FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 28: My Dying Bride – Trun Loose The Swans

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 28: My Dying Bride – Trun Loose The Swans

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 28: My Dying Bride – Trun Loose The Swans

This is the twenty-eighth entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.

I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.

If you want your own First Impressions article, just suggest it in the comments.

This entry will feature the Trun Loose The Swans album from the British Death-Doom Metal band My Dying Bride. Traditionally at this point I discuss what I know about the subgenre the chosen album belongs to. I wasn’t sure who else, apart from pre-prog era Anathema, was actually a Death-Doom band, but MDB’s wiki helpfully told me Katatonia and Paradise Lost were.

I have a Paradise Lost greatest hits album that I’ve never listened to and the only song of theirs I know is ‘Mouth’ and I have never heard any Katatonia apart from their Viva Emptiness album which I got told is out of character and not really their usual style. Also, elsewhere on Wikipedia told me they’re black doom NOT Death-Doom. Helpful. Oh, and the only Anathema I’ve heard is their last two magnificent, but decidedly not-Doom albums. (Side note – between writing that sentence and finishing the article, I went up the town and bought another Anathema album)

I remember once hearing an absolutely incredible and captivating song by a band called While Heaven Wept on a compilation cd, possibly from Terrorizor magazine (side note – remember the song ‘When Dracula Thinks – Look At Me!’ ?) and wanting to get into that band, but they weren’t in my local independent music shop (creatively titled “The Music Shop”) at the time, and the internet hadn’t been embraced yet by me and my peer group as a realistic way of getting music. How times have changed. I never heard of the band again. I must look into them now that I think about it.

So, so much for me knowing anything about Death-Doom. I know a bit about Doom. But from what I can tell it’s a varied and hard to agree upon genre. Some people call Down (as in Phil Ansemlo) Doom, but some people call them Stoner. But sure, I guess some people call Slipknot Nu Metal, maybe there’s no accounting for one-offs.

I’ve also heard that a sub-subgenre called Funeral Doom exists, of which I haven’t heard any, and Drone, oh which I’ve heard one song (Sunn O)))’s ‘Hell-o)))-ween.’) I’ve heard tiny bits of Boris and Burning Witch songs on youtube, but not even a full song of each. I’ve heard about two Jesu songs but remember nothing about them at all.

I’ve heard an entire album each by Earthride and The Mighty Nimbus both of which are just Black Sabbath. They play Black Sabbath riffs, in a Black Sabbathy way, with a Black Sabbath-esque production. That’s apparently more strictly Stoner-Doom than outright Doom though, but so are some bands like Electric Wizard and Sleep… which seem to be mean spirited stoner rock with no psychedelic or blues influences.

My friend once played me two completely contrasting Cathedral songs, one of which sounded like Wolverine Blues era Entombed and which was referred to as ‘disco doom’ and one which was a dull characterless drudge.

I’ve heard one St Vitus album which was dull at the time and one Candlemass song, which was kind of NWOBHM-y and had a fun video, as well as three Witchfinder General demos, all of which were a bit characterless, but, just demos, so, what do you expect. It’s a shame about the St Vitus album, because Wino is a really cool character and I love his guest appearances on Clutch and Sixty Watt Shaman records, and his whole demeanour in the excellent (and highly recommended) documentary ‘Such Hawks, Such Hounds.’

But yes, Doom as a whole kind of escapes me. Doom is the point at which I stop liking Stoner Rock. I know some Monster Magnet (Mastermind) and C.O.C (Self-Titled and In The Arms Of God) albums are very doomy but still good, but as a whole, if its more doom than it is Stoner, I probably won’t like it.

Doom is slow. That’s its main selling point. Like with Thrash being fast. It may have other qualities, but that’s the famous bit. The thing is. I hate things being too Slow. Its frustrating. Sometimes I feel actual physical pain walking behind someone who is being too slow, or doing the musical equivelant, listening to Neurosis. I appreciate that this may well be really cool and atmospheric, arty, progressive and heavy – all things that make albums sound good to me, but I’m immediately at least a bit skeptical, because of the whole SLOW thing. That and the gothic thing too. Gothic is an aesthetic I don’t particularly like. I don’t like dark sexual horror fantasy books, wine, or pale make-up. Cradle Of Filth write some amazing music, but the gothic side of their stuff is a bit off-putting. My biggest memory from the fuzzy childhood memories of MDB were that they were “the other COF.”

