My Dying Bride - An Ode to Woe (2008)Release ID: 953
A nice, if a little superfluous, live recording that's enjoyable for any My Dying Bride fan.
You have to question why My Dying Bride (or more specifically Peaceville Records) would feel the need to release a live album just six years after the last one. 2002’s The Voice of the Wretched was a great listen with good track selection performed flawlessly, so asking fans to buy another one so soon is probably a bit steep. Still, considering how good the band’s last few releases have been, with The Dreadful Hours and Songs of Darkness, Words of Light in particular being up there with the best albums they’ve created to date, it’s at least interesting to hear the newer tracks in the live environment and to see how they integrate them into their set list. It’s also worth noting that the line-up of An Ode to Woe is really quite different to the one that produced The Voice of the Wretched, with half of the band being made up of fresh faces. While vocalist Aaron and both guitarists (Hamish and Andy) are present on both, the keyboards, bass and drums are handled by new members. In fact, this is the very first official My Dying Bride release not to include bassist Ade Jackson (he relocated to USA and therefore left the band) and the first to include his replacement Lena Abé (who joins keyboardist Sarah Stanton to bring the female quota to two). It’s also ex Bal-Sagoth drummer Dan Mullins first foray with the band after previous drummer John Bennett had to leave due to work commitments.
Recorded in April 2007 at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland, An Ode to Woe only contains twelve tracks in total, but still manages to include at least one selection from all but their debut album. This clearly shows that despite branching out in different directions and dealing with numerous line-up changes over the years, My Dying Bride is still entirely loyal to their discography, as well as to fans that might have come on board during any period of their existence. There is however no possible way that the band could please everyone when it comes to performing personal favourites. With nine full-length studio albums in the bag, there are simply too many classic My Dying Bride tracks to be included in a single live performance, let alone a solitary CD. Things start off strongly enough, with To Remain Tombless and the gorgeous My Hope, the Destroyer really getting things off on the right foot. Unfortunately, the next three track combination is less impressive with For You, The Blue Lotus and Like Gods of the Sun sending the album temporarily spiralling pretty close to tedium. Thankfully it picks up from there, with the second half of An Ode to Woe running like a best of compilation, containing fantastic tracks like The Cry of Mankind, The Whore, the Cook and the Mother, The Snow in My Hand and The Dreadful Hours raising the game and keeping it there for the remaining fifty odd minutes.
The production overall is pretty good, but I do have some qualms that negate from the experience. Firstly, if I compare The Voice of the Wretched to An Ode to Woe, the difference is fairly obvious. The clarity of the newer release is perfectly fine, with everyone at least audible in the mix, but it just lacks the crushing authority of the previous one, and there are some variations between the volumes of instruments in the mix. The bass and drums are really loud while the vocals and the rhythm section can sometimes get left behind. There’s also a noticeable amount of reverb on the guitars that could have been cleaned up with a little bit of effort. As for the performances themselves, there’s no doubt that all the line-up changes have had an effect on My Dying Bride as a unit. There are numerous noticeable mistakes with off drum beats, vocals coming in at the wrong time (on Catherine Blake) and some very ordinary keyboard work on the normally awesome The Cry of Mankind. I also think Aaron’s growls are getting less impressive as time goes on. The Snow in My Hand was included on both live albums, so it’s an easy way to compare. If you listen to his performance one after the other, it’s evident that he just doesn’t have the same impact that he once did. Thankfully, his clean vocals are reasonably solid and considering that’s the way he sings more often than not these days, it’s not too much of an issue.
Flaws aside, there is one large bonus that gives An Ode to Woe an advantage over The Voice of the Wretched and that’s the inclusion of the concert on a separate DVD. I do hope this is a sign of things to come as it really bothers me when labels put out both DVD and CD versions of the same live performance, expecting fans to buy both. Packaging them together makes total sense and while I will always be more inclined to listen to a concert on CD than sit down in front of the TV to watch it, having the option without paying twice is certainly agreeable. The DVD version also contains an extra track in The Forever People which simply couldn’t fit on the audio only edition. Collectors will also appreciate the nice digi-book format that An Ode to Woe is packaged in, which includes grand artwork as well as all the lyrics to the tracks (rare for live albums). Still, it’s hard to get too excited about this release considering the abovementioned flaws and its generally superfluous nature. If you’re after a live album that displays the kings of romantic death doom in their prime, you’d probably be wiser to pick up The Voice of the Wretched, but if (like me) you’d enjoy listening to My Dying Bride under pretty much any circumstances, and are a fan of their modern albums, then there’s no real reason not to give Peaceville more of your hard earned cash and add An Ode to Woe to your collection.
Gothic Metal (conventional)
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Doom Metal (conventional)
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