muder of my sweet bethFormed in 2007 around the talents of drummer/producer Daniel Flores and vocalist Angelica Rylin, The Murder of My Sweet is a symphonic metal band based in Sweden.  Their third album, 2015’s ‘Beth Out of Hell’ is a ridiculously grand affair straddling a fairly typical symphonic metal sound with huge elements pulled from musical theatre.   Those who enjoy Within Temptation, Nightwish et al might glean some listening enjoyment, but to say its bombast is both one-paced and predictable would be an understatement.

Following an intro, we are confronted by multi-tracked voices that chug their way through a few lines of mechanical dialogue, presumably representing the malevolent devil that carries the loose concept throughout, while the reasonably talented Ms. Rylin adds a soaring counter vocal.  You know the kind of thing without even having to hear it; it respresents the worst of the style popularised by Evanescence on their monster(ous) hit ‘Bring Me To Life’, delivered here to you – the undeserving listener – with more theatrical angst than necessary.  Where to from here, but to usher in a childrens’ choir?  Yes – they went there…and in desperately quick time.  Man, this is horrible and it’s barely even begun.  Pushing the kids off stage almost as quickly as their disorganised little leggies allowed them to arrive in the first place, there then comes a guitar riff – and although it is delivered with a reasonable tone and suitable heaviness, it doesn’t really progress beyond its original basic intent. Before long, any decent chug is all but drowned out by a wall of keyboards, either appropriating ugly pomp or laying down a blanket of noise where – in all honesty – a real string section should be.  Rylin, meanwhile, takes the vocal performance and truly runs with it – when not going for all-out emotion, she curls her best melodic abilities around a strong-ish chorus – sounding not a million miles away from a couple of Eurovision entries of the early twenty-first century.  A half-decent chorus isn’t enough to save face though, and those looking to hear Rylin at her best would be better advised to check out her solo album ‘Thrive’.

Bringing an enormous staccato riff, ‘World In Ashes’ steams even further into Within Temptation territory, but aside from a theatrical chorus and the occasionally interesting musical counterpoint, there’s nothing of interest here beyond a couple of listens. ‘Always The Fugitive’ suffers from a plodding melody and over-reliance on droning keys where a complex string arrangement could – and once again should – have been, but despite the drawbacks, Rylin gives her all and can’t be faulted in terms of overall performance; such a shame, then, the music is so overblown and frankly so dull.  By a couple of minutes in, this – as with most of the material – feels like it’s gone on (and on and on) for an age.

By the fifth track, ’Bitter Love’  it’s time for a teeny bit of respite as they reach for the piano and offer a few bars of something a little gentler.  Trading in the metal edges for something that could descend into Europop at any second allows their more reflective side to shine through, but it really doesn’t last. After about a minute, the introduction of the heavier elements brings another leaden plod; some pleasing harmonies are present, but absolutely wasted on what’s essentially a Within Temptation cast off.  The closing bars reintroduce the demonic choir from the album’s beginning -again, a nice touch – but much like the intermittent spoken word passages, it never really strengthens the concept beyond the basic understanding that this piece of musical theatre represents a struggle between good and evil.  Opening with a huge chugging riff almost worthy of the more commercial side of In Flames, ‘Still’ begins with best foot forward, bringing a briefly enjoyable slab of metal before dropping back to let pompy keys and vocal take control.   Again, it’s a confident vocal and a shift into an upbeat chorus (moulded for a Euro audience) provides a liitle entertainment but here, more than ever, it’s obvious that the drum sound has no real oomph and Patrik Jansen’s bass may not even be plugged in.   The remainder of the disc features much more of the same:  Representing the worst of the subgenre’s stock in trade sounds, ‘Heaven Succumb’ is little more than a lumbering symphonic bore that’s over reliant on keys and over-emoting. ‘Poets By Default’ occasionally hints at a lovely vocal melody, but Rylin’s more melodic stance is spoiled  by unneccessary bluster pretty much throughout – and it’s eventually rendered unlistenable in the extreme by the shoehorning in a sickly, hopelessly drippy melody and a bombastic instrumental mid section that sounds as if it were lifted from another composition.  Only ‘Euthanasia’ stands out, since it really benefits from an impressive  guitar break and a very welcome AOR-ish chorus.  By this point of the album, though – about two thirds in – it’s all become especially tiresome.  Those who like the style may feel differently, but even with guest spots from In Flames’ Jesper Stromblad, Opeth’s Fredrik Akesson and Soilwork’s Peter Wichers, the bulk of ‘Beth Out of Hell’ feels one-paced and too much like symphonic metal by numbers.

Lack of bottom end aside, listeners who like things ridiculously bombastic could get a kick from this record.  For everyone else, however, its grandiosity might peak somewhere on the bad side of embarrassing, while its brazen lack of any real light and shade poses the very real threat of the material becoming boring…and rather quickly at that.  Previous claims that The Murder of My Sweet have the class of early Queen, the theatrical elements of Genesis and pomp of classic ELO at their disposal are utterly unfounded; ‘Beth Out of Hell’ is exactly how it appears from the outset – the work of a third rate Nightwish with a couple of AOR-ish choruses thrown into the bargain.  If that does it for you, fine, fill yer boots…but for the rest, it presents a draining and thoroughly unoriginal disc that’s best avoided.

July 2015