My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River 01aOnce upon a time in 1995, yours truly, then a long-haired kid with patchy facial hair, baggy cargo pants, and numerous black t-shirts featuring whoever was on Century Media Records at the time, was first getting into doom metal via word-of-mouth and the late, great Metal Maniacs magazine (RIP Katherine Ludwig). One of those bands I was told to check out was England’s gloomy sextet, My Dying Bride. So, having already checked out bits and pieces of their debut, 1992’s As The Flower Withers, I went to Newbury Comics to hunt down its follow-up, the 1993 masterpiece Turn Loose the Swans. As luck would have it, the store was fresh out of copies, and although I was bummed out about missing the last copy, they had just put out a bunch of their then-newest album, the seemingly benignly-titled The Angel and the Dark River. I bought a copy, popped it into my Philips CD Player, and was blown away by not only the huge jump between the debut and this album, but also by the amount of overwhelming sadness and beauty contained within.

The six songs contained on TAatDR (seven, if you count eternal bonus track “The Sexuality of Bereavement”) were some of My Dying Bride‘s mopiest melodies and performances at that time. Gone were the death growls (again, save for “The Sexuality of Bereavement”), and in its place, Aaron Stainthorpe’s singing voice was growing in confidence, bellowing words of romance and the failure of religion. The guitar interplay between Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw, while not as creative as on Turn Loose, was still pretty interesting at several points of the the album, such as the acoustic melodies on “Two Winters Only,” or the crushing heaviness of “From Darkest Skies.” And of course Martin Powell, once a hired hand for the As The Flower Withers sessions, became fully integrated here, as his sad melodies that punctuate “A Sea to Suffer In” and the depressingly beautiful “Black Voyage” were nothing short of breathtaking.

My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River 02

There is a nagging problem, though. For as good as the majority of The Angel and the Dark River was (and a lot of it still holds up very well), there’s a huge, huge shadow lurking over the majority of the album… and it’s the first track. “The Cry of Mankind” would basically become My Dying Bride‘s (and ultimately doom metal’s) “Living After Midnight,” “Back in Black” and “Run To The Hills,” all rolled up into one twelve-minute song. The fact that the band built such a beautiful song around Robertshaw’s repetitious six-note finger-tapping is nothing short of incredible. Adrian Jackson’s driving bass, Rick Miah’s thundering drums, Powell’s sparse-but-tasteful piano playing, and Craighan’s melodies and riffery carrying those six notes as far out as humanly possible while Stainthorpe bemoans about God in what was to become their anthem, their masterpiece, and their biggest song. Just try not to giggle while watching the official video below. In fact, the rest of the album could have been complete, unwashed ass (which thankfully it wasn’t), but as long as it had “The Cry of Mankind” on it, it would have been salvageable. It’s so big a song that, sadly, they don’t play anything else from TAatDR anymore, which is a bummer, as I’d kill to hear “Black Voyage” one more time, besides on their For Darkest Eyes live DVD.

As with all classic albums, TAatDR holds up remarkably well, with only “Your Shameful Heaven” not doing so hot these days. Since then, only half of the line-up remains. Stainthorpe and Craighan have seen My Dying Bride through all the turmoil and line-up changes, with Robertshaw returning to guitar duties in 2014 after his replacement, Hamish Glencross (Vallenfyre), was relieved of his duties. In fact, they’re in the studio working on their newest as we speak. Here’s hoping that it at least comes close to the doom, gloom, and beauty that was The Angel and the Dark River, one of 1995’s finest albums, and one of My Dying Bride‘s best.

 

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  • I think the best thing that Maiden with Blaze on vocals did was to bring MDB on tour. Which was my introduction to the band. This was around the time of TAATDR and together with TLTS these albums are still my favorites.

    • madhare

      Hear hear!

      I remember seeing them there before Maiden, but being slightly baffled by them. I was probably a bit too young, and too strictly into NWOBHM and trash metal. I remember hating the screeching violin sound live (maybe it was just because I was standing directly in front of the speakers in the front row).

      Few years later, I got into Norwegian gothic metal through Theatre of Tragedy and then eventually back to MDB. Then I felt stupid that I hadn’t enjoyed them live more. :D

    • euthanatos

      whoa, really, that happened? Kinda blows my mind to think of a Maiden + MDB tour. Would have loved to see that.

      • RuySan

        Yes, that tour was legendary for many wrong reasons. I know people who went to see them here in Portugal, and MDB were booed throughout the concert.

        As for this record, it’s a classic. Not as good as TLTS, but almost there.

  • Luciano

    Back in the middle of the 90’s I was pretty much into power and heavy-metal. However, some magazine articles at that time caught my attention to some bands whose sound was heavy, yet drenched in melancholy. Those were the days of The Gathering’s Mandylion, Paradise Lost’s Draconian Times and My Dying Brdies’s TAATDR, among others. Gradually I stopped listening to those brave songs, full of double-bass, about rainbows at the end of the road, and embraced the dark side of the metallic Force. And as much as I am a bit impatient with MDB last records (I sense some repetition in them), I owe those guys the discovery of a new underworld in music.

  • Feytalist

    This album is one of the first (if not the first) metal albums I heard. It’s still a firm favourite after all these years.

