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My Dying Bride    
My Dying Bride
There is no doubt that England has served as the homeland for some of the greatest doom metal bands in recent times. Cathedral, Paradise Lost, Anathema, and, last but certainly not least, the great My Dying Bride have all hailed from Merry (miserable?) Old England. As much as their fellow brethren have strayed away from their influential beginnings, My Dying Bride have stayed true to their roots and continue to be one of the world's dominating doom metal acts. The Metal Update had a chat with founder / guitarist Andrew Craighan touching on topics such as the new album 'The Dreadful Hours' as well as thier near demise a few albums back.

METAL UPDATE: What inspired the My Dying Bride sound in the beginning?

ANDREW CRAIGHAN: That goes back a few years now. During the inception of My Dying Bride, originally we did not know we were going to be a doomy band. It was just that we had the name My Dying Bride and we were going to put some songs together, but we really didn't know what we were going to sound like. In the beginning, we were heavily influenced by the up and coming death metal bands of the day, but also the weirder bands like Celtic Frost for example - not necessarily metal bands at the time - bands like SBK and Liabach who you are probably more familiar with. These kinds of bands mixed with now a heavy metal sort of background became pretty much the sort of backdrop, if you will, of what My Dying Bride set out to its end. The sound itself just came with the territory, but originally we decided not to be a straightforward death metal band because the world had enough of them already. But we wouldn't be a straightforward doom band either because looking at the bands that just play doom, we found that for our tastes, it was a bit one-dimensional. You could offer so much more. We tried to be a combination of everything, but generally a doom background with a very miserable outlook on everything. And that is where the sound came from because obviously you can't have an ultra aggressive Slayer-esque guitar sound when you are attempting to play melodic sections. A song that, even though it has aggressive sections, also needs to be controlled. So I guess the sound came with the territory that we wanted to explore.

MU: And the results were very original for its time. What inspires you to write music today?

AC: Sometimes it is almost like second nature. Because I have been doing it so long, there's not necessarily an inspiring spark that says, "you must do this." But there is always the desire to create a miserable sound - whether it be just a guitar line - whether it be a whole song. . . there is something. . . I am not sure if the entire band follows my mindset on this, but I do enjoy creating things that sound sad. I am not entirely sure why and it is not a reflection on my regular every day life because I am not that way. When I do pick up a guitar, the initial instinct is to try and create misery. To make something sound saddened. That, I guess, is not really an inspiration. It is almost like second nature.

MU: I agree with you. I think it's pretty much the strongest emotion that is out there. It is a strong emotion to bring through music.

AC: I can't explain it. I wouldn't want anyone to explain why because the answer in all the truth may be sickening or it may be too sad for me to take. It may prove me to be mentally disabled in some manner. I don't really want to know the answer. It makes me happy. It is that simple. You generally indulge in your own desires. You do what makes you smile at the end of the day. Myself, attempting to create doomy, heavy, miserable music is what makes me get up in the morning.

My Dying Bride

MU: Are you into any present-day doom bands?

AC: There's a couple. I am a big fan of November's Doom from the States and also bunch I know quite well is Morgion. They have a very unique sound. The new one is called 'Solinari'. It's very good. And the first one, 'Within Majestic Ruin' I think it is called, reminds me of My Dying Bride a lot in places. In fact, I think they only have two songs on that, but the CD is 50 minutes long or something like that. Both November's Doom and Morgion are probably the two bands I can clearly say that I know enough to sort of comment on their music. Another band I do love and unfortunately they are not around anymore, but they are not doom - I have never classed them as doom, but everyone else seems to - is Trouble. I thought they were the most underrated and the most missed band. Why weren't they as big as Metallica? Fate has been unkind to this band. It was a mockery that they didn't receive the status that they were due. I guess that when it comes to standard straightforward metal. That is where it goes for me.

MU: What happened in 1997 where the lineup seemed to fall apart?

AC: The line-up did fall apart.

MU: I know it started out with Rick - with the fact that he became sick.

