Metal History by Steven
- The Band – My Dying Bride (1990 – present)
- The Album – As the Flower Withers
- Country of Origin – England
- The Year – 1992
- Lineup – Aaron Stainthorpe, Andrew Craighan, Calvin Robertshaw, Adrian Jackson, Rick Miah
- Genre – Death Doom
- Metallum Average – 10 reviews at 75%
Other notable releases from 1992 for context:
Pure by Godflesh, Thresholds by Nocturnus, Vulgar Display of Power by Pantera, Burzum by Burzum
Noob Heavy runs a Metal Think tank for the contributors of his website, and within this group (CB – Just email for an invite), I asked the question, “What do you guys know about My Dying Bride?” Those that answered knew of the band, but weren’t overly familiar with their catalogue.
As of 30 March 2020, My Dying Bride was getting over 133,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, but even so, I still believe it is relevant to pitch their debut LP as part if this series.
Most people think of My Dying Bride as a Death Doom band, with hefty songs of epic length, with symphonic elements, and clean vocals mixed with some death metal vocals on occasion. Yes, this does describe them in part, but to truly understand My Dying Bride, one needs to listen to their music evolution from the early years. Granted, this is not an easy task as their discography is immense, and also very intimidating. Plus, who really has time nowadays? This is why a lot of people will be unfamiliar with their debut, As the Flower Withers (1992), especially as other later albums are often put before this one, when someone starts exploring their catalogue.
Death Doom was born proper in the early 90s. Cathedral, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride all released around this time, but for me, My Dying Bride soon emerged as the titans of the genre. Cathedral and Paradise Lost had some really great tunes, however, their drive seemed to be more about building on what Candlemass had created, and doing it heavier and deeper. They were chasing heaviness and groove.
Whilst the debut of My Dying Bride achieved the Death Metal heaviness that was so prevalent at this time, they also created arguably a new sound, and this was the perfect platform for vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe to pour out his soul with a sense on impending sadness, dread, despair and anger fueled from grief. When he sings, you can not help but believe that he is experiencing every emotion catalogued within his lyrics.
The production of their debut is gritty, at times muddy, washed in reverb and possessing a genuine sense of dread. The inclusion of the violin and synth also adds very nicely to the atmosphere of gloom.
The opening track, Silent Dance, is an instrumental of amazing quality and brings to mind the genius of Samuel Barber and his haunting Agnus Dei. Then the epic masterpiece Sear Me kicks into gear; patient drums, slow building riffs layered with dread, and topped off with Death Metal vocals delivered in Latin.
Now it’s not all slow, with quicker tracks, like The Forever People and Erotic Literature thrown in for good measure. In fact, the pacing of the entire album works wonderfully well, and the slowness mixed with the speed hits the right mark, and is very relevant for the era it was released. I think the clever pacing actually allowed the Death Metal community to embrace the band more so than other Doom bands, giving future audiences time to prepare for the more adventurous song writing that was to come.
Even so, it was these new elements within their debut, and how they used them to portray emotion, that was the true gift of this band. The use of the synth, the lamenting death cries from Stainthorpe, and the bemoaning violin tones, are all mesmeric in their combination. Just listen the start of The Bitterness and the Bereavement and it is easy to understand how this band managed to make such an impact back in the day.
From The Bitterness and the Bereavement
I think I’ll close my eyes now
The first sunshine was mine
Look for me among the flowers
Sleeping with the earth
My Dying Bride
The pity I fashion
Through a rain of tears
A tragic opus
Tearful I rest
Bask in my growing sorrow”
On the release of this album, guitarist, Andy Craighan said, “It’s a collection of our feelings and emotions on vinyl. Yes, we are happy with it, we went out with the intention not to sound like any other Death / Doom band and I think we achieved that.”
The Return Of The Beautiful is possibly the standout track and lyrically is presented in 5 parts. The Silence, The Sadness, The Lust, The Battle and The Return. It is operatic in its delivery, with a patient introduction that builds, an insane atmospheric interlude, furious anger, deep sadness, and an ending that signs off with a distant resignation of gloom and futile finality.
The Last Word:
A new style of Death Doom was forged from this album, and it set My Dying Bride on a trajectory to become one of the greats of the genre. If you do not know this band, and you like Death Doom or 90s Death Metal, please listen to this album, along with Turn Loose the Swans(1993)*, Trinity (EP compilation, 1995) and The Angel and the Dark River (1995)**. Listen where you can immerse yourself in the music, the lyrics and the sonic mastery of each release, and allow yourself to be swept up by the sadness, and the beauty of some truly classic metal.
*The Crown Of Sympathy from this album is an excellent example of the band introducing clean vocals within their works
**The Cry of Mankind from this album is one of their best ever songs, with an atmospheric ending that could be in a Blade Runner movie (but make sure you listen to their early stuff before you check this one out, and listen with headphones in a dark room for full effect).