest. (Oh, and the song Like Gods Of The Sun proves that in spite of their protests otherwise, My DyING BRIDE have been listening to at least one Black Sabbath record very carefully.)
In 1999 and 2001, My DyING BRIDE released two more albums that restored my faith in them for a brief period. The first is The Light At The End Of The World. Whilst I cannot state one or another song is particularly better than the rest, Into The Lake Of Ghosts and The Isis Script are especially good examples of why I listen to the band. Specifically, because they stimulate rather than depress the imaginative and cognitive processes of my brain. The other seven songs, with one exception, are also masterful examples of doom metal at its finest, even if The Night He Died is a little bit out of whack for a reason I will get into shortly. Sear Me III, as I am sure you can guess, generally gets left out of transfers and playlists when I make them up.
One problem with versions of The Light At The End Of The World that I have listened to is the production. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, whomever was at the mixing desk that day decided that all of Ade‘s bass tracks should have a reverberation on them that makes the lower notes in the songs “throb” unpleasantly a lot of the time, especially during power chords. Whether this came about by mistake or deliberately is irrelevant. Unless someone knows an exact way to adjust the songs’ equaliser levels in order to correct the problem, The Light At The End Of The World is often the most unpleasant of My DyING BRIDE‘s good albums to listen to.
If you twist my arm hard enough, I will tell you that The Dreadful Hours is my favourite My DyING BRIDE album to date. Given their recent releases, I expect that to remain the case forever. For one thing, it is the most consistent in quality terms. No sleep-inducing tracks at the beginning and end, no peaks or valleys. It is all just one big peak. It is My DyING BRIDE‘s Paranoid. An album so powerful that regardless of whatever else the band does or says, you always remember it for its boatload of awesome.
The first song on the album, after which it is named, tells a tale of infanticide from the perspective of the child, the father, and the mother. This song is especially unsettling to me because when I first heard it, I stop and think “with some modifiers, this could have been me”. It is even more so now because when I reflect on how neglectful the part of the world I am shoved into has been and remains with me, not only do I think this could have been my life, I honestly wish that it had been. And that is just one nine and a half-minute song.
As I have hinted, just one song on The Dreadful Hours by itself contains more awesome than most bands (especially ones that are not doom or black metal) manage in their entire careers. The Raven And The Rose is a good example, but my favourite other than the titular opener is A Cruel Taste Of Winter. Even the weakest song on the album (in my view… others differ), The Return To The Beautiful, is pure awesome. It does bear some examination, however. You see, from time to time, My DyING BRIDE like to recycle old songs. In the case of songs like The Bitterness And The Bereavement and its basis in Unreleased Bitterness, this can be understandable. Unreleased Bitterness was a song previously only released on seven-inch, with production that DarkThrone would turn their noses up at, and thus would make any band want to try again. But two “remakes”, both substantially less in artistic terms, of Sear Me? Come on, guys.
The Return To The Beautiful is the exception that, unfortunately, proves the rule. For slightly less than fourteen and a half minutes, it retells the story of a warrior going off to battle, returning to the woman he left behind in order to do so, and so forth. As a cap on an impossibly powerful album, it is gold in sonic form.
Unfortunately, The Dreadful Hours is also the last good album that My DyING BRIDE have released to date. In the eleven intervening years (so far), they have released Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light (yup, they really called this album that instead of some of the proposed titles I heard beforehand, such as The Thirteenth Chapter), A Line Of Deathless Kings, and For Lies I Sire. The first of those has a song called The Prize Of Beauty that would be perfect if not for the shitty choices of words to sing over the music that Aaron continues to make. The second has… well, something. Deeper Down might qualify as a good listen, but Aaron‘s words bring it down in an even worse manner.
In fact, this is a good time to talk about some of the problems that plague My DyING BRIDE, and have been doing so for some time now. Digby Pearson, founder of Earache Records, once wrote in his journal that when a band brings a collection of written songs in to be turned into an album, he likes them to have more than is absolutely necessary so that the best of the lot can be filtered onto the finished record. Not in that exact wording, but close enough as makes no odds. My DyING BRIDE have stated in the press on several occasions that they just bring in however many songs they believe they will put on the finished album and whack them on. Adding to the problem is that Aaron has stated since press for the Like Gods Of The Sun album that he has difficulty continuing to come up with words to put over the top of the music. And it shows. The Night He Died tries to come up with an intense internal psychological debate, but comes across as something a ten year old would write on the subject.
Hence, there is only one song that is slightly more than four and a half minutes (this is in itself unusual for My DyING BRIDE) that is actually good on For Lies I Sire. That song is called Shadowhaunt. That equates to a ratio between good song and filler of less than one to ten. For Lies I Sire‘s total running length is somewhere above fifty-nine minutes in case you were wondering how I arrived at that ratio.
Now, I know what some long-time fans of both doom metal and My DyING BRIDE are going to come at me with in response to this writing. That I am shitting on albums like 34.788%… Complete or Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light because they do not perfectly match my expectations. Whilst I recognise that this is a legitimate line of inquiry, the statement in itself does not match the reality. As anyone who has read my writings about other musicians such as Fantômas in the past can attest, defiance of expectations can be a good thing when it is done well. Say what you will about Fantômas and their compositional technique of mixing Mike Patton making fart noises with pounding robotic rhythms to make a song, but such defied my expectations in a good way. Fantômas also appeals to me far more now than My DyING BRIDE does precisely because they have a sense of moderation. Instead of “we need to fill an album”, their guiding philosophy seems to be “does this work in a peculiar way?”.
The problem with My DyING BRIDE, in a nutshell, is that irrespective of what they try, even when it is something that they have done several times in the past, it fails to work more often than not. This goes back to the problem with bringing the bare minimum amount of songs to make the projected album into the recording sessions. I suspect it goes a little beyond that, however. I believe that part of the problem is a distinct lack of discrimination in the songwriting process. Aaron‘s seeming to throw whatever verse he comes up with first into the song reflects the manner in which the guitarists, one of whom is to varying degrees the main songwriter, seem to throw things together on a first-come, first-served basis.
Not helping matters is that for a period, My DyING BRIDE seemed determined to get an album out every other year. If one looks at the intervals between their most disappointing albums, one used to see a gap of a mere year. This is especially worrying given that the last trilogy of monumental disappointments, Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light, A Line Of Deathless Kings, and For Lies I Sire, have been two and three years. This makes me quite unenthusiastic to hear the forthcoming album, ironically titled A Map Of All Our Failures, when it is released in the middle of this October.
We will see how I feel sometime in the second half of October, I guess. Assuming I make it that far.