    The Cry of Mankind is pure, unparalleled genius. Such a simple, repetitive melody with such passion and weight. Love it.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    A gigantic piece of art. Those were the golden days of gothic-doom metal.

    in Argentina 2012 they played From Darkest Skies along with The Cry. Amazing show btw

  • Wilhelm

    Discovered MDB between Swans and this album and I remember being amazed. I really think, in order to enjoy the album fully, it must be listened to front to back without The Sexuality of Bereavement (great song, but doesn’t belong here)…such beautiful violin melodies and Rick’s drumming is spectacular(It’s sad he just disappeared…they would do good to let him rejoin) There was such a finesse to this album, a magic in which every musician in the band played a key part, and overall you have to admire their stylistic shift into atmospheric doom sans the Death Metal. Fucking amazing 10/10 album.

    • doom-erik

      Rick Miah is a great drummer. I seldom notice drums in general, and especially not in the doom genre, but I always loved the drums on the early MDB albums.

      • Wilhelm

        Agreed, I’m not a big drum guy as either, but he always stood out to me. If you concentrate on the drumming you’ll notice how much excitement they give to the gloomy slow music. When they lost that original lineup the quality started slipping.

    • Grymm

      I always wondered whatever happened to Rick after Like Gods of the Sun. It’s like he vaporized or something.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    This was a quintessential doom metal album, even sets the standards now! Also, almost every My Dying Bride music video has a ghastly looking woman in a bridal outfit….!

  • Oh man, I have so many memories of this album. This was the first album with death vocals I ever bought. At the time, I was enamored with Type O Negative, and that was in an era where there was no Internet, no fan-zines, and it was the mid 90s so there was no way for a teenage me to hear about new underground metal, so my only way of discovering new music was by randomly buying albums based off their name and cover art. I met my first girlfriend at the record store where I bought this, and, well, yeah, those were good times. Unlike many other albums I “discovered” in that era, this is one I still enjoy every once in a while.

  • OzanCan

    I think you guys should review the “October Rust” album next. I mean it seems only fitting, after reading this magnificent album’s review..

    • Eryops

      It still holds up well today, and so does Peter Steele’s dry, subtle sense of humour. Either that, or I never grew up.

  • doom-erik

    Still one of my favourite albums of all time, although I find Turn Loose The Swans slightly better nowadays.

    • Grymm

      Turn Loose The Swans was definitely a masterpiece.

  • basenjibrian

    I don’t know. My favorite MDB album remains As the Flower Withers. Followed by Turn Loose the Swans probably. Then one song off one of the lesser albums…I love the song She is the Dark!

    • Grymm

      “She Is the Dark” is an awesome song!

    • RuySan

      Bah, “The Light at The End of the World” is not a lesser album. For me it’s their 3rd best, not far behind “The Angel…”.

      It’s such an heavy and raw album. Killer riffs all the way through and very dark vibe, and not in a romantic/gothic way, like most of their albums.

      • Wilhelm

        It drags in a few places, I think if they would have chopped 10 minutes off, that album would have been better received – Although, stylistically it was a return to form and a pretty killer album.

        • basenjibrian

          I agree with your reply Wilhelm, while agreeing as well with Ruy San.
          She is the Dark, though…that song gives me chills! Lyrically as well as musically. That main “foghorn” riff just kills to me!

  • Wilhelm

    In a recent interview Aaron said the new MDB is not going to be doom, so I’m not really sure what to think; It’s possible that they need a change of musical scenery as they’ve been riding the same horse for a while now.

    • Grymm

      *rubs eyes*

      Whuuuuuuuuuuuut?!

      I have to find this interview.

      • Wilhelm

        I’m paraphrasing from memory but the interview, I believe, is in Terrorizer or one of the more extreme metal print mags. Basically he said that songs were composed for a side project which they contacted Calvin for, when he rejoined they used those songs for MDB. Aaron said the songs were Powerful and not doom or something along those lines.

        • Grymm

          I’m very curious to check this album out when it releases later this year. They were hit-or-miss after Like Gods of the Sun.

  • euthanatos

    Love this album, was probably the second album I was introduced to when I first discovered doomy gothicky bands (the first was Theatre of Tragedy’s Aegis). “From Darkest Skies” is just a brilliant, brilliant song. Always loved Aaron’s lyrics. MDB’s discography has had its ups and downs, surely due (also) to the many line-up changes, but this album is a classic. Way to go, Grymmster.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Excellent choice for a ‘Yer Metal is Olde’ piece. The Cry of Mankind is their best work,..You’ve inspired me to que up a best of MDB, Paradise Lost, (early) Anathema and songs from Orchid…

  • Eryops

    Okay, for some reason, I’ve always had MDB lumped in with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold, so would never have given them or their fans the time of day. Stupid brain, ruining another chapter that could have been more full of doom.

  • Keith DeSantis

    One of my favorite live memories. MDB played with Dio who I couldn’t have given 2 fucks about at the time. They were on the like Gods of the sun tour. They played at fucking rainbow gardens this little piece of shit hall off of Waldameer amusement park in Erie Pennsylvania. Where high schools host their fucking proms. After their amazing set which was so fucking close to the record it was unreal. My wife and I got to hang out with them. Drinking beer in some back room with MDB in the 90’s. Something I will never forget.