(I always look for “the other x.” If I find a thing, I then need to find the other thing. Find Helloween, need to find Gamma Ray. Find Metallica, need to find Megadeth. Find Pantera, forever quest for appropriate other ((Exhorder, Machine Head, BLS and Texas Hippie Coalition aren’t right, dammit!))).

My Dying Bride a band I’ve known forever. A decade at least. My friend Magnum Valentino introduced them to me on many occasions, got my brother into them, talked about them often etc. I’ve seen bits of their live DVDs (one with a Violin Player who has some connection to Cradle Of Filth – possibly and possibly not BEING Party Foul ((Martin Powell)) – and one without). My friend Magnum even got them to give him the sheet music to their songs to learn in a pre-social media era. I think I’ve seen about five of their music videos, seen each of their album covers and could probably name you about 15 of their songs.

But apart from the song ‘The Cry Of Mankind’ which Magnum has engineered in my mind to be as famous as ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ and ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ (wait a minute… are THEY famous? I don’t know anymore. Mag-nuuuuuuuum!!!!!) through repeat plays and conversational referencing, I don’t actually know that much about their music. I mean, I remember a vague idea of the line ‘The Blood, The Wine, The Roses’ being sang mournfully too. But apart from those two things, yeah, I’ve forgotten – and never really paid attention to, their music.

Ok. One more. I remember that early on (as in, in the first two songs) on the album A Line Of Deathless Kings, which I bought my brother as a Christmas present the same year that he got A Bit Of Fry And Laurie Season 4, there is a cool bit involving the china cymbal. A memory I share with Isis’ Wavering Radiant album, which also has a cool China Cymbal bit in one of the early tracks. Oh wait. Opeth’s Deliverance too. Ok. That’s enough of that.

The particular My Dying Bride album selected for me this time around is Trun Loose The Swans though. So I’ll listen to that. [Play]

A singular key chord. Some more. Some violin. Sexy French sounding spoken word. It sounds a bit like ‘Crestfallen’ by Anathema. Its called ‘Seer Me.’ Actually its called Sear Me and a bunch of Roman Numerals which I REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE. Ok then… “Sear Me MCMVXIII” – Happy now?

It goes on for three and a quarter minutes building up a nice atmosphere, then cuts to just those initial key chords again. Then back to the ‘Crestfallen’ bit. Its enjoyable as hell I’ll admit, but I wonder where its going… will it explode into full metal glory or just prick tease me and disappear to nothing?

Oh. Whats this? Brass Section !? Hello!!! It reminds me of The Mars Volta’s ‘Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore’ – specifically the noose bit. Shit, I hope whoever this song is about won’t get hanged too. Her poor son!

This song is massive, it sounds like a cowboy film. All of a cowboy film. Ok. No. The climax scene in a cowboy film. Not sexual climax and some kind of cowboy porn you understand… like, the bit with the gun stand-off and the denoutment of the plot.

Shit. When I got distracted by cowboy porn, the song snuck out the door without finishing. Asshole! It really needed to erupt into thrusting metal glory. Like the bit in Machine Head’s ‘Who We Are’ that goes ‘Into Glory We Shall Ride.’

It didn’t though. So here’s the next song instead. Oh. A Heavy riff. Sabbath. Sabbath comes. I get how its doom now. Its got a riff that sounds like Dehumaizer era Sabbath. Oh… interrupted by a riff that’s half-Deicide, half-Clandestine-era-Entombed. Geez, they aint fucking around with the whole “explaining to me what Death-Doom is” now, are they?. “Heres your Death, Here’s your Doom. Bang. Done. Can you handle that, Jimmy?” Ok, ok, no need to patronize me. I’m new here.

Anyway, after that, it goes into a bit of what I’d like to call a 90’s wail. It’s the bit in a Prong, Biohazard, Machine Head or equivelant song that came from Nirvana, via Black Flag, that is just a very overdriven and uncommonly tuned guitar chord (or dischord) ringing out, instead of music, challenging you… you think…. SHUT UP shit bit of non-music and resume musicality, but it squats there like a fat dog on a public picknick table that you think you have more right to use, because you’re HUMAN, but aren’t sure enough to shoo the dog away.

