Make no mistake about it, My Dying Bride has become, in the past year, one of my very favorite bands. Their entire library is full of epic, amazing British doom. Yet plunked just about right in the middle of the oeuvre is the singularly unique 34.788%...Complete.
Taken on its own, it is an interesting piece of artistic expression. A very mellow, chill, electronic inspired take on doom metal, there is, in fact, very little doom on it. A cursory listen reveals an album that sounds nothing like My Dying Bride. But don't let that fool you. Closer inspection demonstrates hidden layers of heavy, ponderous MDB riffs.
But where this album really shines is taken in the context of all their albums. Sandwiched directly between Like Gods of the Sun, the pinnacle of their early evolution to more melodic metal, and The Light at the End of the World, their darkest, most bleak and crushing album, 34.788%...Complete truly stands out as fascinating. What has come since this album is amazing doom metal, so I can't complain. But this is one album to not be overlooked.
From the trippy, "Blade Runner" style interrogation (questions are asked by a female voice, in Japanese played backwards, then answered by lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe in English) in "The Whore, the Cook and the Mother", to the almost groove-metal of "Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms", the album is full of fascinating moments. "Der Uberlebende" is the closest the album comes to doom, with a slow, dirge-like pace. "Apocalypse Woman" is carried by a rapid, groove laden bass line. Finally, the first song that really caught my attention was "Heroine Chic". I find it to be the most interesting MDB song ever, with electronic percussion, spoken vocals, (almost) self-censored lyrics (listen closely with headphones to see why I say almost), a lilting female vocal over the top of it all, and moments of thunderously heavy riffs, it is just fantastic from start to finish.
Final verdict: Explore it (though I adore it, it is different and unique enough that I gotta say explore first, though you may come to adore it as well)
I think it's taken me as long as it has to counterpoint this album because I still don't know what to make of it.
I'm not as familiar with My Dying Bride as Peter is, obviously. Before working on this article, the only exposure I'd had to them was their latest release, 2009's For Lies I Sire, which is certainly a shining example of melodic doom metal.
However, for a lot of reasons, I think 34.778% is a superior album. As has been documented previously, I have a lot of love for well-done electronica. (I can't stand most of the stuff they'd play in clubs and such; but when a group or artist is good at creating electronica - groups such as F*ck Buttons or Röyksopp or the inimitable Daft Punk - I can listen to it all day.) The subtle, electronic music found intermingled here with some pretty crushing metal is very good, and helps create an ambiance that most albums of this ilk only hope to duplicate.
It really is a great album, and the more times I've listened to it, the more I've felt that way about it.
Final verdict: this surprises the heck out of me, but Adore it (at night. In the darkness. Hidden under your covers.)