My Dying Bride - A Line Of Deathless Kings
Peaceville Records 2006
Running Time: 61:00
Rumbling gallop and low end throb break through the silence, the unmistakable voice of Aaron Stainthorpe winding itself through the intro of album opener "To Remain Tombless". Reptilian leads slither in and out of the song's skeleton like venomous serpents entwined in ribcages of the long-departed. Always a band who struggles to evoke mood with their tattered hymns to all things grave and morose, My Dying Bride have risen to a new plateau of dynamics with A Line Of Deathless Kings. The hushed intonations of blend with his clean delivery, both sounding equally pained and weary of life and its living. At the 4:11 mark, neo-blackened scales ascend and descend, weaving a new thread into the mourner's cloak of sound that the band has spent just over a decade and a half alternately creating and shying away from, depending on who you ask. A male chorus begins "L'Amour Detruit", easily the most traditionally British doom thus far on the album. All plod and plaintive tone, this tale of vampiric love/lust renders the vast wall of woe built by MDB damn near impregnable. The section beginning with the line "I ache for naught." shows how much buzz bands of today (i.e. Pelican, Isis) truly owe to all out Doom Metal. Desolate notes bring the end of "L'Amour Detruit", and usher us into the lurching, bent chords that begin "I Cannot Be Loved". Lyrically, the tune is a haggard fall into dementia and the sometimes subtle sexuality in murder. If ALODK calls to mind the earlier material of My Dying Bride, there's good reason. The return of Mags (also producer of the formative yet genre-defining Turn Loose The Swans) lends a robust, destructive weight to the album, and leaves the band sounding better than they have in the past five years.
For all the somber beauty of "I Cannot Be Loved", "And I Walk With Them" positively crushes. Candlemass-like in tone and arrangement, Stainthorpe even works in a conversation with God for good measure. The Craighan / Glencross guitar duo has been responsible for some of the most memorable leadwork of their careers since 2001's return to form The Dreadful Hours, and A Line Of Deathless Kings is no exception, the two blending just right amount of melodicism and malevolence to concoct a witch's brew that is undeniably My Dying Bride. Double-tracked vocals and the ethereal keys of Sarah Stanton lend an atmospheric vibe to "My Raven Wings", which tumbles headlong into the bludgeoning "Love's Intolerable Pain". Triumphant chord progressions in "One Of Beauty's Daughters" call up aural images of a much heavier but equally depressed Pink Floyd. The cinematic tone to the music, coupled with a carnivorous middle section inform the listener that as pristine as some of ALODK may be, beasts and bloodied demons are conjured just out of sight. When My Dying Bride flings those mangled and mangling creations back into the listener's face, as in "One Of Beauty's Daughters", the result is harrowing. Stellar kickdrum work by session skinsman John Bennet (replacing the recuperating Shaun Taylor-Steels) drives "Deeper Down", severely underrated bassist Ade Jackson following the shifting, pulsing rhythms effortlessly as gurgling snarls of Stainthorpe shoot the bridge of the song through with menace. The proceedings commence with the chugging pace of "The Blood, The Wine, The Roses", an instant earworm as attention-grabbing as anything from the first four Black Sabbath records must've been when they set the world on its ass in the early '70s.
With A Line Of Deathless Kings, My Dying Bride have created a masterful stroke of melancholic doom. A tainted portrait of a band at their peak both sonically and creatively. Albums like this are the ones that grow into the stuff of legend.