My Dying Bride - The Dreadful Hours (2001)

My Dying Bride - The Dreadful Hours (2001) Cover
Daniel Daniel / December 02, 2020 / Comments 0 / 1

The classic doom/death sound has always been something that I’ve been heavily attracted to as it combines two of my favourite sounds for a result that generally equals or transcends the sum of its parts. In fact, it could be argued that I wasn’t all that big on your more traditional doom metal sound until the more significant doom/death exponents appeared in the early 1990s with England’s My Dying Bride sitting amongst the most important & influential in my musical journey. It took exactly one song to leave me hooked with the title track from 1992’s “Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium” E.P. leaving me completely soul-destroyed & begging for more, a task which they willingly proceeded to fulfill with aplomb over the next four years. My Dying Bride’s best work was not only gripping enough to play a significant role in the greatest period of musical discovery & exploration in my life to date but, so profound was their impact on me, that they also assisted in my emotional development as a young man. By the late 90’s however, the doom/death explosion had reached its peak & begun its descent & my interest in metal as a whole was starting to wane which would see me spending most of the 2000’s immersing myself in the world of electronic music. When I finally returned to metal in 2009 I had some catching up to do so I quickly turned to my beloved My Dying Bride for guidance. I would soon find that 2001’s “The Dreadful Hours” album was held up in the highest esteem by fans & critics alike so my hopes were lifted at the prospect of another life-changing musical highlight from the leaders of the game.

“The Dreadful Hours” can be regarded as an album that’s very much representative of what your average My Dying Bride fan was wanting to hear from them at the time & it depends on where you stand in regards to that statement as to whether you’ll be overjoyed or underwhelmed by it. When I first reviewed it back in November 2010 I found that I fell comfortably into the latter camp. I certainly saw some appeal in what I was hearing but felt that the band was simply revising past glories in a less-inspired manner, an opinion that was provided additional weight by the fact that more than 20% of the album was taken up by a re-recorded version of a past classic. It all sounded like a band going through the motions & trying to force out the album their fans were all wanting & the seemingly unanimous praise the album seemed to draw from the global metal community has left me confused ever since. My confusion reached a new peak recently when I discovered that “The Dreadful Hours” was My Dying Bride’s top ranking release on another prominent music ratings website, sitting clear of bona fide classics like “Turn Loose The Swans” & “The Angel & The Dark River”. I immediately raised my wretched face to the heavens & muttered “What is this madness?!” It was a clear indication that the time was right to reassess my position.

I once again found myself struggling a bit during my first listen to be honest. The production is excellent as you would expect but I wasn’t really able to connect all that well with the song-writing & delivery. It certainly sounded like My Dying Bride but…. there was something missing. That was until the stunning re-enactment of the epic fourteen minute “The Return Of The Beautiful” from their 1992 debut full-length “As The Flower Withers” (this time renamed “The Return TO The Beautiful”) which not only represents the clear highlight of the album but also sits up there with the greatest pieces of work for the subgenre as a whole. Yyyeessss….. there it is. That’s what I’ve been missing. I quickly returned to the start of the album to see if I’d just overlooked the quality in the other material & my second listen saw me starting to identify & come to terms with my qualms.

One of the most magnificent features of the classic MDB material was the inclusion of the violin which added a truly majestic aura & an overall beauty to the music. "The Dreadful Hours" is really missing that aspect. The band have attempted to replace it through the use of keyboards which generally work quite well but are rarely as emotionally engaging. There’s also not as much consistency in the quality of the riffs as there was during their classic period with some of them sounding a touch generic & this element sees most tracks falling a little short of their potential. I think "Black Heart Romance" definitely achieves the classic MDB sound best of the new material & after several listens I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a classic in its own right however the fact that "The Return To The Beautiful" clearly takes another step up from there shows that My Dying Bride aren’t quite what they were, despite leaving clear proof that they’re still a tier one player.

