Doom is a style of music that revels in melodrama. From the classics like Candlemass to the more contemporary masters of the genre like Mourning Beloveth, Swallow the Sun, and The Fall of Every Season, theatrical excess is the bread and butter of every band in the genre. No matter how far you stray into the realm of doom, though, no foray is complete without a visit to the patron saints of gloom and gothic melancholy, My Dying Bride.
Starting out in the early 1990s alongside metal legends Paradise Lost and Anathema, My Dying Bride have steadfastly been plumbing the depths of the most miserable gothic soundscapes. In the years since their first full-length As the Flower Withers in 1992, they have gone from strength to strength as they have refined their brand of doom into a fine art, producing a catalogue of music that is unmistakably My Dying Bride.
So without further ado, here’s what I would consider A Beginner’s Guide to…My Dying Bride. A small caveat: a lot of the ‘classics,’ as they would be considered by fans, aren’t here, both for time constraint reasons and because I’ve focused on some of the band’s more accessible material. The list is very much weighted towards toward the newer period of the band’s history, as I feel that this is where they began producing their most refined material. This, however, is in no way to the detriment of their classic albums, all of which are well worth exploring and immersing yourself in.
1. “My Wine in Silence” from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light (2004)
This is perhaps a strange first choice for an introduction to the band. Between the ‘lounge doom’ lilt that permeates the track from the beginning to the smooth, almost Santana-esque lead line that repeats throughout, this is probably an ill-fitting first glance at a band that can be hard to sell to newcomers at the best of times. The reason for my choice, for better or worse, is that it was my personal introduction to the band. I was 14 or 15 and had just bought one of my first copies of Metal Hammer (or something to that effect) with a cover CD filled with fairly obscure bands I had never heard of, and in amongst the fairly rough lower-tier metal included in this particular issue was this new My Dying Bride track. For some reason it struck a chord with me, and although I hated (and still do) the rougher heavy vocal sections where Aaron’s vocals sound weak and wispy, I kept coming back to this weird song that drips with an almost uncomfortable gothic sleaze that shouldn’t work…but absolutely does.
There’s something endearingly cheesy about this track, and it’s a gentle jumping on point for new listeners. The entire Songs of Darkness, Words of Light album might be my favourite entry in My Dying Bride’s entire catalogue, and this is only a sample of the sheer melodramatic excess you’ll find within.
2. “My Hope, The Destroyer” from The Dreadful Hours (2001)
Jumping back a couple of years to 2001 and the excellent The Dreadful Hours album, “My Hope, The Destroyer” is perhaps My Dying Bride at their most upbeat. I didn’t have time in the 45 minutes of playlist time to include the title track, but this is as good an introduction as any to My Dying Bride’s heavier side. The Dreadful Hours was the tipping point where the band (at least in my opinion, though I know many who would disagree) really hit their stride and started producing album after album of top-tier doom.
3. “The Poorest Waltz” from A Map of All Our Failures (2012)
In 2012 the band released one of their best albums, A Map of All Our Failures. It perfectly wraps up the tone of old My Dying Bride with the newer, more refined approach to the band’s sound. This album is a masterwork of excellent melodies, epic riffs, and Aaron Stainthorpe is at the top of his game vocally. Nothing is more hilariously satisfying than hearing Aaron whisper “crank the old gramophone” mid-song. You could pick any track from this album and it would be a safe bet that it’s some of MDB’s finest work.
4. “And My Father Left Forever” from Feel the Misery (2015)
Feel the Misery is the band’s most recent album, and perhaps their most versatile effort to date. It shows a side of Aaron’s vocals that was never fully explored on previous albums, a more polished and confident clean vocal approach that genuinely impresses. Musically the song feels more alive and vibrant than usual as well; it’s less of a dirge through the doomy gothic passages and features some faster, more upbeat guitar work.
5. “The Light at the End of the World” from The Light at the End of the World (1999)
Jumping back to 1999 and the title track from The Light at the End of the World, this 10 minute epic is, in my opinion, Aaron Stainthorpe’s crowning lyrical achievement. If you like Poe-esque gothic theatrics and have a fondness for lighthouse keepers and tales of lost love, then look no further. The fact that this isn’t the band’s best effort musically doesn’t detract from how enjoyable the track is purely from a lyrical and vocal perspective. Considering it follows the somewhat questionable 34.788% Complete album by only a year, it’s an impressive effort.
6. “Your Shameful Heaven” from The Angel & The Dark River (1995)
Going back to My Dying Bride’s earlier works, Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel & The Dark River are fantastic examples of the band as they were in the early days as they were emerging alongside Paradise Lost & Anathema on Peaceville Records. I would have picked ‘Your River’ from Turn Loose the Swans as the quintessential early-My Dying Bride track, but with playlist time constraints taken into account, “Your Shameful Heaven” will suffice. The sound on these albums may be more raw and unrefined than what you’ll hear on the newer albums, but it shows a clear path that the band has been beating since the beginning. I admit that the early days of the band is not my preferred era by any means–I’m much more of a new-school My Dying Bride fan–but the older works are easy to appreciate for what they are and still stand up today, over 20 years later.
Other Notable Tracks:
“A Tapestry Scorned” from A Map of All Our Failures
“Echoes from a Hollow Soul” from For Lies I Sire
“To Remain Tombless” from A Line of Deathless Kings
“Catherine Blake” from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light
“The Dreadful Hours” from The Dreadful Hours
“A Kiss to Remember” from Like Gods of the Sun
“Two Winters Only” from The Angel & the Dark River
“Your River” from Turn Loose the Swans