Feel The Misery: it’s an unusually stark and self-explanatory album title for a band who traditionally ornament their gloom with opaque poetic metaphors like Turn Loose The Swans or A Map Of All Our Failures.
This newfound combination of bluntness and clarity carries over to the guitars, where the reinstated tag team of Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw – founding members together again after 16 years – grind out gritty, brutish riffs and uncluttered crystalline harmonies.
It’s also the first album the band have produced with Mags – at their spiritual home, Academy Studios – since 2009’s For Lies I Sire, so the twin axes have that ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ sound nailed (ironically, co-producer and drummer Dan Mullins’ snare could do with a bigger sonic wallop).
Although undeniably a slow doom metal record, Feel The Misery showcases a versatile overview of the band’s various strengths; I Celebrate Your Skin is a slinky, throbbing gothic sex hymn destined to moisten a thousand black panties, A Thorn Of Wisdom has quirky new wave impulses and I Almost Loved You is a sublimely sorrowful chamber-orchestral ballad in the Black God vein, while the title track and closing epic, Within A Sleeping Forest, are brooding, hypnotic ultra-doom classics. Aaron Stainthorpe augments his wounded croon with growls, whispers and portentous spoken word, and the macabre eccentricity of his lyrics still draws breath with lines like ‘I tied my children to a dying horse.’ There’s frequent but sparing use of violin, pipe organ, grainy ambient synths and one-finger piano melodies so downcast they make the end credits of The Incredible Hulk sound like the Vengabus is coming.
The most consistent of the gothic doom-death trailblazers who emerged up north in the early 90s, MDB eschewed the genre-hopping reinventions of Paradise Lost and Anathema (except for sweary trip-hop experiment Heroin Chic in 1998), retaining a beefy metallic elegance and doomed romantic grandeur across their 25-year career. If their solid output has remained slightly overshadowed by their momentous early work, here’s where that changes. Desolate and beautiful, impassioned and arcane, My Dying Bride are marking their quarter-century milestone with their strongest full-length this century.