After the attention getting debut of their first EP “Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium,” MY DYING BRIDE released their first full-length debut AS THE FLOWER WITHERS the following year in the vein of that EP’s title track. This album is by and far the heaviest and most brutal of any in the MY DYING BRIDE discography with heavy emphasis on the blistering guitar riffing and pummeling bass and percussive attacks. The trademark lugubrious violins of at-the-time session musician Martin Powell are a vital part to the band’s sound at this stage but all hasn’t integrated together seamlessly quite yet. At this stage the classically oriented sounds as heard in the symphonic intro “Silent Dance” as well as segments within the larger tracks such as “The Bitterness And Bereavement” and “The Return Of The Beautiful” are more than present but it is quite apparent early on in “Silent Dance” that MY DYING BRIDE was very much an early pioneer of the death-doom metal sound along with contemporaries Anathema and Paradise Lost. AS THE FLOWER WITHERS is also the only full-length release where lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe exclusively utilizes his death growls which contribute to the overall soundscape giving a more dirty and raw metal feel as opposed to the slicker, more romantic Gothic utterings of his later clean vocal style.
While the longer tracks tend to portend the future of where the band was heading, some tracks like “The Forever People” are exclusively rooted in the death metal past with unapologetic heaviness and aggressive bombastic ear assaults sans any trace of symphonic effects of wailing violin. On the more progressive tracks like “The Bitterness And The Bereavement” the band utilizes all of their magic in one behemoth of a composition with sensual tear inducing violin wails meeting Sabbath inspired doom guitar chords stomping so hard that it registers on the Richter scale while the suffocating atmospheres deplete all the remaining oxygen from the room. As if the sophistication of their dread-inducing instrumental talent wasn’t sufficient enough, MY DYING BRIDE has always delivered the most thought provoking lyrics based in painful romances, utter despair and complete collapse of faith and all of that was already present from the beginning having been fully developed at this stage as perfectly heard on some of the most sophisticated tracks such as the outstanding masterpiece “The Return Of The Beautiful” where all of their early and later sounds play together in perfect harmony.
AS THE FLOWER WITHERS is one of the most woefully underrated albums of MY DYING BRIDE’s entire discography. While they pretty much steered their distinct sound exclusively into the atmospheric doom metal arenas starting with “Turn Loose The Swans,” there is something mysterious and profound about this one. Not only does it retain the primeval ooze effect of nascent metal’s birth pangs but has an intense energetic delivery absent from subsequent releases. The exclusive use of death growls may dissuade the fans of the romantic clean approach but i find this early sound of MY DYING BRIDE to be equally as compelling to experience upon returning visits. The progressive touches and the sophistication of the compositions puts this on a whole other level of the day and the dual guitar assaults of Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw are allowed to shine like on no other album that came after and even delved into Morbid Angel territory with blistering riffs and squealing solos on “Vast Choirs.” While i’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite album from MY DYING BRIDE being that their canon is so incredibly consistent, i ,in no way, can rank AS THE FLOWER WITHERS as an inferior product. On the contrary i find this to be a stimulating attack of the senses that offers a higher octane value than anything that would soon follow.