When the history of doom metal is written, English miserabilists My Dying Bride will have their own chapter; preferably written in gothic script by a quill. As part of the ‘Peaceville Three’, along with Paradise Lost and Anathema, they helped redefine doom by blending it with the aggression of death metal and in the process created timeless classics such as Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel and the Dark River, the latter of which earned them a support slot with none other than Iron Maiden.
While their contemporaries have strayed from the path and ventured into electronic and prog territories, the Bride have steadfastly remained committed to northern darkness, with each release brimming with misery, despair and loss. Twelfth full length Feel the Misery (all Peaceville) is no exception, and while a cynic may claim that such a title indicates the band are falling into self-parody, only a fool would doubt the sheer mastery of the songs contained within.
After years spent dealing with an inconsistent line-up with drummers here one minute and gone the next, things looked even bleaker last year with the departure of long-term guitarist Hamish Glencross. However a replacement was soon found with original guitarist Calvin Robertshaw returning to the fold, and his presence has been an undeniable shot in the arm.
Opening track ‘And My Father Left Forever’ is vintage Bride, featuring pacy riffing, ghostly keyboards and some typically morbid lyrics from vocalist and figurehead Aaron Stainthorpe. Written about the recent death of his father, it’s an absolutely gut-wrenching way to open an album, with Stainthorpe opening his heart about the grief he experienced. The heaviness is jacked up with the grimy chugging and guttural vocals of ‘To Shiver in Empty Halls’ with both Robertshaw and fellow axeman Andrew Craighan perfectly in sync with each other. The snail-paced second half with its stark atmosphere and spoken word spills into funeral doom territory before finishing with a macabre folk song that in any other band’s hands would sound absurd, but here is perfect.
‘A Cold New Curse’ flits between lurching riffing and sprawling melancholy with Stainthorpe sounding utterly furious and disgusted over the thunderous fretwork while the devastating riff of the title track would have stood proud amongst the finest material on the aforementioned The Angel and the Dark River, not least for the desperately sad violin-led chorus where Stainthorpe plaintively asks “Is there hope for me?”
While the guitars play a prominent part and sound as harrowing as ever, it’s on tracks such as the beautiful ‘A Thorn of Wisdom’ where a basic piano motif, choral ambience and a snaking bassline from the understated yet competent Lena Abe take the listener on a emotional journey. This mellower avenue is further explored on the heartbreaking ‘I Almost Loved You’, where the overwhelming bleakness threatens to take over, recalling tracks such as the seminal ‘Sear Me MCMXCIII’ from Turn Loose the Swans.
The Bride’s brand of tar-thick chords and personal misery will always be an acquired taste and their straddling of the doom/death and gothic metal scenes have lead to them being rejected by purists. However, while their dismissal by the masses may appear a travesty at face value, their staunch authenticity and willingness to continue exploring the avenues of misery in uncompromising style is to be cherished. After twenty-five years in the game, their long march towards the sinister continues and Feel the Misery has to rank among their best works.