AC: Yeah. I think it was a mental illness to start with. I think he was physically tired and mentally tired of the touring and the uncertainty that touring brings. I think it just became too much for him and it caused him a lot of stress, which then led to an illness. He is definitely fine now, although I have seen a webpage that says he is dead which is not true. He did suffer almost a nervous breakdown. It caused him to basically readdress what he wanted from life and he had to move the band out of the way. Unfortunately for us because that's not what we wanted. We wanted him to stay with the band. And this basically put pressure on the band instantly, obviously, because we had to find another drummer. The replacement drummer, Bill Law, wasn't exactly the right choice in all honesty simply because he is an exceptional drummer. There is no mistake about that, but he didn't write music in the way that My Dying Bride was used to. We have a very simplistic way. If it feels good and it sounds right, it's good. He would scrutinize and meticulously pick apart guitar lines and vocal lines and it became boring to go to rehearsal. It became a horrible, tedious, fucking nightmare. Martin didn't come to rehearsal for quite some time. The thing with Martin is very strange because we don't really know why he left. We still don't know why he left. We just said, "Look Martin, we are not a touring band at the moment because we are not on tour. We are not a recording band at the moment because we are not recording anything. So at the moment we are rehearsing for a new LP, you know, writing songs. So, if you don't come to those rehearsals and help write songs, you can't claim to be in the band." At which point he hung up the phone and we never heard from him in a sane manner again. We have forgotten how it happened to be honest. We just buried that because we have been friends for too long to carry any sort of grudges. We are friends with him now as I still am with Calvin. Bizarrely enough, we are friendly enough still with them. I guess when someone gets to have their fill, you either take it because you don't know how to do anything else or you move on. And they chose to move on.

MU: Who is officially in My Dying Bride at this time?

AC: Officially on papers: myself, Ade, Aaron, Shaun and Hamish. So we are back to a pretty much full-on stable line up - the guts of the band. Yasmin is a session musician at the moment. We are trying to trying to bring her in and get it nailed down a bit more, but at the moment we don't really need her apart from when we are doing live shows. There is not a need in having her full-time at the moment. It works for her and it works for us so everybody is happy with that. That's the line-up as it stands right now.

MU: Are any of the band members in other bands that you know of?

AC: Martin is in Cradle of Filth.

MU: Yeah. I read that recently. That is kind of surprising.

AC: He was in Anathema. It's kind of a bizarre story because Cradle of Filth's keyboard player Les was in Anathema before Cradle of Filth. He left Cradle of Filth to go back to Anathema. And then Martin left Anathema to go to Cradle of Filth. Which is like a basic swap. To make the triangle perfect we have to have Martin and Les back in our band. It's very incestuous but it seems to work.

MU: On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the '34.7888% Complete' album?

AC: Seven. But that's only because I'm in the band.

My Dying Bride

MU: So what do you think of that album now?

AC: It's a difficult question to answer. . . I'd say, "yes, it's good music" because I am more involved in it than just that. I do like the LP. In fact I enjoy it now more than I ever did, bizarrely enough. It's like a marker for a certain place in my life which, in all honesty, should have broke the band. Not broke as in a financial way, but split up. The trouble we were going through with the record company and the trouble with the members leaving added to this being a horrible record to struggle through. But we still managed to do it. If you listen to the actual sounds on the record, they are not bad sounds. It's not bad music. It's just very different for My Dying Bride, but set to the backdrop of all the trouble we were having and all the uncertainty. It's a strong record, an unbelievably strong record that stands up and says, "We refuse to be broken." So from my point of view, it is a victory regardless of sales. It's a victory because it is there, so I will always stand by it. In musical terms, it is schizophrenic. It is not really anything that My Dying Bride should be doing. Personally, I prefer more somber music, dark music, typically colder-sounding - more like what we did immediately afterwards with 'The Light. . . ' and definitely 'The Dreadful Hours' is more my style, more of what I am into. But I can see why we did it because I understood what we were going through and back then that was what we were doing. That is what we understood. Looking back, now that we have two more LPs out behind it, that LP will be looked upon as the sort of bastard son of My Dying Bride. It already has become that for a great many people, especially the band. We didn't really know what to do with it at first. We were shocked at what we had created to a certain degree. But with hindsight, we are proud of it because without that record the band would have split up. I mean, there is a lot more insight there than actual musical taste. . . or insight into how the music was done. You are getting an emotional background to what the music was being written to and it wasn't pleasant.

MU: Where did the title of that album come from?

