There are a few distinct bands in the world of heavy metal who, by so effectively honing their musical vision, have the unique talent of creating a rich, almost visible atmosphere. My Dying Bride is one of those bands. From their beginnings pioneering death/doom (like fellow masters Paradise Lost) to their obsession with gloomy funeral doom, My Dying Bride evokes the air of 19th-century romanticism like no other band can: dark moors, crumbling ruins, ghostly figures in black, crows flying through the mist.
At their weaker moments, the band (particularly) their lyrics can come across a little forced and heavy-handed, as if they’re trying to hard not to slip from the template they helped to create. But at their (much more frequent) stronger moments they create some of the most compelling and chilling heavy metal in existence. 2012’s A Map of All Our Failures contained much of the later kind, and is still one of my favorite albums of that year. In fact, I’d be so bold to state that “Kneel till Doomsday” ranks in the top 10 songs they’ve ever created. In short, the album proved that even so many years into their career, My Dying Bride could still be well worth listening to, even with all the lineup changes.
Speaking of lineup changes, the band’s new album, Feel the Misery marks the return of guitarist Calvin Robertshaw, his first appearance since the band’s brief foray into electronic/avant-garde territory, 1999’s 34.788%… Complete. Though the creative vision was always intact under Aaron Stainthorpe and Andrew Craighan, it’s cool to see the guitar-duo that shaped so many classics from As the Flower Withers and The Angel and the Dark River back together.
The songwriting on this album is direct, straightforward and easy to follow. It is a thoroughly engaging listen, particularly the (surprisingly energetic and bouncy) opener, “And My Father Left Forever.” In fact, the palm-muted riff during the first verse reminds me of Rotting Christ’s “Sign of Evil Existence” (yes I was surprised too, go and listen). The album shows the band unafraid to play around with different tempos, pulling instruments in and out of the mix for dramatic effect and landing those death metal vocals at just the right moments. And the band is willing to release the listener from the longer doom-dirges into the piano-laden fog of “A Thorn of Wisdom.”
And especially important for a band of their style (and for metal in general), the riffs on Feel the Misery are excellent and write an effective narrative of sorrow and despair- but with a brilliant flash of power and aggression.
The title track perfectly epitomizes the album’s theme of life’s dark and arduous journey, only for us all to be left alone and non-existent, with Aaron’s mournful melodies:
Is it worth the wait?
Is there hope for me?
Can it really wait?
Let us watch and see…
The fairest flowers fade
Stolen away by shade
Feel the misery
And so on.
I get the impression that “I Almost Loved You” is the less sentimental, more contemplative sequel to “For My Fallen Angel.” It still has a clearly soft and sad tone, but one that’s more thoughtful, less deliberately tear-inducing. And it’s after this last soft moment that the album ends with one last, glorious funeral doom-fest: “Within a Sleeping Forest.”
It’s as if the band said to one another, “we need to make an album that no fan of My Dying Bride or doom metal fan can resist, they will love this album, and it will be one of our best.” Every strength loaded in the band’s voice, strings and sticks is on its highest setting here.
Feel the Misery is an excellent offering of funeral doom with My Dying Bride’s characteristic shades of death and even some blackened elements mixed into the brilliantly-constructed riffs. Thoroughly satisfying for any fan of the band. I highly recommend this album.
[Programming note: I’ve now ceased giving numeric scores at the end of reviews, as they fail to really capture the complex thoughts around an album. After giving so many 7s and 8s it all just seems a little silly. Also, it’s not 2006 anymore.]
Favorite songs: “And My Father Left Forever,” “To Shiver in Empty Halls,” “Feel the Misery”