My Dying Bride 
Songs of Darkness, Words of Light
/peaceville; 2004/



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I'm not really familiar with  My Dying Bride, to be honest, it's the first time I have one of their albums in my hands. "Songs of Darkness, Words of Light" is their 8th release and undeniably they have achieved a kind of maturity. The sound is good, I like it, the voice is clearly in front of all the instruments, that's important as it plays a great part in the building of their atmospheres, besides the singer's voice is really good and it would be a shame not to hear it perfectly.

The voice of Aaron Stainthorpe is totally haunting, just as I like them, it reminds me sometimes of Joy Division, but it's probably more in the way of singing than in the voice itself. One thing that is striking is their Britishness, Americans wouldn't know how to capture the atmosphere of this record. It's sad, gloomy, depressed, grim and so beautiful in one and in the same time. The second song, for example, "The Scarlet Garden" is really really good, I hope they will release it as a single. The third song "Catherine Blake" is one of the best as well, it has a calm black part with a voice reminiscent of Satyr, the singer of Satyricon.

The first four songs link up very well, as if they were connected, and as the album has only eight songs, it's already half of it which is really good. The other four songs make also a kind of chapter together. The album is thus divided into two parts, the second part being as sad as the first one but being as well a little bit more rhythmical. They have paid great attention to the lyrics, they are rooted in the XIXth century gothic literature, there is something of Poe in their universe, see by yourself: "I hope you fall/ hope you call/ my filthy name/ it makes you crawl/ on your knees/ (...) are you alive my dear, and breathing/ are you deceased my dear, and bleeding/ (...) goodbye my dear/ you wicked thing/ I have no tear/ beautiful thing/ (...) so ends this tale/ you did not win. These lines are from "The Scarlet Garden" and they are totally insane. Reading them is a thing, but hearing them sung by Stainthorpe is another deal, he embodies them perfectly, just as if he had actually lived the story, maybe he has.

Their Black Metal side is totally diffused and when it shows, most of the time, the thing that makes me think about Black Metal is mainly the voice, because the music stays quite soft, this proves that hey have matured as their style in the beginning was Death Metal, they have managed to turn their violence into gloomy atmosphere. That's probably why they are on Peaceville Records, home of Black Metal pionner Darkthrone. The singer has kept something in his voice that is very aggressive at times, and you can feel that there is always a moment where the songs can turn into a violent blast. But they stay on the threshold, they manage to keep their balance between Black and Doom Metal. I think it would be too easy for them to totally free their violent side, by holding it inside, they manage to create these strange atmospheres, they manage to keep you waiting for something that never happens. In fact, in the beginning I was a bit decieved because of this softness, this lack of outburst of violence, it's because I hadn't sensed the romantic side of the songs. The songs are all gifted with a spirit, some songs could easily be on the score of a movie such as "Wuthering Heights", and I can easily imagine Heathcliff holding Catherine in his arms in the cemetary while I listen to "A Doomed Lover" for example, I don't know if you see the scene, but it's awesome. I was speaking with Angus Anderson a few days ago, and he was deploring the lack of aggressiveness and the fact that the songs are a bit long. I told him, "my friend, when it comes to violence in music, you know where I stand, but here, violence or aggresiveness have nothing to do with My Dying Bride, that's what annoys you, it's a metal band, and it's not violent. I think you haven't perceived the violence, because there is one. It lays more in the feelings conveyed by the music than by the music itself". I don't remember if I said this with these words and if you ask him, he'd probably say that we never talked about that, but what I wanted to say was that even if the drummer uses his double bass drum from times to times, he does it in a way that serves the atmosphere and not the violent side of the song. It's not easy to explain.

One of my favourite song on the album is "My Wine In Silence", a kind of ballad, with a sweet soft introduction. And the voice here is clearly influenced by Ian Curtis. There's also the influence of Crowbar on the guitar riff, it's really heavy, but it's gracious, probably thanks to the keyboards and to the frail voice. Two characteristics that fail to appear in Crowbar. This song is amazing, it's so dark.

The first song "The Wreckage Of My Flesh" manages to create an atmosphere with a lot of keyboards but it is never grandiloquent, the keyboards are used in a Black Metal way, but they succeed where most of the Black Metal bands fail, this is probably due to the production and to the fact that they probably had more money than any Black Metal band to produce their record. This album by his style is very close to "Like Gods of the Sun", the album they released in 1996, but without violin, I don't know why they have decided to drop it, fortunately, it doesn't really affect their style thanks to the keyboards.

So, for me there's no doubt that this is a good album, maybe a little too short, that's the only negative point I can think of at the moment. If sad songs is your stuff and even if you are not really into metal, I think you should check this record out, or at least one of the first four songs. As for me, I'm going to keep an eye on My Dying Bride, this year will probably see their accession to the throne...

-Dave Rebel

/mar 15th 2004/