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My Dying Bride - The Angel And The Dark River CD (album) cover

THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER

My Dying Bride

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.86 | 46 ratings

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EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 8/10

"The Angel And The Dark River" is another My Dying Bride milestone that would influence a great deal of the Doom Metal to come.

My Dying Bride's career had a sudden twist, with the release of their sophomore LP, "Turn Loose The Swans", for some people the masterpiece of the band. But the third album, "The Angel And The Dark River", got just as much recognition: now, fans are sill debating which of these two early records is the magnum opus of the act. Anyway the debate goes, this 1995 release still keeps incredibly high levels from every point of view, and has risen up to be considered one of the key albums of Doom Metal.

Compared to the ethereally gloomy atmosphere of "Turn Loose The Swans", "The Angel And The Dark River" is almost more bright in terms of sound: the levels of despair and hopelessness are not at all as extreme as they were with the band's second album. The music in this third LP generally is much more fast-paced, more dynamic and lively. There seems to be a much stronger focus on the songwriting itself: the amount of effects used (that is, keyboards, guitar effects and what not) is minimal, although some peculiar elements that were present in the previous efforts, like the violin or the lamenting clean vocals, still persist and are a great part of the album. But another great, noticeable change is the almost complete absence of Death Metal growls (with the exception of the last track), a factor that made My Dying Bride such a unique band at it's origins. However, "Turn Loose the Swans", because of its slight change in direction, shows how the band had reached a sort of independence from the point of view of artistic freedom, even if it was really early in their career.

The themes present in "The Angel and The Dark River" are more or less the same we see in other Doom Metal bands and in other My Dying Bride releases, including loss of hope, desperation, but also more religious elements, like the strong presence of God in the lyrics. This sort of gloominess though on this album is much more human and rational than the more extreme tones of TLTS, and feel also more credible.

With seven tracks, My Dying Bride once again bring a solid album structure together: the twelve minute opener "The Cry Of Mankind" is already a track where the change in direction is pretty obvious, because of the lively guitar riff that Agalloch probably kept in mind eleven years later, while writing songs for "Ashes Against The Grain". This riff is the heart of the piece, and is accompanied by the rest of the instruments, including a piano. The last few minutes of the track are somewhat Dark Ambient driven, another aspect that is new for MDB. "From Darkest Skies" is an even more emotional piece, where there are strong alterations between feelings: if one part sounds resigned and lost, the next one is angry and revengeful. "A Sea To Suffer In" is of a noticeably heavier nature, because of the overwhelming crunch the guitars have, enriched by the intense melodies and the extremely urgent feel. Then "Only Two Winters" is half clean, half electric: in the first part, a gorgeous, deep guitar melody that holds even a bit of nostalgia in it, in the second part, a sort of catch-up to the heaviness. "Your Shameful Heaven" is the most violent song yet, proof of how progressively strong the sounds get as the album flows. And then, the album finishes with "The Sexuality of Beaverment", the only song where there is a return to the "Turn Loose The Swans" feel, especially thanks to the growls, and the slow rhythms. Overall, this last piece is a great closer and gives an epic end to the previously mentioned progression.

"The Angel And The Dark River" has now received a status as a Doom Metal classic: it has terrific songwriting, that overcomes the need of atmosphere and studio effects, and an intriguing, gloomy romanticism, that is unique only of this band.

EatThatPhonebook | 4/5 |

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