My Dying Bride - _The Dreadful Hours_
by: Pedro Azevedo (
It certainly is a great feeling when one of your favourite bands has returned from the mire in fine form. In this case, My Dying Bride, who were reborn with the fine _The Light at the End of the World_ [CoC #44] and now improve upon it with a darker, deeper album that showcases much of the band's history while adding renewed freshness and intensity to their craft. _The Dreadful Hours_ shows clear traces of all its predecessors since day one, while showcasing the band's finely honed skills in a renewed sound, and at times also a subtly different approach. Aaron Stainthorpe's clean vocals were already quite unique, but when added to his thunderous death vocals and his newfound penchant for harsh blackened roars, the result is successively broken-hearted, cavernous and demonic -- outstanding. Few vocalists can excel in any one of these categories; Aaron currently excels in all three of them. My promo copy doesn't have a lyrics sheet, but Aaron's lyrics seem to range from potentially interesting to rather pedestrian this time. Aided by the skilled and very appropriate drum work, the guitarists prove themselves equally adept at slow mournful melodies and crushing doom/death riffs: Andrew Craighan's talent has been known for many years with MDB, whilst Hamish Glencross seems a very successful replacement for Calvin Robertshaw, and bassist Adrian Jackson is as usual a brooding background presence. The keyboard work belies the fact that Yasmin Ahmid is just a session keyboardist; dark and haunting, mostly subdued, but very effective. The venom in My Dying Bride's music has been much increased recently, and the doom kept intact -- a contrast that works wonders. The opening title track exemplifies the way My Dying Bride are growing within the sound that is their own: opening with a smart combination of a slow acoustic guitar and a second mournful guitar upon a soundscape of rainfall, the song then develops into a guitar and violin-like synth dirge with Aaron's sorrowful vocals. Chillingly atmospheric and emotional, the song temporarily goes back to the opening combination only to make way for a strong riff and Aaron's combination of deep and screamed growls; majestic keyboards briefly augment this in the background... Suddenly, five minutes are gone in what seemed like an instant, before the song moves onto another, equally engaging section, and culminates with the sound of thunder before it dies away like it started. This is _The Dreadful Hours_ at its best: flowing gracefully from one excellent passage into another, drenched with atmosphere, masterfully transmitting sorrow and wrath. The second track, "The Raven and the Rose", continues the album in equally remarkable fashion, mixing slow doom, an excellent blastbeat passage and a mournful piano sequence towards the end, all accompanied by a varied and superb vocal performance. It is then followed by "Le Figlie Della Tempesta", a more tranquil song that brings to mind the hypnotic structure of "The Cry of Mankind". Fourth track "Black Heart Romance" has a melancholic beginning with alternating whispered and clean deep vocals, and after a short but effective atmospheric passage mutates into a harsher mid-paced piece, before briefly returning to the opening sequence again. "A Cruel Taste of Winter" again begins in a melancholic, romantic way, and so it stays until its superbly baleful mid-section; most of this song tends to drag somewhat, though, and it practically repeats itself after that mid-section. Sixth track "My Hope, the Destroyer" has a strong _Like Gods of the Sun_ feel, until it yet again evolves into a harsher beast altogether midway through; instead of simply repeating itself, however, it then goes into some nice guitar melodies accompanied by the rather pedestrian lyrics I mentioned before. For a change, "The Deepest of All Hearts" has a harsh beginning and then moves along carried by an impressive sequence of doomy guitar leads and sombre vocals. This eight track, 70 minute album ends with a 14 minute reworking of "Return of the Beautiful" from MDB's debut full-length -- and a very worthwhile effort it is, adding much to this fine doom/death epic. Clearly, not all of the album is quite as outstanding as the opening couple of tracks (which would have been worth a 10 out of 10 on their own), but the variety is considerable and the next moment of inspiration is never too far away. I was delighted with the direction the band took with _The Light at the End of the World_; but _The Dreadful Hours_ is a stronger, more impressive effort that builds on its predecessor's qualities to become a superb slab of darkly romantic doom/death and one of the very best doom metal albums in several years.
(article published 19/10/2001)
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