AC: It was Calvin. He had this fucking vivid dream where. . . The basics were that mankind had gotten to 34.788 in their completion before becoming spiritually fulfilled or just technically fulfilled. I don't remember exactly which one. He liked the idea so much and the rest of the band were open to offers at that point because we knew the record was sounding decidedly different from what we were normally doing. We thought it fitting back then. To be honest, I think it works very well because we like to have a bit of a story behind the time for that kind of thing. At that time, that one suits very well.

MU: What sparked the return to form on the 'Light at the End of the World'?

AC: Freedom, basically. After '34' was done, and then Calvin left. . . Basically myself, Ade and Aaron sat down and just looked at each other in disbelief that the band was a three-piece. And it was, "Do we spit up and start with a fresh band?" and that kind of thing. The answer was a resounding, "No. We keep going. We don't stop now." And 'The Light' was gonna be the last record for Peaceville so not only did we have a fucking attitude because what else could go wrong? But we were gonna be free after this. We were finally gonna have some breathing space. As it turns out, we signed back to Peaceville, but we'll come to that in a second. We had a mentality of great relief, I have to admit, because we thought the band couldn't possibly take anymore. We've taken so much pain now. Nothing else can hurt us. We were just immune to it. It was a massive relief. Once Bill had gone back to Canada, we started rehearsing with Shaun who plays in a much more relaxed and free manner, which is exactly what we wanted. It was a joy again to write fucking dark music. This is what we do. We're a fucking dark, miserable doom band and that makes us happy. It was great again. We felt full of it again. We could really go back and do what we do best which is creating emotional and twisted fucking music. So we just sat there and went "Fuck everybody" and just do what we want. And we wrote 'The Light. . . '. Looking back, I love that record. It sounds cold. It sounds bleak. And it is typical of My Dying Bride. There were always people that were like, "They're just going back because of the reaction to '34'." I understand why that is said, but that is not really the reason. The reason is, as I just explained, about the freedom. We could have predicted a return to form or basically be My Dying Bride again. The original one, if you will. It was a great relief for everybody. There was never any question to it. We subscribe very much to the ideas of the mist and the fog and the castles. All of that typical English stuff. Constantly fucking raining. And it's just always bleak here. It's always cold. It's always miserable. And that's because we are from the north of England. We actually kind of enjoy that in a sick way, so to write about it and to sing about it is nothing new. It's kind of second nature. We were happy to go back there.

MU: So that was supposed to be your last album on Peaceville and now you're back on. So how did this come about? Resigning?

AC: Well all the other record labels. . . We were in contact with about three of the regular size record labels. Peaceville matched every contract every time and more. Every time we sort of played one off against the other, Peaceville came back on top. And the main difference is that we know Peaceville. They are local to us. We are very close. Things do go wrong, don't get me wrong. It's just life. But when it does go wrong, at least they are in our back yard so we can go and fix it before it gets out of hand. That was one of the key issues. Rather than sign to a foreign label that is unapproachable, basically because we can't just jump on a plane and turn up and say, "What is going on with the cover? We didn't say it could look like that." At the end of the day, these things represent the band. We've got to make sure they look as good as the band think they should. Record companies don't always think the band is right. Basic things like that - we can have more control. We would never be questioned about our cover. "We don't like that cover. Please change it." That kind of thing. It just made so much sense. They were matching them in every other way. They were giving us the same money to record and you couldn't really ask for anything else because the other record labels weren't really coming up with that. We have a small contract with merchandise with a guy over in Launceston. He's nothing special because again we don't really move many t-shirts and that kind of deal, but we know him very well and we don't want to fuck him about. But the other record companies wanted to take the t-shirt contracts and all sorts of legal bullshit. We just want to play this music and record LPs. Everything else can fuck off basically. Peaceville was the one that gave us the most freedom and also gave us the most control over what we were about to do. So, it was very simple to resign to them. It is one of the good things about the contract being over.

MU: What is the reason for releasing the two 'Meisterwerks' CDs?

