Released: 2006, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
For over fifteen years, My Dying Bride have honed their craft—a blend of Gothic death/doom metal—to become the undisputed frontrunner of the genre. Aaron Stainthorpe’s gloriously dreary, melancholic vocals are synonymous with the band’s sound, historically drifting between hushed whispers, pained wails and guttural growls. Stainthorpe’s poetic lyrics draw heavily from Gothic/Romantic archetypes and the rest of the band follows suit with suitably morose music. This formula has worked well, sustaining the band with a cult following even though touring has remained minimal with mostly European festival dates.
On their ninth full-length release, A LINE OF DEATHLESS KINGS, My Dying Bride continue to champion the merits of red wine, tragic heroines and misery on what may be their best overall album since 1993’s TURN LOOSE THE SWANS. The bass-heavy production and mix of Mags really favors the rhythm section of Ade Jackson and studio drummer John Bennett of The Prophecy (long-time skinsman Shaun Taylor-Steels bowed out of recording due to acute ankle problems and has since left the band) for a thick, warm sound throughout. The darkly melodic “To Remain Tombless” explodes with a fiery crunch to the riffs of Andrew Craighan and Hamish Glencross that result in one of the heaviest tracks on the CD. “L’Amour Detruit” and “I Cannot Be Loved” lie in the same vein as the slow, painfully wretched doom that the band explored on 1996’s LIKE GODS OF THE SUN. Stainthorpe’s muted vocals drip with pain and suffering to create a feeling of utter hopelessness that enraptures the listener. To juxtapose the slightly-processed spoken word sections (don’t worry…nothing drastic like 34.788%...COMPLETE!) of “Love’s Intolerable Pain,” Stainthorpe actually croons a beautiful clean vocal on the keyboard-heavy track “One of Beauty’s Daughters.” It is not until the final two tracks that things begin to heat up. “Deeper Down,” the album’s first single, features stunning double bass and thick, chugging riffs that form a solid groove, while “The Blood, The Wine, The Roses” escalates from a slow, brooding beginning to a final, all-out thrashing death metal frenzy to close the album. This is also the only appearance of Stainthorpe’s brutal growls on the entire CD, something which will surely please older fans of the band.
Maybe it is due to growing older but A LINE OF DEATHLESS KINGS (brilliant title, by the way) sees My Dying Bride looking back on some highs and lows of their career. Some vocal experimentation (34.788%...COMPLETE), death metal growls (AS THE FLOWER WITHERS and TURN LOOSE THE SWANS) and slow, atmospheric passages (LIKE GODS OF THE SUN) are all infused into an extension of the style adopted by the band on THE DREADFUL HOURS and SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT. Growing comfortable in their skin may seem like a sin for the preternaturally morbid My Dying Bride however A LINE OF DEATHLESS KINGS sounds like their most natural and progressive album in years, each track free of any wastefulness or fluff. Topping this CD will be a difficult prospect…of course, I said the same thing after their last two outings, as well. Since LIKE GODS OF THE SUN, My Dying Bride has gotten increasingly better and better over the last ten years and if A LINE OF DEATHLESS KINGS is any indication, the end is nowhere in sight.
KILLER KUTS: “To Remain Tombless,” “I Cannot Be Loved,” “One of Beauty’s Daughters,” “Deeper Down,” “The Blood, The Wine, The Roses”