Is this a great album – or just a good album?
It’s a question that’s niggled at me for the best part of two decades.
Drawing it out again this autumn – as with every autumn since 1996 – reminded me of how much it resonates with something deep inside me.
It’s not My Dying Bride’s best: no-one would say that.
It comes nowhere near the magnificence of ‘Turn Loose The Swans’ for a start (remember Andy’s superb overview of that one), nor the cherished earlier sweep of EPs and albums.
But I’ve often thought ‘Like Gods Of The Sun’ gets too raw a deal. It’s at best underappreciated and at worst maligned.
The funny thing is, for all those that do it down, I bet they could still sing along to every verse.
And that is one of this album’s clearest virtues. Its gothic melancholy is highly, highly memorable, forged in an era where sublime songwriting was still the real chase.
Opening with a title track is always a strong statement, and the way ‘Like Gods…’ develops and builds toward that threatening, booming end is sublime.
It’s an album that shows the incredible power of doublekick drumming when used sparsely and properly: the way it finishes out that title track is magnificent.
Aaron Stainthorpe also was at a certain lyrical high on this one. The stories, verses and phrases aren’t as oblique, sexualised and cloaked as the albums before it.
In fact there’s almost much different sense of the Arthurian legend in it, with keyboard swathes that transport you back to an imagined, fantastical and mediaeval Albion. If ‘The Dark Caress’ doesn’t take you there, few things will.
Is all the lore of tracks like ‘For My Fallen Angel’ a shade cartoonish, or Tolkien-esque?
A little Fighting Fantasy compared to their darker and more energetic travails on earlier albums?
Maybe. But it’s evocative.
Then there’s the groove. ‘All Swept Away’ has it in spades, in a way that still retains poise, while ‘For You’ isn’t shy of a bit of violin led chunky swing itself.
Yes, the electric violin grates. It’s plastic sounding and always was. Time wasn’t even kind to it when it was released.
And there are moments of quite some serious lumpenness. With the best will in the world, ‘Grace Unhearing’ is the definition of filler. As is ‘It Will Come’, though the woozy slide of Aaron’s vocals there is an impressive device.
It all tails off terribly toward it’s back end.
And in that respect some of the greatness of the first half is robbed.
Still though, it’s a My Dying Bride album I keep coming back to – moreso in fact than ‘The Angel And The Dark River’, and many of the albums since.
It was a true turning point – an album where they were unafraid to indulge the high gothic of lace shirts and eyeliner before deciding to do a screeching handbrake into the experimental ‘34.788% Complete’ (which itself could do with a From The Vaults’).
So I’ll reach for the cd again this year and find some familiar comfort in it again – still niggled by whether it’s a great album or not – but satisfied at least that its a band I recognise in sound and style.
– Earl Grey ::: 22/11/17