MY DYING BRIDE — The Angel and the Dark River (review)

MY DYING BRIDE — The Angel and the Dark River album cover Album · 1995 · Doom Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
MY DYING BRIDE came to the attention of the world by not only serving as an example of one of the very first death doom bands that took the plodding riffs of doom metal and married them with death growls and uptempo freneticism, but they singlehandedly went one step further and adopted Gothic rock elements as a canvas to paint their rueful metal art upon. After several EPs and a couple albums that forged a new branch in the metal universe, the band returned in 1995 with their their album THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER and changed their formula around once again this time dropping the death metal attributes completely and focusing on the dirge driven melancholy of molasses-flow doom riffs and soul piercing violin riffs. Aaron Stainthorpe completely dropped any death metal pretenses and performs an entirely goth-tinged plaintive vocal run and except for a final show of extreme metal thunder on “Your Shameful Heaven,” THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER pretty much drifts by like a lazy afternoon of darkened clouds in the sky.

The band had caught the attention of the metal underground right from the start but this is the moment when their unique metal craft was noticed by Steve Harris of Iron Maiden who loved the album and invited the band to open for their three month European tour which ultimately revealed their brand of doom goth metal to much larger audiences. While eschewing the death metal elements, MY DYING BRIDE also refined their sound which took all of the different aspects of the previous album “Turn Loose The Swans” and incorporated them all into a more cohesive whole. Where loose piano arpeggios ran free before, now were incorporated into the overall structure that found twin guitar counterpoints stretched to melancholic limits with violin sweeps and atmospheric overcast. While previous albums were composed by various members of the band, THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER was constructed solely by guitarist Andrew Craighan which gives it a more uniform feel.

THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER consists of six lengthy tracks ranging from six and a half minute mark all the way to the longest which is the opener “The Cry Of Mankind” which finds piano arpeggios, guitar, bass and violin counterpoints providing the proper red carpet treatment for Stainthorpe’s magnificent goth tinged threnody of lyrical lamentation allegedly inspired by the incessant rainy weather in the north of England. Each track constructs completely unique and self-contained melodic developments that drift and seep into the consciousness before shifting gears and taking turns providing guitar-free moments as well as crunchy grooves that add some climactic heft to the bereaving banter of the sextet’s multi-pronged musical attack. This is not the kind of music that bombards the senses, it’s the kind that seduces the listener into willingly accepting the poison that extinguishes the light and quashes hope.

While i’ve strived to find a single flaw in THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER, i can’t help but be floored by its sheer perfection of designing the most elegant form of goth doom metal that incorporates moments of English folk and electronic darkwave which unify to create one of doom metal’s most memorable moments matched only by the band’s previous album “Turn Loose The Swans.” I find it hard to choose between the two. The previous albums may have more dynamic variations that ranged from the gothic doom to bombastic death metal but this one has the most consistent overall disposition without sacrificing any of the idiosyncrasies which allowed the band to stand out from the pack. Packed with unique guitar riffs, darkened folky violin genius and a barrage of ever-changing percussive drive, MY DYING BRIDE created their second masterpiece in a row with THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER.
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