My Dying Bride
A Mortal Binding

So album number 14 (or 15, depending on how you view 2011s Evinta) from England’s long-running Godfathers of Doom sees the band continue down the path of the last album, 2020s The Ghost of Orion, and the subsequent Macabre Cabaret EP both releases I was a bit ambivalent on.

Since the band’s 1999 transitional effort The Light at the End of the World and excellent 2001 album, The Dreadful Hours, My Dying Bride has delivered some fine albums of their trademark violin-flicked goth-doom, which saw the return of Aaron Stainthorpe’s growls again that in my opinion peaked with 2006s A Line of Deathless Kings back in 2006 and  A Map of All Our Failures in 2012.   But The Ghost of Orion seemed to lean a little more into the band’s second act (The Angel and the Dark River, Like Gods of the Sun), with more tempered, mopey throes and more clean singing and less growling, though it was still there, and welcomed to these ears.  And A Mortal Binding has the same overall feel and tone as The Ghost of Orion.

As if to almost throw listeners off, “Her Dominion” opens with the album’s heaviest, heaving, stuttering cut with angular riffs and time changes that are a bit awkward along with Stainthorpe’s now slightly strained growls. But from there, the rest of the album certainly feels more like the band’s cleaner, softer phase, even with some piecemeal growls here and there. |

The album just seems very paint by numbers with hardly any moments that truly stand out. I hate to use the word ‘boring’ but “Thornwyk Hymn” sort of exemplifies the majority of the album an almost 7-minute song or warbling riffs and clean vocals that don’t go anywhere or elicit any real emotion- a cornerstone of My Dying Bride‘s sound. . I think the loss of guitarist Calvin Robertshaw in 2018 is starting to show more and more, despite Andrew Craighan’s best effort to recreate the morose but majestic melancholy of yore. Even the violins of long-time violinist Shaun MacGowan sound a bit tired.

“The 2nd of Three Bells” feels the same after its teasing, somber opening throes, but there’s just something missing from the dual melancholic melodies of Craighan and Neil Blanchett. The same can be said of “Unthroned Creed”, 11-minute “The Apocalyptist”, which like the opener forces a bit more heaviness into things, and at times doesn’t even sound like My Dying Bride, though the short-lived riffs around 7 and 9 minutes in certainly do. Closer “Crushed Embers” is also in the OK, but hardly memorable category.

That all said, as they have always done, the band does occasionally deliver some pure despondent bliss (i.e. “Your Broken Shore”, “To Outlive the Gods”, and “Tired of Tears” from Orion) that signals when the band is on top of their game, they are considered the masters of the genre and have been for 20+ years. On A Mortal Binding it’s fewer and far between as it’s only the penultimate number “A Starving Heart” that truly evokes some emotion and rending, emotive riffage.

Still, in my humble opinion, A Mortal Binding is the band’s weakest effort since 34.788%… Complete, though of course not as experimental as that failed affair. It’s certainly not a legacy breaker, but it just is not quite up to what I’ve expected from the band in the last 15 years since the growls came back.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 15th, 2024

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