Wait. Look. I’ve talked about the bits of the 90s I dislike enough. Go back to the Prong First Impressions for clarity. But it did one. The song. It did some gothic intro bits (did it? “Did it really” I can feel Magnum’s future comments ask. “Did it really Mr. Musical Bloody Expert who doesn’t know what that bit that wasn’t gothic is is?”) well it did, a thing, Ok, we’re getting side-tracked here. After the introduction it did a Doom Riff and a Death Riff, which I guess I should’ve expected, and then it went into a hardcore influenced moan. Which I never in a million years would’ve expected.

The flappy double-kick pattern which follows sounds like a fat kid (why all the fattie hate?) sucking Spagghetti back up into his mouth after its slipped out. Then comes a riff that reminds me of Savatage, but with a reverb and overdrive level that reminds me of Entombed. (3.21) Then on bass it sounds Jazzy. There’s a ridiculously cheeky little cymbal catch there too. (I know now they’re called cymbal chokes, not catches, but I’m sticking with catch for the moment, thanks. I’ll adapt in a bit.) The vocals come in, they’re melodic and talented, but in a diagonal way, if Kai Hanson is Vertical and Howard Jones is Horizontal.

This song is pretty cool. Its slow yeah, but there’s cool guitar lines (7.30) and good drum rolls to stop it boring the arse off me.

Their drummer’s a bit of a badass by the way. I really like him. He has immense character. I know that their newest drummer is a disappointment for Magnum, so I wonder if this is his favourite drummer. COMMENTS SECTION PLEASE.

The death-vocals I’m not so sold on at the minute. There’s six or seven different types of clean vocals, there’s two or three types of death vocals so far, of which the lowest pitched one I like, and the more Carcass sounding one I dislike.

New song. ‘The Songless Bird,’ Slow. Sabbathy. Hanging long harmonics ala Burn My Eyes. Quite a bit of repetition. Then a fun, Gentle Giant sounding bit at (2:58). The vocals and drums are really enjoyable and remind me a bit of Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. At around 4.50 it kicks off into a great riff and good Death vocals, and gets even better when double kicks come in underneath. Then even better when they go away and it feels a bit like …And Justice For All for the tiniest of moments. The fast bit at the very end has both awesomeness and creative drums.

Next up, ‘The Snow In My Hand.’ Huh. Nothing much going on for the first while, but the drummer is a real star. If he wasn’t there it’d be intolerable, but he just saves it. Then… speed! Speed? And riffs that go DUN DUN DUN in your ear after the Death Metal bit. Aka. Brilliant riffs.

It sounds a bit religious. Does that make sense ? I think so. Maybe its just because the artwork has a church on it. Or I suppose the band OM exist, so music can sound religious. Wait. Google images. WTF is that artwork… I ALWAYS thought it was a church, but look at it, it looks like an Xray, or a clay sculpture melting behind some flowers. What is it ? COMMENTS SECTION PLEASE.

(3.35) Best riff on the record so far! Yes. I could get into this! Dundundundundundundun DEHNEHNEHHAHNEHNAH.

The rest is kind of dull.

Newer new song. ‘The Crown Of Sympathy.’ I’m starting to notice a signature sound here. Oh, when the music cuts just to vocals, and a drunk sounding MEH,…..MEH…….MEH……guitar comes in, that captures my imagination. Everything that follows on all instruments for the next minute is brilliant. Very evocative. Especially the little rise on the violin.

5-minutes in and it takes a different tone. Its gone all ethereal, with ghostly bells and sparse drumming. No guitars, just long sustained keys. It sounds like the levels in Super Mario with Ghosts in them. But then brass comes in that sounds like ELP at the Olympics and I’m confused as to what the heck kind of tone is supposed to be going on here. Death of a king? – or Ghost’s-egg-and-spoon-race?

That good bit I was on about comes back. Its meaty and powerful. Then a slow bit that is kind of a guitar solo but kind of not. It reminds me of victory. And maybe Vikings. Its cool, but it lasts for-fucking-ever.

Next up is the title-track, ‘Trun Loose The Swans.’ Its got a half death, half doom riff. Well played guys. I see what you did there. Again, the best thing about it is the drums. The violin is a close second when it arrives. Around (4.47) it gets a bit more exciting again with fun drumming a a sneaky lead guitar that sounds like its off to pilfer rupies in a Zelda game. The violin-led section which follows is cool and would suit a documentary about erosion.

