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Yes, I'm quoting Mr. Craighan again, so sue me. That just so happens to be the best way I've yet seen anyone sum up A Map of All Our Failures in one sentence.

I have to admit that I wasn't ready for this album. I know; I'd been waiting for it ever since the whisper of a rumour of a new album hit the Internet, sometime last winter. And even more so since they announced the name and the release date. But then, a few weeks ago (as some of you maybe noticed), Anathema happened, and I haven't been feeling proper doomy since. The new album has, however, done miracles in fixing that. In a good way.


Okay, so first impressions first. On the first listen, I almost wanted to stop after some songs, just to give myself a moment to recover before the next one. This... is... heavy. Honestly, folks. My Dying Bride sound doomier than they have in years, if not ever. Not heavy in the sense of "a lot of death metal parts" - because it doesn't have that. But heavy as in slow, massive, relentless, crushing. Like being emotionally ran over by a tank. And yes - for those of you who are not into doom metal - that is a good thing in this context!

I guess I'll just... do some kind of a track-by-track rundown of my thoughts & impressions.

The album begins with Kneel Till Doomsday (which has been up for listen for a while already) and church bells. I have to admit that I just don't know about this song. Everyone else seems to love it (going by the opinions I see on the forums), but it's probably my least favourite on the album. This doesn't mean that I think it's bad; it's not. I think it's the rather drastic style changes within the song that throw me off and leave me floundering. I feel like there's the clean part, which opens and closes the song, then there's the other clean passage in a different style, and then there's the death metal part that just feels disconnected. But nobody else has expressed this kind of feelings, so this is probably a failing of mine as a listener. Besides, they (as in messires Craighan & Glencross &co) just simply wouldn't write a song that doesn't make sense. But on a positive note - I really, really love the drums on this track, and the violin, when it appears, kills me. And the lyrics are intriguing - I don't really get what's going on, but I'm getting crazy visual images that make me wish I could paint/draw.

The Poorest Waltz was one of the songs whose title had me really curious when the track list was revealed. I was even more intrigued when I read (or heard?) in an interview that they're making a video for it, and it involves Aaron dancing with blind girls. Anyway. I loved this one from the first listen. It has a nice, almost peaceful atmosphere that reminds me strongly of another, older song but I can't for the life of me figure out which. The layered vocals sound awesome, and I think Aaron somewhere said that in a live situation, they'd have Hamish singing the backing vocals for this one? (Meaning we might hear this one in December? Make a note, Teri! I'd certainly love to hear this live.) I'm also absolutely in love with the lead guitar melody thingy that starts around 2:27. And the violin, when it appears, is killer stuff again. And holy shit is that acoustic guitar we hear briefly around 3:20 onwards??

Onwards into A Tapestry Scorned. I remember I said in my previous post that I wasn't entirely sure what happens in this song, but now I've figured it out - and the name, too. Or mostly, at least. There's this Rosey, who apparently is the love of the poetic narrator character. She either dies or just disappears in the beginning, but then she later reappears in a tapestry on the wall. The narrator finds a new woman, but when he brings her home, the Rosey in the tapestry holds a knife, apparently disapproving. So the narrator kills the new woman, which makes the tapestry-Rosey happy. The narrator grows old and eventually dies, and is rejoined with Rosey in the tapestry. Musically, it starts off slow and mournful, Aaron really sounds like he's recounting a sad fairy tale. And holy damn, I want to have the drummer's babies. Well, no, I don't, but. You know. I'm in love with what's going on with the drums there in the background! And the melody that kicks in around 2:58. <3 And the spoken passage and the frankly schizophrenic violin around 4:10 onwards. And the church organ from 5:15-ish.

Like a Perpetual Funeral was the one that Aaron described as "the nice side of melancholy" and that it has an almost-singalong chorus. Well. If they play it live, I anticipate a singalong without the "almost" anywhere in sight. (I almost find it hard not to sing along listening to it here at home, and me singing MDB is not the best thing you'll have heard.) It's slow and heavy, all right, but probably the most accessible track on the album. At least once it gets properly started. Aaron's voice is very... delicate, here, but not in the "halfway over the edge" kind of way that we hear in The Crown of Sympathy or something. Think of... maybe the beginning of My Body, a Funeral, except less apathetic and more melodic/emotional/awake. And the singalong chorus (yes, Aaron, I'm just going to keep using that word now that you planted it in my head) really reminds me of something people might sing at a funeral. And I love what's going on with the lead guitar from 6:19 till the end pretty much. I mean, it's nothing complicated, but it just sounds so good. Maybe I'm easy to please. Whatevers.