Probably my major gripe with latter day My Dying Bride is with Aaron’s clean vocal delivery though. On “The Dreadful Hours” we see him alternating between his powerful death growls & his more melodic & gothic-tinged clean singing & my feelings on the two are like chalk & cheese. Where his growls bring the more sombre material a genuine sense of desolation, his clean stuff comes across as very limited & repetitive. His phrasing is always the same & I feel like he’s about to cry a lot of the time. Now that may appeal to a lot of people but I’ve always found that sort of thing to be overly melodramatic & emasculating. Label me as the classic cold-hearted male that’s detached from his emotional side if you like but I don’t like to hear grown men whimpering & whinging all that much, particularly in my extreme metal. Aaron does a lot of rehashing of old material here too. The phrasing in "My Hope, The Destroyer" is simply too close to earlier material for example & the lyrics also make me want to kick him in the nuts & tell him to harden the fuck up. "The Deepest Of All Hearts" is a fine example of this too & the up-front position the vocals take in the mix doesn’t help much to be fair. Why do so many of the lines have to end with “me” & “you”?? It’s all a bit annoying as the death growls inevitably see my ears pricking up & my general attitude soaring but I have to admit that repeat listens have seen me able to look past Aaron’s performance a lot more than I used to.

Having had my whinge, this is musically a pretty heavy record. The instrumental performances are all very tight & chunky & there’s only the one track that I don’t enjoy in the dreary nine-minute "Le Figile della Tempesta" which sees Aaron at his worst over a repeated lead guitar motif that’s been pulled straight from their classic “The Cry Of Mankind”. I can easily see how “The Dreadful Hours” offers a fairly universal appeal & I do enjoy it more than I did previously, mainly because I’ve had time to get over my qualms a little bit & just take in the positives a bit more. I mean there is still a lot of the classic My Dying Bride sound here. It’s just that I’m left with a numbing feeling that cries out "you’ve heard it all before". I guess I just think that it’s a bit overrated rather than harboring any doubts about it being a strong record in its own right. It’s a high quality doom release & is deserving of a higher rating than I gave it previously but it doesn’t entice me to listen to it over their past classics & its closing masterpiece serves as a reminder of the real depth & magnificence that My Dying Bride are capable of at their very best.

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Sonny Sonny / December 28, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

I've got to admit to never having been a huge fan of My Dying Bride. Their whole Gothic Romantic persona never really did much for me, reminding me overmuch of Cradle of Filth's gothic schtick. Their doom seemed less based on mournful melancholy borne of emotional suffering and more of lethargy and world-weary boredom brought about by excessive debauchery, laudanum and absinthe intake, in the manner of Anne Rice's vampire Lestat.

Anyway I put this on my player and set off for a walk with my dog, finding myself ten minutes or so later in the local churchyard, dating back to the eighteenth century, the gravestones being terribly overgrown. I didn't make a conscious decision to go there and had been there a few minutes before the suitability of the setting to the music I was listening to dawned on me.

Now I don't know if this is some fanciful notion or not, but in this somewhat sombre setting I finally felt some connection to and appreciation of MDB's brand of doom. Obviously this is aided by the fact that this is evidently one of their best albums, with songs like The Raven and the Rose and it's energetic death metal vibe (possibly my favourite song of theirs) and the epic dichotomy of the title track. The album as a whole feels like some kind of subdued operatic tragedy and now my preconceived perceptions have been shed, MDB's poetic style makes much more sense to me. Consider me a convert!

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Ben Ben / January 16, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

This is one hour that's far from dreadful. A stunning album that's awfully close to the band's best work.