A lot of these songs are very long. But then, I suppose if you are going to play that slowly, it’d take ages just to get anything done.

Also, an apology to the gothic thing. Its nowhere in the same area as the Cradle Of Filth thing. Its tasteful. Also, for a barren, desolate, sorrowful and mournful sound…its not that bleak. If you IN NO WAY EVER COULD understand what I mean. Yeah. For all the stylistic choices that associate this music with the concept of unhappiness, it doesn’t actually feel unpleasant to listen to.

The last song ‘Black God’ comes next. Its great. Its got the mood of a lot of Game Of Thrones death scenes. Plus I guess Aaron’s voice sounds a bit like Sir Jorrah Mormont. A bit. This one I don’t want to erupt into glorious power metal, so what a surprise when the blazing twin guitar harominies a falsetto vocals kick in over the keyboard solo and…. NO OF COURSE NOT.

Yeah. It ends the album, in a classy mournful fade out. You bloody fool.

And then, because of how my iTunes works. The Cry Of Mankind comes on and I listen to that too. DODEDODEDADAH,

Good times.

(Side note – I’ve listened to all of The Angel And The Dark River now, and its waaaay better than Trun’ is. Including the last track ‘Your Shameful Heaven,’ which burst into full on fucking THRASH METAL. Bullshit right? Especially after that crack about the Power Metal bit? No! Its real! check it out if you don’t believe me! Fantastic chunky riffs and decent speeds. Marvelous.)

(Side note, while proof-reading this article, I’ve listened to half of The Dreadful Hours too, and my goodness, what an album! Fan-bloody-tastic. Just listen to ‘The Raven And The Rose.’ That’s a song right there!)

(Side note – don’t you just hate finishing your picking on the ground, beside the picknick table because that stubborn hound still hasn’t moved?)

***BTW, if you wonder why I’ve said ‘Trun’ instead of ‘Turn’ every time; Its an in-joke. Don’t worry about it.***

(Side note – D minor)

1 Comment

  1. The cover is actually a photograph of a statue, cropped. The full version can be found on the tape version, I think, which has separate artwork as does the LP edition, which is the nicest.

    Rick Miah is one of my favourite drummers, yes, maybe my number one favourite. I can’t think of anyone else that plays like that. Watching him on their live DVD is a real treat. He looks a little like a dying, desert-bred Mr. Bean.

    I never got sheet music from MDB, though. What would I need that for?! Though the other day Party Foul did tell me which keyboards he used on this album, and he’s got back to me before on other stuff as has Hamish.

    I don’t think the term gothic applies to a look, I think it applies to a sound, and what everyone else thinks it means is not what I think it means. I don’t think COF sounds like ‘gothic’ in general, like Cruelty And The Beast or Midian couldn’t be less gothic, but Dusk And Her Embrace is totally gothic. Gothic and goth are totally different things to me, too. It’s all totally personal and arbitrary, but I’ve let go of alllllll that teenage ‘goffic’ bullshit long ago.

    There are three “Sear Mes” – first is straight up death metal on the debut full-length, As The Flower Withers, and has the same opening motif as this one, and the third is crap and on The Light At The End Of The World and is electric but clean-vocals, and is only vaguely similar and very pointless.

    I still call them cymbal catches and I always will.

    “The Crown Of Sympathy” is a total ‘cool old skool fans song to shout out at concerts to try and impress the band because it’s really long and challenging’, like Opeth’s “Black Rose Immortal”. There’s a remix on an EP with crazy snare reverb and the outro is shortened.

    Based on what you’ve said here, you should maybe try Like Gods Of The Sun. It’s their best album, has no death vocals and is one of the easiest to listen to. Great tone and sound all round. Come into my brain and borrow my memories of listening to it while playing Metal Gear Solid 2’s VR Missions on sunny Spring/Summer afternoons in 2003, if you like.

    The Dreadful Hours is also a good record but I can’t listen to it all the way through anymore. Songs Of Darkness Words Of Light is the best from that period as a consistently atmospheric experience, and everything after that is hugely hit or miss. Their latest drummer is actually the drummer from those albums but he’s gone away and got really, really really bad. Dunno why.

    Hammer Smashed Face and Her Ghost In The Fog are both in the first three Youtube predicted search results, and yes, they were always famous songs, though Her Ghost has lessened in its fame since the demise of metal music channel ubiquity.

    Great article, great fun to read.


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