The title track, A Map of All Our Failures, was the one that I was most looking forward to hearing, because the name really speaks to me, the failcake that I am. My expectations were over the fucking moon, and I'll admit that on the first listen I was disappointed - not musically, but thematically. The song (at least on the surface) wasn't about the kind of things I might have expected. Now, there's nothing straight-forward about the lyrics, mind, so my understanding of them at this point can't be but barely scratching the surface of what's there... (And come on, self, what was I expecting? This is Aaron's way of saying things. If I wanted the Mikael Stanne approach, I should go listen to Dark Tranquillity.) Music-wise it's fairly varied. It starts with a fairly simple melody accompanying a spoken passage, then around the one minute mark, the violin and some more guitars join the frey and Aaron switches to a singing voice that reminds me of something from For Lies I Sire. Around the two minute mark, we have another spoken passage, which gives me massive Evinta vibes, which is all kinds of awesome because Evinta is the last thing this album as a whole should remind me of. After the four minute mark, the tone shifts again, the guitars become more massive and Aaron's voice turns darker and more... well, more "serious business" like, and for some reason I'm reminded of a captain sailing his ship on a stormy sea and wtf is with that mental image, anyway, isn't that supposed to be in the next song? Silly brain.

So, yeah, that ship song? Hail Odysseus. I didn't expect to like this one as much as I do. Generally the songs with a straight-forward story don't land among my favourites (hello, Blue Lotus & Light at the End of the World, although with the latter my problem is that I find it musically a bit boring, rather than the story itself) but this one I like very much. It's epic, and the story is nice and twisted, and again I want to hug the drummer. And as for Aaron's vocal performance on this one, I don't even know where to start. I just don't. I can't.

Yeah.

Moving on.

Within the Presence of Absence as a title sounded rather cryptic. Lyrically this song gives me massive Evinta vibes, and this is only supported by the spoken passage around 4:15, but other than that the sound is very much the slow, mournful sound that the guys have perfected for this album. And, eh, as asexual I'm ever so slightly weirded out by the occasional sexual imagery in Aaron's lyrics, but I must admit that the idea of making love while "the earth began to die" is, well, doom as fuck (pun quite intended, thank you very much).

The last track (except for the special edition bonus track), Abandoned As Christ, begins with some really interesting guitar... stuff. (Hi, I know my music terminology. Or not.) Aaron's voice is powerful, menacing, and... I'm not sure if this was intended but I instantly think of Judas? Anyway. There's a weird fadeout thingy around the four minute mark, I'm not fully sure what its function is but whatever, I never claimed to know much about the technical side of songwriting. The guitar that starts off after the fadeout sounds damn sinister, though, and I suppose it's meant to. There's a sort of choir thingy in the background, and Aaron does the doomsday prophet thing, I blame the late hour but I just don't know how else to describe it. Around the six minute mark, the church organ appears and Aaron's voice turns into this curious mixture of sinister and heartbreaking. And... The ending leaves me with slightly mixed feelings. It's powerful. And I love the everliving hell out of it. But I can't help but feel that it could have been even more so if it had been a bit longer. See, the closing line "Where was God when I most needed Him?" is repeated three times, voice rising in intensity each time, and I just think it could have been taken further.

Ugh, I was going to include the bonus track My Faults Are Your Reward, but I've only listened to it like twice, because I wanted to get a fucll picture of the album as a whole first, and I'm too tired to focus on listening to it properly right now, let alone to try and think of anything clever to say about it.

...For some reason, this left me wanting to listen to Evinta. And sleep. And considering it's 2:30 AM, me figures sleep is going to win this one...

Comments

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(Deleted comment)
ilenn
Oct. 18th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Hee, mission accomplished! ^_^ It is a great album and I'm really looking forward to hearing some of the songs live in December!
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If my soaring presence threatens to break your neck, then so be it; you should dread my name!
~Ihsahn

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