While they faltered a little bit toward the late '90s, doom/death metal pioneers My Dying Bride seemed to get a new lease on life (or should that be death?) with 1999's excellent The Light at the End of the World, and The Dreadful Hours builds on that momentum. Like The Light, this is very much a guitar-based album; there are no violins like on their earliest albums, nor are there any electronic forays such as those on 34.7888% Complete. Also, the keyboards are used sparingly (and tastefully -- these guys could teach some other goth metal bands a lesson). The first three tracks showcase the band's diversity and songwriting strength at their best, moving from the quiet, thunderstorm-accompanied guitar introduction of the title track to the galloping death metal riffing later in that same song, then proceeding to the especially bitter and venomous vocals on "The Raven and the Rose" and the mournful guitar breaks on "Le Figlie Della Tempesta." The rest of the album isn't quite on the same level as these opening tracks, but throughout the band still shows a real knack for alternating clean and distorted guitar passages and also for using a variety of tempos (although they seldom get especially fast) as well as vocal styles (e.g., growled, sung, spoken, and occasionally screamed). This diversity, as well as the logical flow of ideas from one section to the next, enables the band to write songs that average eight or nine minutes without getting bogged down or boring. True to My Dying Bride's trademark, The Dreadful Hours makes for a dreary, somber listening experience, but keeping that in mind, it's also an really well-done and inspired album, especially given how far the band was into their career at this point.
AllMusic Review by William York