Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Dying Bride - "A Map Of All Our Failures" (2012) [Peaceville]

When someone listens to music even just a little more than casually, they no doubt have a particular band that stands out as an undeniable favorite. Even if you cant name just one, there surely must be at least a handful of bands that have never gone away from you. From the moment you discovered them and that first note made its way into your soul, an obvious and indelible mark was left. When new material is released, there is a feeling of excitement but also of great curiosity and even doubt. It isn't that you expect something worse than before, it is more the fact that you find it nearly impossible to exceed or even meet past offerings. Most times this is made even more difficult because the love of older material may exceed just mere musical worth and carry with it a sense of nostalgia or some other feeling that will always give it an advantage that no new material can have from the start. For me, My Dying Bride is one of said groups.

For one reason or another, it has always been that depressing music has on the contrary, made me happy. I can only guess it is the feeling that you are not alone in your suffering that gives joy to the listener and it is hard to think of anyone more miserable sounding than Aaron Stainthorpe and his band of mournful musicians. To be fair and completely honest, nothing will ever come remotely close to the feeling that I got when I first heard As the Flower Withers or Turn Loose the Swans". This is due to not only the music itself but as I said earlier, the experience and time at which I began to listen. Over the years, the band has been a constant in my life and I have certainly had a kind of love/hate relationship with them. As is the case with just about anything you can be passionate about, you tend to be overtly critical. In terms of music, it gets to the point where you may have enjoyed certain material had someone else put it out, yet in the context of a favorite band, it just didn't work. Some changes were for the better while others were extremely questionable and a big hit was the loss of violin on certain albums. I realize this was not the fault or a decision of the band itself, rather than the violinist choosing to leave but there are feelings that can be conveyed through a violin that an electric guitar simply can not touch and it had become an important staple of My Dying Bride's sound. Through all this, the band has always retained the core elements that made them unique and even through what I consider low points, you could never mistake them for anyone else. It may be blind devotion at this point but even though I haven't heard the band release what I would consider a great album (by their own standards) since the 2004 masterpiece Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, I still listen to and soak in every single thing they put out as soon as I am able to. Though there are certainly moments where I feel like they really pull off something special again, these days I find most of their output a bit underwhelming. Do I expect too much? Considering I know what they are capable of and can even hear glimpses of this greatness that seem to go away almost as quickly as they come, I really don't think so.

Recently, I sat down with newest album A Map of all our Failures with the same excitement and doubt and as soon as I hear the opening track, "Kneel til Doomsday", I am naturally taken by it. It possesses the same great atmosphere and dynamics that made me a fan in the first place and for the first time in almost a decade, I get the feeling I am once again on the verge of a great musical journey that only My Dying Bride can bring about. Sadly, as the record continues, I soon realize that it was just another one of these fleeting moments of greatness and the album simply fails to keep up this momentum. While there are certainly other fantastic moments on the record, the first is the only track where the entire song truly met my expectations. I will say that this album is certainly better than the last two offerings and these great moments I keep referring to are becoming less and less few and far between. Previous release, The Barghest o' Whitby EP was a supposed return to form and much heavier than this new full length, but while good, it just felt forced. There are enough trace elements and awesome passages on A Map of all our Failures that if the band were to focus on enhancing what is here for the next album, they actually may have something to justify my excitement for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, this time around, I am once again left underwhelmed but far less so than lately. This is a definite step in the right direction and considering I am judging this album based on the the bands other output, a My Dying Bride record that is simply good, could very well be considered great under other circumstances.


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