AC: I think it's twofold. Obviously, there is gonna be some record label commercial interest, and also the fact that Peaceville. . . there's a bit of politics involved in that too, I guess. . . they just signed a new contract with Snapper Records. . . I'm not sure if you are familiar with the story. They basically wanted to put something out on their new label to get the mechanics of it going - to find out how it works with the new label. It all sort of fell into place at once and became a sort of good coincidence. We wanted to put a compilation out for some time now - something with the older stuff that people may not have. But we've never had a reason because we don't just want to put them out and say, "This is some stuff that most of you already have. Please go out and buy it again." That's not how My Dying Bride works. So when Peaceville said, "We are going to do a compilation" and didn't even ask us because they have permission within their contractual rights to do this. We were like, "Well, yes, fair enough. It's something we've had in the back of our minds for some time. The only thing we ask is, "Can we get the people that are into My Dying Bride to choose the songs?" So, we put a competition on the webpage and we got MDB fans to say which songs they wanted on the LPs and we just chose the ones that became the most popular. It seems to have worked very well. We've been very well received. Actually, they got higher reviews than the original LPs. How that works, I am not entirely sure. It's been a good sort of feeling while the band wasn't really doing much in between the last record and recording 'The Dreadful Hours'. It was a nice little thing to keep the ball rolling and let people know we are still around.

MU: Coming to the new album, what are your initial impressions of 'The Dreadful Hours'?

AC: I'm still in shock a little bit because it is much better than I expected it to be, which is also a nice shock. So, I am still in awe of what we actually created. I knew we were capable of some pretty good stuff, but I do actually think this is probably one of the best records we have ever done. All the people are obviously screaming at me saying, "No, no, it's 'Turn Loose the Swans'." We get that all the time.

MU: I'd almost have to agree.

AC: It's that way for people in the band except for Hamish. He'll stand up with you and say, "No, no, it's 'Turn Loose the Swans."

MU: When you are the creator, you always like your newest material.

AC: You always do. I'll talk to you here and say it is the best that we've done. If we talk in a couple year's time when the next one's out I'll probably be saying it's the best we've ever done again. And you'll say, "You said that last year. Get your shit together."

MU: That's good though. That means you are just progressing.

AC: The bizarre thing is I do actually mean it. It's not just like I've got a script in front of me and it says, "You've got to say this about the new record." It's what I'm feeling inside. I'm sure I can't be the only one and not just in this band. So, it is a feeling of, "Yeah, this is strong stuff. We do think it is the best we've done." It is a very different record than what My Dying Bride might be expected to do at this point. I'm not sure what we were expected to do, but I think we've shocked a few people with the severity of the speed on the record and definitely the severity of the vocals. They are simply fucking just brutal. Crushing in places. I think it makes for a very interesting record, not just for people into the straight forward, the doom, the gloom and the darkness, but for those who like a bit of aggression and anger. There's plenty of that, too. There's also the awkward sounding songs. The weird ones like "Le Piglie Della Tempesta" which is a strange song and yet sits perfectly in the center of the record without sounding out of place. At this moment, I am very proud of the way it sounds. I am happy to have taken part.

MU: Now how was the album arranged? Was it completed before entering the studio or was there a degree of spontaneity inside the studio?

AC: There is always spontaneity. In fact, I plan for it now. We learned this during 'The Angel and the Dark River' because we went into the studio for the first time ever with the skeleton songs. It was the first time we had enough budget where we could spend enough time actually working on the songs. To a certain degree it worked, but on the other hand it didn't because we tried a lot of things that we haven't done since which means that they were experiments that didn't work. But at least we've done it then. We don't need to do it now. So, from that day on, if someone says, "Well, what are we gonna do with this section?" I say, "Well don't worry about it. We'll fix it in the studio." I know we can do it. I know we have the capability to come up on the day and turn an entire song that is waning, compared to the others let's say, into a complete winner just by recording what you have and then sitting with it for a while - listening to what it is doing properly rather than the noise in the rehearsal room - and playing and seeing what goes with what and see what happens. So, a lot of things you hear on the record now either didn't exist at all or did exist in the rehearsal room and are not there now. We've changed a lot of things. We've taken out a lot of guitars and replaced them with keyboard sections and replaced them with pianos or simply left them open. 'The Deepest of All Hearts' originally started with guitars and the vocals were miles down. Now it starts with keyboards and then it comes in with vocals and the guitars twist in through a flanger. For whatever reason it just didn't sound right. So, you sit there and you remove things and add things and change things and see what happens. Then one will just go, "That's just it." Everyone will just look at each other and go, "Fuck me." And then obviously you use it. So, it is very spontaneous, but it is almost a planned thing. I plan for it now. It's good to know that we've got enough capable people in the band that even though there are gaping holes in the rehearsal room, once we actually get to the studio we will fix it. It will become what we want.

