Album Review – My Dying Bride – Angel and the Dark River (1995)
In these still-early days of My Dying Bride’s career, the term “gothic doom metal” was becoming a more apt description of this band. Not everyone could pull off heavy metal music with piano and violin.
Frontman Aaron Stainthorpe’s deep study of the British Romantic poets as well as his favorite bands like Candlemass changed his life, granting him the ability to paint an atmosphere of despondency and gloom better than most.
My Dying Bride is a prolific group, and discovering where to start in their extensive catalog is a challenge. But you can’t go wrong with their 3rd studio effort here, Angel and the Dark River.
1. The Cry of Mankind
2. From Darkest Skies
3. Black Voyage
4. A Sea to Suffer In
5. Two Winters Only
6. Your Shameful Heaven
“The Cry of Mankind” is the best-known fan favorite on this record, and it has been a concert staple at nearly every My Dying Bride show since. A looping, hypnotic guitar line is slowly built up by the rest of the band into an epic worthy of the apocalyptic horror described in the lyrics. It fades into the gentle, night-time sounds of the, ahem, “dark river,” which drags on for a bit (the band trims this part by a few minutes live).
On balance, the rest of the record has a heavy and slow pace–but it is not repetitive. There’s plenty else going on to add flavor–bass and violin intro on “From Darkest Skies,” the lacy piano parts from “A Sea to Suffer In.” In the latter song, the pace picks up from a plod to a march with guitar-driven tempo changes.
Stainthorpe’s plaintive bleat is entirely clean with no death growls, and steps aside when it’s not needed. He surfaces perfectly on his personal favorite My Dying Bride track, “Two Winters Only,” killing off the heavy distortion for an intimate performance. And drummer Rick Miah stays loose with speedy drum fills (probably to keep from falling asleep).
When I caught the first My Dying Bride US show in 17 years at MDF 2014, all the songs from Angel and the Dark River were high on my “hope to hear” list–especially “Your Shameful Heaven,” which breaks the slow mold with a more midtempo, traditional metal offering.
The special edition of the CD I have also contains crack live performances of “A Sea to Suffer In” and older classics “Your River” and “Forever People.” If you can get your hands on this version, get it–recorded live at Dynamo Festival in Eindhoven, it’s a snapshot of the band’s activity immediately following this release.
“Nobody has lived a perfectly good life without tragedies, and we’ve used them as part of our songwriting,” says Aaron Stainthorpe. “I’m generally a happy guy! But I’ve got somewhere to put my depression, and it’s called My Dying Bride.”
Today, thousands of fans can put it there too.
Written by Matt P