My Dying Bride was back in the good books of their fans after 1999’s The Light at the End of the World returned their sound to the death doom metal of yesteryear. Their evolution over the past few years had taken them a fair distance from their roots with 34.788%...Complete perhaps pushing things further than many were willing to go. Whether the band would still find consistent inspiration producing music in a style they’d decisively left behind was yet to be seen, but 2001’s The Dreadful Hours not only suggested that it was possible, it made the irrefutable declaration that My Dying Bride’s best years were not a thing of the past. After an abnormal period of line-up changes, things were finally settling down with no departures in between the band’s sixth and seventh albums. In fact, after recording The Light at the End of the World with Andrew Craighan handling all guitar duties, they recruited Hamish Glencross from Solstice to bring the official line-up back to five (Aaron on vocals, Andrew and Hamish on guitars, Adrian on bass and Shaun on drums). They still hadn’t found a full time replacement for keyboard and violin performer Martin Powell who’d left the band in 1998, so Jonny Maudling from Bal-Sagoth once again helped out with session keyboards for The Dreadful Hours album.

While I found a lot to enjoy on The Light at the End of the World, there were certainly some areas that needed to be tightened up. In particular, the transitions between slower, melancholic phases and aggressive, death metal infused sections were far from seamless, and some of that brutality seemed to be included as an afterthought rather than part of an inspired package. Yet while it appeared that The Light at the End of the World was slightly rushed in an attempt to quickly recover lost ground, it’s obvious that The Dreadful Hours was meticulously crafted with attention paid to all aspects by a strong unit. The end result is a bunch of beautiful compositions that flow through varying moods without dropping the quality or losing their grip on the listener. Right from the tender rain accompanied opening of the title track through to the close of re-recorded classic The Return to the Beautiful, The Dreadful Hours finds My Dying Bride at the top of their game, with all of the miserably despondent elements we’ve come to expect and love, yet with none of the misadventures or uncomfortable instances that occasionally tarnish their work. It’s an album I feared they would never make after their lengthy diversion and despite my enjoyment of everything they’ve produced to varying degrees, The Dreadful Hours feels like home.

As is the norm for latter day My Dying Bride, the production is excellent and there are great performances by all involved. Andrew and Hamish immediately clicked together and the whole album is filled with crushing doom riffs and gorgeous melodies. There’s actually a lot of variety in their techniques throughout yet it’s all held together by wonderfully melancholic glue. Jonny Maudling had stayed relatively in the background on the last couple of albums, happy to support the band’s sound without drawing attention to his symphonic layers. His role is far more effective and evident on The Dreadful Hours and tracks like My Hope, the Destroyer are very heavily based around his stirring work. Of course its way more subtle than what he produces for his full time band Bal-Sagoth, but with each successive My Dying Bride session, he seemed to gain more confidence in this environment and had more impact. The Dreadful Hours is also right up there with the best work of Aaron’s illustrious career and certainly his strongest since Turn Loose the Swans. He manages to produce real emotional weight throughout without breaking into overly melodramatic pulp. He uses clean vocals the majority of the time which are both compelling and touching, while his growls are far more brutal than anything he’d produced since the early years.

Speaking of early years, I wouldn’t normally be too thrilled with the bands decision to re-record a track as part of a full length studio album. I feel that sort of thing should be limited to EPs and compilations, or at the very least listed as a bonus track. When it comes to The Return of the Beautiful, I’m willing to forgive My Dying Bride because it’s just so damn good. The original was the highlight off their debut album As the Flower Withers back in 1992 and this version improves upon it in many ways. The increase in production qualities as well as the small variation to details, including a fantastic climax where the song breaks down to what appears to be The Bitterness and the Bereavement in the distance, make it not only a hugely nostalgic trip, but an album highlight. If anything it gives those fans that decry the debut for being primitive something to think about, as this track shows how ambitious and complex My Dying Bride were even in their infancy. Other highlights are the title track, The Raven and the Rose, the bass driven Le Figlie Sella Tempesta, A Cruel Taste of Winter and the huge My Hope, the Destroyer. I’m not going to go so far as stating that The Dreadful Hours is My Dying Bride’s best album, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it deserves a full five star rating. Glorious, gloomy despondency from the masters of death doom!

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