My Dying Bride // The Manuscript
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — A somber celebration of the tried and true.
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites: myspace.com/officialmydyingbride | facebook.com/pages/My-Dying-Bride-Official
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.13 | NA: 06.04.2013
You really have to hand it to My Dying Bride. This 23-year-old band have stuck to their guns unlike any other band of their kin – not only by staying true to their death-doom roots without much in the way of deviation, but by their sheer amount of unwavering activity. Especially when you consider the other British death-doom pioneers of their ilk, both Anathema and Paradise Lost going down different paths to musical pastures so far detached from their roots, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re a completely different band than the gothic pessimists they began life as. My Dying Bride, however, has had a core sound since their very first album and aside from minor experimentation here and there it’s remained very much the same. The best bit, however, is that they retain the capacity to surprise and take their sound to new heights. Last year’s offering, A Map of All Our Failures, was absolutely spectacular in every sense of the word – perhaps even their best work. It took every good part of their career and merged it into one brilliant opus, adding such a mournful yet subtle, delicate tone to the album while foregoing the sometimes cringe-worthy theatrics that I feel has haunted My Dying Bride‘s music for the past ten years or more. They finally proved that they had an understanding of control, and it was that element of control that set A Map apart from every release they put out since Songs of Darkness and Words of Light; a truly welcome comeback for the band.
So it’s quite a relief to report their latest release, The Manuscript, follows more in that direction. The sense of control they rediscovered has thankfully graced this musical palette too and none of the songs overstay their welcome or lose themselves in the desperate clichés that partially ruined A Line of Deathless Kings and For Lies I Sire. This is truly a testament to how the smallest of changes can totally alter the impression a record leaves. Though familiar aspects of their music that they’ve been using for years are here and just as prominent, they’re used with a sense of maturity that serves the musical whole rather than dominating the record and turning it into a mess.
There are a few differences from last year’s offering, though. The four tracks included in The Manuscript are all written in a more straight forward way, which isn’t really a bad thing. It feels more like a collection of off-cuts rather than a journey, but as an EP of what is likely off-cuts from the last album, nothing else can be expected. The Manuscript is a collection of four enjoyably bleak tracks showcasing My Dying Bride doing what they do best. The sorrowful violin parts are tastefully implemented and thankfully used just sparingly enough to serve the songs positively. The guitar work is a perfect mix of heavy and melodiously enjoyable riffs, seamlessly weaving between the crushing and the somber with the tact and subtlety only achieved by true masters of the trade. Aaron’s vocals, mostly sticking to sorrowful cleans, are predictably always improving. They’re far more forward on this recording than on the last album, leading the songs far more confidently as opposed to the quivering, delicate style on A Map of All Our Failures.
The Manuscript doesn’t impress nor surprise, nor was that the intention. It’s an enjoyable celebration of their tried and true formula that no one else can seem to master. And for a band that has been doing much the same thing for 23 years, it’s all the more impressive that a small collection of songs like this can still really hit home. Every song is as strong as the other, albeit for different reasons. The violin work and progressions in “A Pale Shroud of Longing” being particularly powerful; the unusually soft final track that perhaps ends a bit too early, but still resounds pretty strongly; the other two being more or less a perfect combination of the two. The Manuscript is an enjoyable EP, but one that almost by design doesn’t quite reach the brilliance of the last album. The bride has been dying for 23 years, but she’s far from dead.