My Dying Bride - The Manuscript

by Amy Putman Rating:9 Release Date:2013-05-27

This week I have been pondering the beauty of the phrase 'the heart of the plan'. Apart from the pure delight of the sound of the combination of words, the imagery is splendid. Just think about it for a minute; let the idea of the pivoting factor as a red raw hunk of flesh bursting with energy sink into the heart of your imagination; imagine that the resultant actions and reactions trickle through your mind as life-giving veins of success or as rivulets of blood after the ruptured arteries of failure. Alternatively, the heart can be heavy with importance and responsibility, or simply the first blow in a series of flick-flacking, tumbling, unfolding, unravelling chain actions, much like the heartbeat facilitating warm toes and a functional thought process.

The linguistic act of giving the inanimate or the abstracted imaginary circulatory systems is a simple yet evocative metaphor which we reiterate throughout the English language: 'the heart of the matter'; 'the heart of the fire'; the heart of the wood'. Stars have hearts; labyrinths have hearts; homes have hearts (often at their hearths). We have heartlands. Where they are is a matter of debate and probably different for each region and class, but we still have them.

All of these allusions would make sense given that humans cannot live without a functioning heart, except that we can't live without a functioning brain either (unless you're an X Factor contestant) and we don't go giving brains out willy nilly to concepts and objects in our ever-turning phrases. We keep brains reserved for humanity; the thing which sets us apart from the rest of the entire world; the bodily sector we value above all others as housing our personal selves and what makes us 'better' than other animals. Never mind that all animals have brains; we use ours as justification for our self-deification.

Our willingness to freely gift big, purple and red, muscular chest pumps, then, must be endorsing something other than the implication of crux of survival. After all, we don't say 'the liver of the star', or the 'lung of the matter'. Mazes don't have kidneys and homes don't have skins... And so it comes down to emotions.

Centuries of believing that the mind is rational (unless you're a Tory) and the heart is the seat of all emotions (emotions are part-synaptic and part-chemical and so are really a brain thing, if not a full-body thing, so this concept is as sensible as saying sorrow resides in the bum... Though actually I quite like the idea that my emotions live in my wobbly bits and shall henceforth have my rear as the, um, seat of negativity and my breasts as the, ahem, pleasure-domes of positivity. I mean that anything important, poetic, emotional, or cryptic has a heart. You wouldn't say, '"the heart of the refuse tip", but you would say, "the heart of the mountain". You wouldn't say, "the heart of my boredom", but you would say, "the heart of the disagreement".

Blessings of anthropomorphic, implied, fantasised, or mirage hearts lend weight and feeling to descriptions which might otherwise blandly undervalue the subject. They are mostly offered up to that which we feel is shifting or lacking in absolutes, uncommon or more than face value. Mystery surrounds hearts and their strange forces; unfathomable feelings rather than solid facts; the mystical rather than the visible.

They stress the cultural and personal importance of the receiver of the organ. So we have homes, not houses; convictions, not facts; enigmas, not puzzles; swarms, not groups; oceans, not ponds. Hearts are never mundane or everyday; hearts add intangible value. In spite of the fact that everyone has an actual heart, to 'have heart' is considered rare. Hearts are not awarded to anything lacking in intensity or interest; hearts beat the wheat of living from the chaff of survival. They add scale and grandeur.

My Dying Bride has a heart, and the heart of the band is their skill in constructing simple yet haunting tunes. If it was a functional heart, it would be carved from Whitby Jet and powered by Scandinavian lava, probably pumping some kind of black wine. They are gothic, black metal, doom metal, and yet also somehow light, as though they are infused with some kind of suave energy of manly skips, laughing duels and deserved cocksureness.

It's like Dorian Grey grew a massive pair of balls, multiplied himself so he could form a band, got up to date with the scene, and then rocked out. The music is carefully constructed but played with casual ability, nonchalantly stylish and effortlessly beautiful. Above all, this is a tuneful dark metal, incorporating both the refined dark romanticism of goth and the meat-spitting, canine-ripping growl of metal into some lilting and nostalgic composition.

Their music is incredible at the task of placing notes and chords together to make something aesthetically pleasing, pretty when desired, and always moving. This sounds like the most ridiculously overstated compliment for a simple ability ever but it is not so. Very few bands in the contemporary alternative scene write great tunes.

There are a lot of them that rock out thoroughly. There are many who make amazing music. Actual tunes, however, have become almost unfashionable. My Dying Bride demonstrates ably that tunefulness is still relevant and deserves more attention. They earn their place amongst the best of the bands who do still care about such traditional things with carefully sketched aural pictures, full of texture, shade and implication.

Tunes may be this band's heart, but their music has a heart as well. Though it must be noted that I wouldn't necessarily say that their music has heart. That odd little phrase is reserved for the almost-bland but horrifyingly chirpy, or garishly open, or untalented but honest, or gauchely straightforward... Or maybe people who are trying just so very, very hard but have been born tone-deaf, or hopeless, or zombified.

