Probably the most appealing thing about Yorkshire gloom merchants My Dying Bride – apart from their monolithically heavy doom metal sound – is the fact that they are so resolutely anti-commercial in their outlook. It’s been a constant throughout their career and is an admirable thing; even when their spiritual brothers Paradise Lost and Anathema changed direction and left the metal underground, My Dying Bride cleaned up their production a little, dropped the death growls (albeit temporarily) but still basically ploughed the same gothic furrow, mixing dark poetry, melancholic riffs and a sense of despair that has made them quite unique in the field of extreme metal.
Not that they’ve ever stagnated, because each album comes with enough subtle twists to mark it out from the last, but it would be fair to say that latest album “A Map of All Our Failures” is another slab of mournful doom that fans of their more-refined recent albums will lap up. After the relatively experimental leanings of their last couple of releases – the orchestral re-recordings album “Evinta” and the 27-minute, one-track “The Barghest O’Whitby” EP – the band have returned to more familiar metallic territory, with opening track ‘Kneel Till Doomsday’ being one of the finest tracks the band has put out for a while. Beginning with a tolling bell (like all the best metal songs do) the lumbering guitars and Aaron Stainthorpe’s aching croon roll in like old friends offering a shoulder to cry on at a funeral before, at approximately 1:45 into the track, the pace is upped and the band savagely attack their instruments in a similar way to ‘Your Shameful Heaven’ from 1995’s “The Angel & The Dark River”, only harder and heavier, and that’s before the blast-beats and snarled vocals come along to finish the job.
‘The Poorest Waltz’ – at 5:08 the shortest song here – is probably the defining track on the album, Stainthorpe’s vocals changing from wailing harmonies to creeping whisper amidst the throbbing violins and chugging guitars, all perfectly paced and funereal to the extreme.
As with all of My Dying Bride’s albums the songs are long, winding and epic, and not something you can dip into lightly, which means you have to spend time with it, immerse yourself in it and experience the gloomy journey the band wish to take you on. Once you can give yourself to that there are many treasures to be discovered in amongst the layers of perpetual misery. How it ranks amongst their extensive back catalogue only time will tell, but for now it’s safe to say it definitely doesn’t do their legacy any harm.