My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River
Peaceville Records
Doom Metal
6 songs (52:18)
Release year: 1995
My Dying Bride, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat

It's hard to pick a favourite My Dying Bride album out of them all, but The Angel and the Dark River, the band's third full-length, is most definitely a contender. Following the classic Turn Loose the Swans up would be hard for any band, but this is a phenomenal album, and an indicator that My Dying Bride really were Doomlords par excellence. Sure, the sound is toned down a little, with none of the death growls of before, but the union of guitar and violin that forms the basis of the music here is absolutely beautiful, building in slow waves to maximum atmospheric effect. And of course, Aaron Stainthorpe's voice is what draws you into these melancholic depths, his voice a spellbending false light. Here, he hits the perfect balance, not as ridiculously miserable as elsewhere but far from the strident likes of some of the band's later works – a damaged man, reflecting on his woes, wallowing in regret and misery. It's the very essence of doom, and is timeless in impact.

My Dying Bride aren't exactly known for being catchy, but they often write hooks into their songs of grief, and The Cry of Mankind must be one of their best-known tracks. The introductory guitar and piano motifs serve to anchor the song as it grows more complex and layered, those heavy doom riffs weighing the beauty of the track down with misery. That it lasts twelve minutes is a tribute to the band's songwriting skills even at that early stage, a move later in the track towards outright repetition working beautifully thanks to the strength of that repeated motif, crashing waves and eerie singing setting a perfect gothic horror setting for the gloom to follow in the following five tracks.

The atmospheric and moody sound is what makes this a classic album, ultimately; being blessed with a stunning guitar tone, deep and gloomy but not too raw, and mixed well to react with the violin. And over these songs, we're lucky enough to hear that sound spun into some dark webs indeed. The churning From Darkest Skies is first, initially raw and stripped-down, bringing in violin and growing more complex and involved before hitting a faster march towards the mid-point with Church organs blaring dramatically. Black Voyage follows, slower and heavier, Stainthorpe's voice dropping to a low moan at times, while A Sea to Suffer In makes more extended use of the violin, as holder of plaintive melody when surrounded by the churning waves of riffs. Two Winters Only's clean opening guitar strums are a sudden shift after that, returning to their cold stripped-down sound for almost four minutes before the violin enters and the track blooms into life.

And, speaking of the violin, when it opens final track Your Shameful Heaven unaccompanied, it's at the peak of its powers, ironic when the guitars later in the track are at their most death metal, chugging and heavy. That contradiction has always been handled well by My Dying Bride, but was especially remarkable here. The Angel and the Dark River is a lush, focused album, recognisably excellent on the first listen but a grower that reveals a little more of itself each time you hear it, until you reach the inevitable; a classic of the doom genre, and a landmark album for the band.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
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 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
My Dying Bride - The Barghest O'Whitby reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 13 reviews click here
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