Originally written by Tim Pigeon
It’s always a pleasure and a challenge to review a band with as lengthy a catalogue and as wide a following as My Dying Bride. Fortunately, I own a few of their albums and have heard a couple of others, so I shouldn’t come off sounding like a clueless neophyte. These morose Brits have been playing melodic doom that occasionally wanders into heavier, doom-death territory, especially as of late. My earliest exposure to the band was with 1995’s Angel and the Dark River, an excessively slow, brilliant album with all the ambiance of a funeral. 2001’s The Dreadful Hours probably marked the heaviest album in their progression. This album, A Line of Deathless Kings, sees the band ratcheting down what little intensity there is to be found, and sounding like an extension of 1999’s The Light at the End of the World.
Without question, the defining attribute of the MDB sound is the unique timbre of Aaron Stainthorpe’s voice. His mildly awkward, yet endearing singing is instantly recognizable, and fits their music perfectly. Needless to say, that is all you get here, the growling has completely vanished, although some of the harder and faster riffing remains. The production on this disk sounds much like it has on their last few recordings, with a softened finish, and clear distortion on their trademark melodic leads, with sustain for days.
“To Remain Tombless” enters on the wings of a chugging riff, which leads to further choppy riffs, and a catatonic chorus punctuated by Aaron’s maudlin vocals. “Thy Raven Wings” deceives the listener with very sparse piano to start the song, which not-so-coincidentally flashes me back to “The Raven and the Rose” from an album past. This song plods along on a stream of somber lead guitar. “The Blood, The Wine, The Roses” ends the album in fine fashion, on the strength of mid-tempo strumming and a Middle Eastern-sounding melody. There’s even a solo that almost sounds thrashy…almost.
The styling of A Line of Deathless Kings will not surprise fans of the band by any stretch of the imagination. I really don’t hear much here that I haven’t heard before by these guys, which is fine if the songs are all hits, but they are not. Even from a doom perspective, there are moments that drag amongst the moments that soar. While this is certainly not a poor album, in my opinion, they’ve done better. Devotees of the band should spin this disc if they haven’t already, but I’d recommend checking out The Dreadful Hoursif MDB’s melancholy sounds have never graced your ears.