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My Dying Bride - Feel The Misery

My Dying Bride - Feel The MiseryThe second of the triptych of great northern doom bands to release an album this year, My Dying Bride are the ones who have stuck closest to their roots. That's not to say the band have not progressed creatively; from the cold grandeur of The Angel And The Dark River, the mad genius of 34.788% Complete via the impenetrable grind of The Light At The End Of The World to the skeletal beauty of A Line Of Deathless Kings and the epic sweep of Evinta (an orchestral/operatic reworking of different passages of older songs) there has always been a gorgeous gothic creativity at work. And of course, with the band's frequent use of violin adding mournful melody, they have always stood out from the crowd.

Feel The Misery is the band's thirteenth proper studio album and their first work since Calvin Robertshaw rejoined as guitarist after fifteen years wandering in the wilderness to play, once again, alongside Andrew Craighan. Calvin's return seems to have given the band an extra impetus and after the excellence of A Map Of All Our Failures a pale fog of excitement hangs over this release.

There's no mucking about with long, fancy intros here - just a squall of guitar and the aural assault of And My Father Left Forever hits your ears with pummelling drums and riffs. This is My Dying Bride in full flight with Aaron Stainthorpe's impassioned vocals cutting through the maelstrom. The music rises and falls, and in the lulls the haunting violin is used for melody, enhancing Aaron's darkly poetic lyrics. There's no let up with To Shiver In Empty Halls where Aaron's death-rattle roar makes its first appearance, growling out the lyrics over a slower but no less heavy song. There are plenty of huge riffs and some dual soloing which gives way to gentle piano before the band kick back in. A spoken word section under muted guitar work appears before the main riff resumes accompanied by more piano. The song ends with medieval style guitar plucking and sinister, whispered vocals, almost like a dark secret being revealed.

The slow crawl of A Cold New Curse contains a haunting solo which is echoed by the violin. The song veers off seemingly in many different directions, collapsing slowly into mournful noise, a stuttering drum beat and Aaron's plaintive vocals. All the sections are stitched together like a tapestry (a scorned one possibly) and you can't see or hear the full story until it has been unfurled entirely.

As the album continues, many facets of the My Dying Bride sound are displayed. There's the militaristic drumming and staccato riffing of the title track and the slow, sad funereal dirge of A Thorn Of Wisdom. There's the glacial splendor of I Celebrate Your Skin, icey cold in its passion and the beautiful ballad I Almost Loved You which harks back to the band's early years. Every one of these demonstrates the creativity of this most deliciously gloomy of bands as all the disparate elements of their sound combine; sometimes in a thundering crescendo of sound, sometimes in a heartwrenching ghostly whisper.

It's hard to accurately describe in words much of the complex music contained on the sixty minutes of this album. Half of the eight tracks are over nine minutes long and even the shorter compositions twist and turn in many bewildering, unexpected and byzantine directions. The music writhes under the expert hands of the band and there are many stand-out moments here; the violin's first appearance in And My Father Left Forever; the Thin Lizzy-esque dual guitar work in To Shiver In Empty Halls; the aforementioned solo in A Cold New Curse; the off-kilter rhythms, thunderous bass and ghostly (vast) choir of A Thorn Of Wisdom; the fragile piano in I Almost Loved You, to pick out just a few.

After so many years writing and recording, the band are old hands at it. However, far from losing focus or getting complacent they are still able to conjure gloomy classics of epic proportions. Aaron Stainthorpe sings, growls, grunts, whispers, roars and speaks his elegaic lyrics as if he is living every tortured moment. The bass of Lena Abé and Dan Mullins superb drumming underpin the music, driving the band forward and allowing guitarists Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw to weave their magic. Both are on amazing form displaying an amazing array of riffs, rhythms and solos. However, it is Shaun MacGowan on violin, piano and keyboards that gives the band so much of their unique sound, setting them apart from every other band. No one else sounds like My Dying Bride - a truly unique band, which is a rarity these days and there is an undeniable magic about the music these six musicians create. The album closes with the colossal Within A Sleeping Forest, all triumphal riffs and soaring violin as the album approaches its grand finalé.

The album was recorded and mixed by drummer Dan Mullins, along with long time cohort Mags. Feel The Misery boasts a clear, crisp sound, allowing every instrument to be heard. The music is accompanied by a superb stained glass window style cover, although the booklet falls into the unreadable lyric trap, due to the type size and font used. This is a minor quibble though. For many bands in their second decade of existence an album this good would be seen as a real return to form. However My Dying Bride have such a strong body of work that Feel The Misery keeps up the high standards the band have set and can only enhance their reputation further. Never has misery sounded so good!

Released: 18.09.15

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