One look at the song titles above will let you know that it's business as usual in the MY DYING BRIDE camp. Dark wine flows, pale and raven-tressed sylphs expire dramatically on beds of flower-strewn stone inside mist-choked castles, quasi-vampiric men with bad facial hair wear cloaks and sip absinthe… all that shit. Having all but invented this brand of romantic, overwrought gothic doom metal, MY DYING BRIDE have made their bed and now they wallow in it… nay, languish.And is that such a bad thing? While their contemporaries have opted to either strive for the career paths of METALLICA (PARADISE LOST) or Roger Waters (ANATHEMA) in various eras, MY DYING BRIDE's aching melancholy of today would be instantly recognizable to a fan of the band in 1997. Their polished, staid riffing and the mournful clean vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe have not so much evolved so much as they have simply improved over the years, delivering with each album a better, more polished and obsidian rendering of the same bleak picture. This is a band that knows what works and sticks with it (the memory of fan disappointment with missteps such as the "34.7888% Complete" album may still linger, and give pause when the urge to experiment crops up in the studio). Whether dealing in lush, languid guitar interplay on "Lamour Detruit", or devolving to the barest acoustic creak ("I Cannot Be Loved"), the gloomy atmosphere of unrequited love and endless heartbroken sorrow never lets up. That's not to say the record isn't dynamic — single "Deeper Down" is driven by double-kick drums and features a sparse bit of death growling from Stainthorpe, while closer "The Blood, The Wine, The Roses" is almost upbeat in its own morbid way. Occasionally, one gets a sense of treading water — after all, this is a fairly stylistically limited genre, and MY DYING BRIDE has had years of service to this fairly rigid Muse. But with music like this, atmosphere and conviction matter a lot more than innovation, and the whole of "A Line of Deathless Kings" is steeped in the spine-shivering darkness that the band's fans crave. Nearly two decades into their career, MY DYING BRIDE remain an acquired taste, a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, and — for those fully invested in their maudlin visions of depressive excess — an absolute must. Proceed with caution, ye uninitiated, for joining this cult will likely result in the need to purchase a pretty extensive back catalog, to say nothing of frilly collared shirts and leather vests.
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