My Dying Bride, on the other hand, are poetic and deep and marvellously talented. They are emotional without slapping it about your face in an obvious and condescending manner. They don't speak idiot; they explore the realms of parallel feelings and metaphoric exploration into the fringes and borders of rich emotions. They do so with delicacy, vision, richness and aplomb. Theirs is not a blunt blurting of infantile wants or tantrum complaints; theirs is a sumptuous reach towards, through, and beyond the intensity of true feeling; the expansion of the everyday soul beyond ordinary reaction into the epic sublime, be it the bliss of tortured sorrow or the purity of wrath.

The heart of their music is the vocals, and it comes in many shapes, shifting moods like a mercurial therianthrope while still retaining a recognisable essence. When singing, the timbre is rich as clotted cream, but without any of the classical tone which sometimes tinges sonorous metal with the operatic. The singer's voice stays on the side of contemporary rock, casually talented, as though the act of singing were a smoky access slide to boiling depths, but edging close enough to the line to have real resonance and a rolling tone that is a step above folk but still conjures images of brooding figures on stormy hills. In 'Only Tears to Replace Her With', his speech drops into the aural space like rounded rocks, commanding attention with a deep, forcefully silken voice whose tone whispers of all kinds of dangerous men with sullen stares of seduction and demon-tainted powers. It reminds me of Richard Burton narrating the electro-musical version of The War of the Worlds in resonance and solemnity, but with more love and loss and graveyard wandering with tear-spattered flowers, and fewer killer tripods.

Their music is sometimes familiar but not in the way that identikit copy bands all sound the same, but rather in the lightly disturbing déjà vu sense that you heard it once in a dream, or a shadow realm, or goblin opium den. At the same time, that lends a comforting sheen to the sharp tailored silk. Whatever dwindling spun place you encountered the music has left a pleasant taste, even if only the flavour of the ecstasy of succumbing.

Likewise, the lyrics are posturing, over-dramatic and the style is sometimes wanky, but in a truly wonderful way. What may come off as posing is really a reach for style and grace by a crew of dedicated, talented dreamers, pushing their hearts into their art form. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, most people could use some outmoded romanticism and descriptive poeticism. It may not be fashionable, but it is the perfect antidote to the cynical, ill-informed, dumbed-down, anti-intellectual, inverse-elitist stagnation we currently wallow in.

My only real criticism is that, when singing softly, or trying for gentle quietness, the vocals become slightly reedy and scratchy. It is of no importance, however, since power is rapidly applied and resonance restored, sonorous and deep. Perhaps their music would be neater if they stuck to the absolute strength of his usual singing style, but I applaud the attempt. Their near miss is someone else's apex, and experimentation is music's blood. A few notes linger on too long; a little excessive reverb but, though the moment is imperfect, when the full song is experienced, reflection realises the tapestry woven is wonderful because of such slips, not in spite of them.

The vocals are outstanding but would not work alone, nice as the voice is. My Dying Bride is a complete band, each as talented as the other. There is some particularly nice guitar in 'The Manuscript', opening the song with an interesting twist, before keeping the pace going throughout. 'Var Gud Over Er', the heaviest of the four tracks showcased here, glories in its bass, implying a thousand snarls, heaving masses of sweat, and desperate pheromones. Somehow, however, the heavier vibe and growly sprinkles, though much more my usual preference, made this song less exciting than the other three.

My Dying Bride offer here three tracks which hold them up as distinct masters of a certain blend of goth and doom, both stormy and intricate. After that, the heavier sound seemed desperate, inexpertly applied and clumsy. It is not what they excel at and was an evident poor relation to their best.

This four-track, sample-style selection is worth any amount of money. They have a recognisable sound without ever being tedious or repetitive and these four tracks allow them to play around in the fields of daringly lush music they create. Imagine if Wesley from The Princess Bride had an evil twin. Now imagine that Eric from True Blood was less selfish. Imagine they both had a child each with some beautiful waifs and that those children bred with Shelley and Rosetti.

Now imagine their children magically met up and made babies with Brandon Lee, Hulk, Gomez Adams, and Bela Legosi's growly, hairy, better-looking twin. Now imagine a few generations pass on, breeding with people like Dr Strange, the Wolfman, Sigurd and Brynhildr, Byron, Omar Sharif, Zabulon (the Night Watch series), and Sharpe.... Now imagine there remain only two, one distilled from each family, and by some magical twist of fate they meet and fuck. Their offspring would be the sound of My Dying Bride.

Awesome, sharp, romantic, brutal, nostalgic, intricate, and dark; the sound of secret feelings for the last couple of hundred years. My Dying Bride will entrance and release you into a fitful art of worlds, piercing into the heart of blackness and the heart of the beauty beyond.

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