My Dying Bride - 34.788%... Complete
Peaceville Records
Experimental Doom Metal
7 songs (56:41)
Release year: 1998
My Dying Bride, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The most controversial and least liked album in the My Dying Bride pantheon, it’s hard not to listen to 34.788%... Complete and wonder why. True, My Dying Bride have been the most consistent of the Yorkshire Big Three, the Dark Tranquillity equivalent to Anathema’s Soilwork and Paradise Lost’s In Flames, both of whom have gone through massive stylistic shifts over the course of their career. My Dying Bride haven’t, remaining more or less true to their base sound despite adding or removing a violin here or there, and that’s fine – they are fairly consistent in sound and quality, giving every listener something personal and ensuring that everyone loves different songs and, ultimately, albums. Except this, of course, 34.788%... Complete being the band’s St Anger moment to some. Looking back, I admit that it hasn’t aged well in comparison to the albums that came before it, yet short of a couple of tracks there’s really very little to criticise if you’re willing to accept the band’s experimental mindset.

Take opening twelve-minuter The Whore The Cook And The Mother, opening with a strident wall of riffs and Aaron at his most defiantly miserable, opening up into enjoyably epic melodic lines. Encasing the band’s signature Doom riffage within a deep, complex electronically-enhanced atmosphere, leading down into near-ambience and mysterious sound effects and launching back into glorious heaviness, I unashamedly love the track despite the clear steps away from the band’s traditional sound. This is My Dying Bride attempting to spread their wings and conquer the entire Doom world, seeming to gradually move towards a kind of otherworldly The Gathering-esque melodic pasture of prog. Part of what I love about Doom is the fact that despite the gloominess, the focus is directed towards that slim ray of hope, the glint of light at the end of the tunnel, the beauty that is so easily tied in with despair – here, My Dying Bride are chasing that sunlight for all they’re worth.

The album continues in even more experimental ways. The Stance Of Evander Sinoue opens with bass thuds before the doom kicks in, proggily rampaging around for two minutes before the story of the song’s title kicks in. I have to praise the electronic clunking in the background, as it’s very effective, striking a different, weirder vibe for the slightly tired line of the lyrics. Der Überlebende follows, surely the best track on the album for me – it’s almost typical My Dying Bride, but with that aforementioned light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vibe suggesting a build-up to the glorious bliss that is so longed for. Sadly, what we actually get is Heroin Chic, summed up so ably by my colleague Charles elsewhere as ‘Aaron rapping about heroin’. That’s being kind, frankly, the trip-hop electronic elements audibly poor when not covered with Doom, and Aaron’s tired-sounding spoken vocals with the obviously censored swearing contributing to the track raising more noses than eyebrows. It has the roots of success buried deep – the female vocals are well-considered, and it audibly improves partway through when the guitars come in. But it is impossible to recognise than anything other than a failed experiment (seriously, Tom G Warrior at his least metal would have hesitated) and a real drag on the album.

Things improve immediately with the following Apocalypse Woman, returning to bass rumbles and almost constantly rolling drums before opening into an interesting heavy yet atmospheric alt-rock kind of track. Base Level Erotica, meanwhile, is My Dying Bride coming close to hitting the ceiling of their misery, a slow-paced yet surprisingly upbeat and catchy track with an excellent grasp of melody. It hints at what a commercialised version of the band would sound like, evolving their style from pure misery towards something more sophisticated, and on its own is a great piece of music if just a tad repetitive. Album finale Under Your Wings And Into Your Arms, on the other hand, is the band at their most Doom and Metal, finishing in an epic crush that even die-hard Doomsters will love – you can see why it’s the one song here to make it into the band’s live show.

At my kindest, I’d sum this up as My Dying Bride modernising their brand of misery from the middle ages to the middle 90s, swapping dark forests for dark alleys and intensifying their murderous eroticism with fashionable junkie chic. Is this a good thing? Well, it was a great attempt at experimentation for the band, almost a kind of sexy Doom version of Alice In ChainsDirt, and some of the songs are excellent in their own right and as proof of My Dying Bride’s compositional skills. Yet dragging this album down are the utterly unsuitable rapping and trip-hop elements, and it’s really not a surprise that they are what the album is remembered for, especially when compared to tracks from the band’s other releases. I tend to look at it kindlier than most; remove Heroin Chic and you have an album that fans of the band would do well to revisit, if only to marvel at hints of a parallel universe where My Dying Bride followed Paradise Lost towards the mainstream. Compared to their best works it’s pretty poor, and even with this fond review it’s not a triumph of any sort, but nor is it the complete disaster that it is remembered as.

Killing Songs :
The Whore, The Cook And The Mother, Der Überlebende, Base Level Erotica, Under Your Wings And Into Your Arms
Goat quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by My Dying Bride that we have reviewed:
My Dying Bride - The Ghost of Orion reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
My Dying Bride - Feel the Misery reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
My Dying Bride - The Manuscript EP reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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