MU: Will the piano sections and the violin sections ever make it back into the My Dying Bride sound?

AC: Possibly. The piano, yes. I love the piano as an instrument for My Dying Bride when you hear it on the record on the end of 'The Raven and the Rose'. The problem with the violin is that Martin did it so well, it is difficult to match that and there is obviously no way that I am going to allow a second rate or someone who isn't absolutely up there to come in. It is gonna be a daring move if I ever do it because people are gonna say, "Oh, here we go. He's harking back to the old days." They are gonna start raising eyebrows. And then if it is shit, I'll be thrown to the dogs. We have tried violinists - don't get me wrong. But because of the volume that we play at, even in rehearsal, because primarily we are. . . the guts of the band is heavy metal. It is a heavy metal basis. The violinists just can't hack it. They find it too difficult to play. They can't pitch properly because it is not an easy instrument by any standards. So, they basically can't do what we are asking them to do so they don't get used. But this was just for live. I haven't thought of bringing a violin player for any studio work at the moment. I am not sure if that is gonna be something I would take on anyway to be perfectly honest, but the future is a misty place.

MU: Aaron designs pretty much all the artwork for My Dying Bride. Has he done any artwork for other bands?

My Dying Bride

AC: I think he has, but they are not really bands that you might know. At least two European bands have had artwork from him. He's into it and they were heavily into it. Obviously, he's done art for My Dying Bride so they were quite impressed with the fact that they were getting him to do their artwork. He doesn't charge anything. I think he charged actually just for the material, so it is not a little business that he has going on. He does it because he likes it. He loves doing it. So, if people are going to ask him, "Can you do my record?" If he has the time he is more than interested. I think he has an American band asking for something along similar lines, so you may see something over there. It will be one of the smaller unsigned outfits, but he enjoys it. It doesn't really matter about status.

MU: When will My Dying Bride hit the States again?

AC: That is not such a closed question even before I answer. What we are thinking of at the moment. . . I'm sure you are familiar with a band called November's Doom?

MU: Yes.

AC: I've been in close contact with Paul since I met him - since before we toured with Dio, so we're talking '96. He's been constantly talking about a doom festival in America somewhere and we should play. November's Doom and My Dying Bride together and some other bands. It has never come up. For one reason or another, it has never really been taken seriously enough that we started to get the ball rolling. We were offered the Milwaukee Metalfest and we couldn't do it for a couple of reasons. We wanted to concentrate on writing, to be completely honest. Rehearsing and flying out for that one gig would put a strain on what we intended to do rehearsal-wise. But we were more or less prepared to come and do that gig. So, with that mentality in mind, if Paul came back again with this doom festival he's been talking about since he was born, I'd say, "Yeah, why not." So, we are going to try and get that rolling - get over there. It won't be a tour, though. There won't be a Dio style tour. It will be just a one-off, and at the very most two or three. We just don't have the time capability to travel. . . America being an enormous place. We don't make a living from the band, so we have our real lives to consider. We don't want to disappoint anybody, but we've obviously got to think of our regular lives.

MU: What are future plans for the band?

AC: The immediate ones are that we are rehearsing now for live shows. But in the next couple of weeks. . . We recorded some live shows that we did on the Peacefest in March and we are toying with the idea of releasing a live LP. But we want to go into the studio and mix it properly because at the moment it sounds like bass guitar which is not good by anyone's standards unless you are a bass guitar player. So, we are going to have to go in and tweak this and make it so it actually sounds like music. When we recorded it, we just recorded all the levels flat so obviously there is nothing there. It needs bringing to life. So, the immediate plan is to go into the studio and tweak this live recording and see if it is good enough to be released. Obviously, we can't release second rate anything. I think there is also a DVD coming out, but I am not sure on the full plans on that. And just get ready for gigs and that kind of thing.


review of My Dying Bride 'The Dreadful Hours'

review of My Dying Bride 'The Light at the End of the World'

"Follower" from 'Meisterwork II'





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