Music I Love: “Like Gods of the Sun”, My Dying Bride (1996)

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 trackGrace 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.

Tales of Despair: The Light at the End of the World

I have spoken of My Dying Bride before in this series, but their canon of despair is vast, and bears revisiting. Here is a tale of utter wretchedness, loneliness, bitterness and despair.

Imagine, for a moment, the abyss of complete isolation. Alone, upon an isle, lost at the end of the world. The sole companion – a light, that burns for no man.

Now consider the wretchedness of the memories of her, of the love that completed you, that made your heart whole, and the bitter knowledge that she is forever gone. Gone, to the winds, dust to the ground, and your fate is to live forever alone, never to be redeemed. Such have the gods done to you.

And the dreams, and the thoughts of madness. Sometimes, the sight of home behind closed eyes, the green trees and the laughter; sometimes, the waking to madness, the knowledge that such a past is forever gone. And sometimes, the bird visits; taunts, tells of life, and raises hope – only to dash it, like the water upon the rocks.

And then, just as the torment becomes the day and the night, to be expected forevermore – the gods bring mercy, and hope beyond hope! They make an offer: to spend one, single night with the woman, the long lost love. But oh, there is a price; this one night would seal the fate of eternity alone, until the ending of life.

Would you take it? Would you throw your hopes to the rocks, for one night with her?

The agony, the soul-crushing blackness, to wake the morning, and to find – after that one, oh-so-brief night – that she is gone. And gone, now and then, for ever, and ever. The doom, the screams, the despair.

Such is the terrible fate of the man who tends the light at the end of the world.

An isle, a bright shining isle

stands forever, alone in the sea.

Of rock and of sand and grass

and shade, the isle bereft of trees.

Small.  A speck in the wide blue sea.  ’Tis the last of all the land.  A dweller upon our lonesome isle, the last, lonely man?

By the Gods he is there to never leave, to remain all his life.  His punishment for evermore, to attend the eternal light.

The lighthouse, tall and brilliant white, which stands at the end of the world.  Protecting ships and sailors too, from rocks they could be hurled.

Yet nothing comes and nothing

goes ’cept the bright blue sea.

Which stretches near and far

away, ’tis all our man can see.

Though, one day, up high on

rock, a bird did perch and cry.

An albatross, he shot a glance.

and wondered deeply, why?

Could it be a watcher sent?

A curse sent from the gods.

who sits and cries and stares at him,

the life that they have robbed.

Each year it comes to watch

over him, the creature from above.

Not a curse but a reminder of

the woman that he loved.

On weary nights, under stars,

he’d often lay and gaze.

Up toward the moon and stars.

The sun’s dying haze.

Time and again, Orion’s light

filled our man with joy.

Within the belt, he’d see his love,

remembering her voice.

The twinkle from the stars above,

bled peace into his heart.

As long as she looks down on him,

he knows they’ll never part.

One day good, one day bad.

The madness, the heat, the sun.

Out to sea, he spies upon land.

His beloved Albion.

Cliffs of white and trees of green.

Children run and play.

“My home land,” he cries and weeps,

“why so far away?”

Eyes sore and red.  Filled with tears,

he runs toward the sea.

To risk his life, a worthy cause,

for home he would be.

Into the sea, deep and blue,

the waters wash him clean.

Awake.  He screams.  Cold with sweat.

And Albion a dream.

Such is life upon the isle,

of torment and woe.

One day good.  One day bad.

And some days even hope.

The light at the end of the world

burns bright for mile and mile and mile.

Yet tends the man, its golden glow,

in misery all the while?

For fifty years he stands and waits,

atop the light, alone.

Looking down upon his isle

the Gods have made his home.

The watcher at the end of the world

through misery does defile.

Remembers back to that single night

and allows a tiny smile.

(His sacrifice was not so great,

he insists upon the world.

Again he would crime,

Again he would pay

for one moment with the girl.)

Her hair, long and black it shone.

The dark, beauty of her eyes.

Olive skin and warm embrace,

her memory never dies.

’Twas years ago, he remembers clear

the life they once did live.

Endless love and lust for life,

they promised each would give.

Alas, such love and laughter too,

was short as panting breath.

For one dark night, her soul was kissed,

by the shade of death.

(Agony, like none before,

was suffered by our man)

who tends the light now burning bright

on the very last of land.

(Anger raged and misery too

like nothing ever before.)

He cursed the Gods and man and life,

and at his heart he tore.

A deity felt sympathy

and threw our man a light.

“Your woman you may see again

for a single night.

But think hard and well young man,

there is a price to pay:

to tend the light at the end of the world

is where you must stay.

Away from man and life and love.

Alone you will be.

On a tiny isle.  A bright shining isle

in the middle of the sea.”

“I’ll tend the light, for one more night

with the woman whom I love,”

screamed the man, with tearful eyes,

to the deity above.

And so it was that very night,

his lover did return.

To his arms and to their bed,

together they did turn.

In deepest love and lust and passion,

entwined they did fall.

Lost within each other’s arms,

they danced (in lover’s hall.)

Long was the night and filled with love.

For them the world was done.

Awoke he did to brightest light,

his woman and life had gone.

To his feet he leapt.  To the sea he looked.

To the lighthouse on the stone.

The price is paid and from now on

he lives forever alone.

Fifty years have passed since then

and not a soul has he seen.

But his woman lives with him still

in every single dream.

’Tis sad to hear how young love has died,

to know that, alone, someone has cried.

But memories are ours to keep.

To live them again, in our sleep.

My Dying Bride – The Light at the End of the World