ALBUM REVIEW: My Dying Bride – A Mortal Binding

My Dying Bride might be the most important Doom band ever. Their second album Turn Loose The Swans (1993, Peaceville Records) redefined the genre, forsaking Sabbath worship, and creating a romantically depressing river of sonic darkness from which they sailed. 

Their fourteenth album A Mortal Binding (Nuclear Blast Records) finds the mournful kings continuing to reign supreme. From their tombstone thrones, they continue to weave songs with a wide range of dynamics that go from a wallowing morass of morose funeral march to a darker more aggressive Death Metal snarl to Goth Rock suffering from an oppressive depression. 

This album finds staples of their sound firmly in place, as they continue to haunt you with the wailing tones of the violin weeping over the low-end crunch of guitar. Online the debate over using sub-genres in Metal as a method of gatekeeping continues to buzz like static, but even when this band gains momentum, there is no other adjective that fits their sound than Doom. Within that are nuances that could be labeled everything from Funeral Doom to Death Doom, and all of those sounds are represented on this album.  

The songs are possessed by an emotive sense of storytelling, to which every member serves. There is little room for flash or overplaying as each song is a solemn occasion. When guitar solos sob out into the songs, they are well-paced and deliberate, every note counting to draw out the melodies. The vocals are well-produced and mixed; their place as the forefathers of the Death-Doom sub-genre can be heard in “The Second Of Three Bells” as it is equal parts melancholic and punchy.  

The doomy passages have a more majestic atmosphere to them .”Unthroned Creed’ is one of the album’s best songs. The guitars ride a taunt groove, as the vocals have room for their hooky pleas. The drumming gracefully navigates the time changes. The eleven-minute epic “The Apocalypse” is sprawling in a manner that only a few bands do well, these guys being one of the few as the twists and turns keep your interest.

You would know the opening guitar to “A Starving Heart ” is My Dying Bride, even before the vocals come in. Aaron Stainthorpe sings from his depressed place which makes him one of Metal’s most unique voices. The distinct phrasing of the riff that opens the closing dirge “Crushed Embers” is another moment that bears the band’s fingerprints well. The pleading croon of the vocals is where his voice sits best. They are masters of pouring on the sorrow, which is a quality that sets the Doom genre apart from other kinds of Metal. 

This album is filled with mournful beauty. Their songwriting proves to be a more fertile garden of sonic sorrow than what younger Doom bands are mustering these days. This album continues to preserve their legacy in a way that serves as a love letter to their fans, who will not be disappointed by what unfolds here. I will always stand by the fact that Turn Loose The Swans is the best entry point into this band, but this album does serve as a fitting testament to who My Dying Bride is. 

Buy the album here:

9 / 10