There are four bands I could not live without, and the doom and despair of My Dying Bride is at the top of that list. For decades, they have been darkening the musical world with their unique brand of metal, and each of their albums has wrenched my heart and filled it with darkness.
They began their career in the early nineties, releasing the groundbreaking As the Flower Withers in 1992. Though the influence of eighties death metal is still apparent here, striking songs such as Sear Me and The Return of the Beautiful stand out as a preview for what was to come: slow, haunting and utterly crushing with the weight of darkness.
The follow-up, 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans, set the stage for the rest of their career. Gone were the fast death metal riffs, and for the first time we heard Aaron Stainthorpe’s wonderful, gloomy and heartbreaking voice, coupled with the dark growls of their death metal roots. What we were left with was the epitome of doom metal.
The Angel and the Dark River, in 1995, continued the melodic, atmospheric trend, and dispensed with growled vocals entirely. The violin, which had been a mainstay of their lineup since the very beginning, became ever more prominent, and the band were clearly leaping from strength to strength.
And then, in 1996, they released Like Gods of the Sun. To this day, this remains a masterpiece of doom metal, and it was here, on their fourth album, that we could see all the pieces finally come together. Crushing yet memorable, songs such as the title track, Grace Unhearing, and For You envelop the listener in a black, dark world of sound. Words of darkness and despair sweep around you, speaking of evil, pain and sadness:
Falling, drowning, deeper and forever
Choking, sinking, deeper into this ocean
Screaming, crying, for someone to save me
Reaching, hoping, calling to no one
Grace Unhearing – My Dying Bride, 1996
As we finally approach the ending of the album, the exceptionally dark It Will Come gives way seamlessly to the brilliant Here in the Throat. With its sudden change of rhythm halfway through, it pounds relentlessly onwards, drawing you inexorably towards the final, inevitable conclusion.
Except it doesn’t end there. After an album of doom, darkness and heaviness, something entirely other suddenly soothes its way through the speakers. Entering with haunting beauty – only synth and violin – the weeping, tragic For My Fallen Angel brings the album to the only close it could have possibly had. A three-stanza spoken poem, it swirls around you, and as the final notes linger, and then finally fade to silence, you feel as though there is nothing left in all the world, and you are left in eternal, silent darkness; a soothing, warm oblivion that will take you away forever.
This album was such a mirror for my own state of mind at the time that it has become inextricably linked to the darkest of thoughts for me. It played endlessly through sleepless, gothic, depressed nights, when candles burned down around me and the scent of blood rose in the air.