My Dying Bride’s tenth studio album For Lies I Sire begins with “My Body, A Funeral” and ends with “Death Triumphant” and otherwise seems to be completely preoccupied with the subject of dying. The morbid album artwork shows not only a tomb but also covered, pale corpse and even the band’s morose name seems more appropriate than ever. Though the music has always felt like utter tragedy, few of their releases have felt so overwhelmingly final. The irony is that For Lies I Sire represents the pinnacle of the band’s rebirth that started with Songs of Light, Words of Darkness. For all the talk of death this is the sound of a band that has been given new life.

Despite being the birthplace of metal, I think that very few bands have sounded as  British as My Dying Bride. Sure, many have replicated that ‘gothic’ feeling that the band pioneered, that mix of lyrical drama and musical melancholy that makes you think of frilly-shirted castle-dwellers, cellars filled with dark wine, candelabras and smeared mascara. What they often fail to include, however, is a representation of the UK’s shitty weather. Castles and ghosts can be spooky but nothing spells DOOM like grey skies and endless rain and the thought that you might never see the sun again.
So My Dying Bride enter into the new album just as you’d expect: sun-less and dreary like an English winter. Everything you’ve come to love about this band is still there but reigned in and mastered. The guitars are patient and methodical, bending strings for heaviness and harmonizing for beauty. The rhythm section, subdued yet supportive. Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, the widower himself, has always been a key contributor to the downtrodden mood through his mournful singing and diverse vocal stylings. His nastier sound is sparingly used, but his spoken word is incredibly charming. In tracks like “Echoes from a Hollow Soul” he often speaks a few words in response to his singing voice giving him a lot of presence and emphasizing some effective lyrics:

“This closing river takes all away / Daughters of Eve slowly fade (Fade away)”

The unexpected star of the album is new recruit Katie Stone (keyboard/violin) from psychedelic black metallers A Forest of Stars. For Lies I Sire is the first My Dying Bride album in years to feature a violin and it’s the best damn part of this album. Whether she’s offering a haunting echo of a vocal line or picking up the melody on her own she fills almost every track with a deep-felt sorrow that is sure to remind long-time fans of the seminal release Turn Loose the Swans. It’s amazing how a single violin can sometimes add more depth than a whole orchestra.

Through their singular dedication to their musical vision, My Dying Bride have mastered it but that’s not to say there aren’t a few attempts at mold breaking. The penultimate “A Chapter in Loathing” takes an unexpectedly blackened direction while “Bring Me Victory” takes an unexpectedly hopeful one. The latter makes a redundant request; For Lies I Sire is the greatest victory this band has had in years and if the death-fixation is pointing towards the demise of the band this would become a worthy last testament.

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(4 out of 5 Horns)


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