Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Dying Bride - As the Flower Withers (1992)

As the Flower Withers is the first full-length album from My Dying Bride. Following the monumental title track from the Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium E.P., the band knew that expectations were high as they entered the studio in late 1991. A short time later, in May 1992, their debut L.P. was released through Peaceville. They maintain the sound heard on their previous release, playing a style similar to early Paradise Lost.

It begins with the keyboard intro, "Silent Dance". Some regard this as filler, but it serves it purpose well, setting the tone for the music to come. It conveys a feeling of sorrow and loss that is drenched in ruin and despair. You are taken from the modern world in which plays host to your feeble existence, back to a darker time.

"Sear Me" begins with sparse drumming, which creates a sense of total desolation and lifelessness. Slowly, the bass joins in, adding to the sense of dread. It is followed by a mournful guitar riff that circles around you like a vulture, waiting to feast upon your remains. Aaron's vocals are very harsh and raw, going well with the unpolished production. The pace is rather slow, for the first few minutes. It then speeds up, which is something that some dislike. In some ways, this is a necessary dynamic as the presence of these sections gives more of a dramatic effect to the slower parts. They serve to get your heart racing, creating an aura of urgency. Then, suddenly, it drops to nothingness. It's almost like running into a brick wall. As the pace slows back to that of a funeral march, your heart becomes heavy. It feels as if it is sinking. Again, the soundscape becomes increasingly desolate, as the guitars fade and leave only the drums and vocals. In the background are eerie whispers that accentuate the dark mood. The lyrics are in Latin, so it is only the manner in which the vocals are delivered that conveys any sort of feeling. The song is good, but never seems to fulfill its potential.

The next song is "The Forever People". This one is a favorite among fans, for some reason. It is more fast-paced, standard Death Metal. There are slower sections where a feeling of doom comes across, yet it is all to brief. The song isn't bad, yet it fails to maintain the atmosphere created by the previous song.

"The Bitterness and the Bereavement" begins with a mournful doom riff, accompanied by the sorrowful sounds of a violin. The pace is deathly slow, as it should be. Here, one is faced with the utter uselessness of existence. Pain is the only constant. No one will hear your cries. There is no salvation. Your feeble prayers will not be answered, for the one that you call upon does not exist. The miserable riffs wash over you like waves of sadness, cleansing you of such feeble hopes and leaving behind an empty shell. The pace picks up, somewhat, building the tension before slowing down again. The vocals are filled with anguish and despair, conveyed in a primal way. As if the agonizing guitar riffs weren't enough to crush your soul, the violin returns to slice you in a most graceful manner, as the blood slowly seepes into the frozen earth.

"Release us from atrocities"

The next song originally appeared on the Towards the Sinister demo, in much rougher form. "Vast Choirs" begins with a keyboard intro before erupting at full speed. This track features the most intense riffs of the whole album, complete with an evil-sounding laugh. After a minute or so, the pace slows down as if the floor of the crypt has just fallen out from beneath your feet, sending you tumbling down into the abyss. You are lost in a maze of confusion and anguish, soon to endure unspeakable torments. As the pace picks up, it works to add a sense of chaos to the already hellish feeling. It slows down, once more, near the middle. It is at this point that you behold the darkened gates before you. There is no turning back. You have but a few moments to reflect on the miserable life that you've led. In a moment of clarity, you realize that everything you've done has sent your farther down this path. You have no one to blame but yourself. There is no grand conspiracy. You are a victim of your own failures.

"Burdens of grief that weigh against me"

The highlight of the album is "The Return of the Beautiful". This epic is divided into five parts, at least lyrically. It begins with slow, plodding riffs that convey a tragic feeling, along with the woeful sounds of the violin. Clocking in just under thirteen minutes, this is the magnum opus of the L.P. The dark melodies return to your pitiful mind countless sorrows. You are nearly entombed by your own grief, helpless to change your circumstances. It is far too late for that. There is no turning back. The gates have opened wide and swallowed you whole, cursing you to the eternal depths of the black abyss.

"Souls will mourn
In this unending season of darkness"

The seemingly ceaseless suffering that you have heretofore endured will soon be looked back on with fondness and longing, in the face of the torture that your doomed spirit has been cursed to bear. You close your eyes and try to tell yourself that this isn't real; that this is but a dream. Yet the nightmare has become your reality. Infinite grief takes you in its eternal embrace, cold and deathlike. The bleak melodies wrap you in a shroud of despondency, as this horror becomes ever clearer. All that you loved and cherished is forever gone and none will give any notice to your passing. In a blackened land forlorn, you will suffer for ever. The cries of the damned soon drown out your own screams, as you move deeper and deeper, among the flames and rivers of blood. Malevolent spirits attack you with razor-sharp claws, swooping down like undead ravens to tear pieces of your very being and consume them right in front of you. The blame for this dreadful fate is yours alone.

"Erotic Literature" begins with more typical fast-past Death Metal riffs, seeming quite out of place when compared to what went before it. After a minute or so, the pace slows down and the feeling of doom returns. This continues throughout the middle section of the song, though the tempo increases, once again, as the song concludes. Oddly, this one features one of the best riffs on the album, but being sandwiched between the more generic-sounding riffs takes away from the song, as a whole.

As the Flower Withers is a classic of Death / Doom, though some of the more standard Death Metal riffs could have been shortened or dropped so that the emphasis remained on the Doom riffs. This can be compared to the early work of Paradise Lost, with some differences of course. My Dying Bride wasn't nearly as successful in blending the various tempos into a cohesive whole. On the other hand, at their darkest points, they certainly possessed a sound more dismal than that found on the early Paradise Lost albums.