Reviewed: July 2009
Released: 2009, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
When I typically think of doom metal, Black Sabbath is the first and only thing that comes to mind. This is mostly because aside from Sabbath, I am mostly unfamiliar with this sub-genre of metal. I was briefly exposed to death/doom band November’s Doom and I wasn’t particularly enraptured – they had an interesting atmosphere going on with lots of sludgy guitars and cookie monster vocals, but somehow it didn’t fit together very well. Sadly for me, I hadn’t yet encountered England’s My Dying Bride.
To their credit, I haven’t heard any metal album nearly as movingly gloomy as FOR LIES I SIRE. It’s a beautiful, heavy, profoundly unsettling experience to listen to all the way through. Each track drips with a looming sadness that stays with the listener after the disc stops spinning. Emotions flicker between utmost despair, loneliness, heartache, and rage. One leaden riff after another lumbers from the twin guitars of Hamish Glencross and Andrew Craighan, while Dan Mullins’ precisely lurching drums groove along beneath. Keyboards & a particularly somber-sounding piano are delicately used for accents – the piano is particularly striking on an incredibly depressing instrumental passage from “Echoes from a Hollow Soul.” Few songs share any structural similarities, making each track a unique listening experience exploring the depths of sorrow and death. My favorite track is “Feast,” which is probably the creepiest song I’ve ever heard. Tempos also vary, from the funereal dirge of opener “My Body, A Funeral” to the more upbeat (relatively speaking) grooves of “Bring me Victory.” Most notable are Katie Stone’s occasional violin passages, which go a long way towards filling out the eerie atmospheres found throughout this album.
Amazing songwriting and brilliant instrumentation aside, the Gold Star of the album is without a doubt owed to the performance of vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe. I’ve never heard a singer get into his work quite like this fellow. Each word oozes with multiple emotions simultaneously, enhanced by some of the most haunting lyrics I’ve heard in a metal record. His range is somewhere between a baritone and tenor, and his timbre is decidedly melancholy, able to evoke sorrow, anger, or sheer creepiness (note his ghostly, carnal whispers underneath “Feast” for a real shiver.)
My only complaint with this otherwise amazing album is the track “A Chapter in Loathing” – and it’s not because it’s a bad song. It’s something of a pure death/black metal song with some creepy ambiance thrown in, but it features Mr. Stainthorpe using a highly unpleasant blackened shriek that sounds nothing like his clean vocals. Tremolo guitars and blast beats grind away as Mr. Stainthorpe growls along, but the vibe building up from the preceding songs is completely interrupted. Again, it’s not a bad black metal song…it’s just so totally out of place with the rest of FOR LIES I SIRE that I couldn’t make myself like it.
Any metalhead looking for a more emotionally complex experience would do well to pick this up. The songwriting is several notches above par, and the vocal performance of Mr. Stainthorpe is not to be missed.
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