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While I'm a student getting my study on, doing pracs and shit my general escape every evening is playing a bit of the ol' Red Alert 2 while checking out some of the few million albums I bought back when I was a rich employed person. Essentially, if the album is good or bad enough to have me pausing my usual RA2 game I'll chalk it up as to being remarkable enough one way or the other for me to give a second listen, with an eventual review thus increasingly likely.
What got me with this album was the utterly desolate dirge section around the 20 minute mark which wasted little time getting increasingly desperate and dark when Aaron starts shouting over the top of it. MDB have done the stately, gothic thing for so long that it's easy to forget that they are capable of unleashing some seriously crushing death/doom when the mood suits them. The last few minutes of Barghest are quite a glorious slab of the rawest, most dismal atmosphere MDB have done since their debut, and it's a beautiful thing to behold as the drums and guitars pound their way through some serious ugliness. A fine moment where the guitars chug away at a simple riff while the drummer switches between toms and all out cymbal abuse... truly wonderful stuff.
Throughout it's all a fair bit more energetic- maybe even hateful?- than usual. The production has a bit of a Blilly Anderson vibe to it I reckon; everything's a bit dirtier, the guitars having a real throaty edge to them, the drums hit hard and Aaron finding a venom that he has maybe never had before this album. It's a perfectly recorded album and it's refreshing to see how much passion these guys put into it. Shit is consistently heavy with a desperate, red-raw edge, feedback squealing everywhere even when the violins are brought out. Does it hold together throughout the 27 minute run time? I think so. It's paced well, the comedown in the middle of the album is positioned so that the stately, most typical MDB moment of the album isn't duly overstretched (and so a neat "side 2 of the LP" effect can be applied), and it's a super super cool thing watching the song edge itself closer to the cliff and then just throw itself off it near the end.
And oh, how it does. I'd probably argue that this would be better as a two song EP, but it sticks together real well, sounds fantastic throughout and the climax is a huge piece of music that deserves to be heard. Best since As the Flower Withers, definitely.
Maybe it’s because this is just an EP but My Dying Bride have really let rip here, letting the metal fury reach its hellish potential while fully existing in their individual plaintive and emotional style. Doomier and gloomier than they’ve sounded for a while, all facets of this great band’s unique style have been combined in to what, I believe, is their longest song ever, and it’s an absolute monster. There’s the sound of thunder to set the desolate atmosphere of the moors along with a wretched dog howl at certain points; the violins are present creating the melodic glory of MDB in their heyday; a dirty guitar tone grinds away in misery before speeding up for a few thrilling moments, giving the song peaks and valleys of tempo and mood. The guitar sound actually reminds me of MDB’s first two albums and the song as a whole makes me think that they really wanted to get back in touch with the death/doom roots here, which they do spectacularly.
Aaron Stainthorpe’s vocals are, of course, a highlight featuring some plaintive clean singing and his most wretched death vocals we’ve heard for some time. This highly iconic and individual vocalist seems to be getting better with age, judging by this, and he relates the story spectacularly over the most horrific, churning and brutal song My Dying Bride have put their name to for some time - if you’re a fan you need this song.
Realistically, this kind of things sells itself – you’re not going to promote a 27 minute gothic doom dirge to the majority of people, but if you are a fan this album is some kind of bleak heaven. I’m not going to say that it’s better or worse than any other MDB album because each release is a masterpiece in its own way, but The Barghest O’Whitby is another chapter in their ongoing story, and one that seems to reach a whole new tier of fevered misery that must be experienced to be believed.
Originally written for: http://hauntingtheobscure.blogspot.co.uk/
My Dying Bride presents us their second release this year, after the Evinta compilation, in the form of a 27 minute EP. A conceptual work about an otherworldly demon, featuring some of the darkest tunes they’ve written in a long time.
This is a band that hardly needs any introduction, being part of the “Peaceville Three” and an assiduous and important presence during the formative years of the British death/doom scene, bringing the so vaunted traditional doom a new and more brutal approach. Each part of this trio composed also by Anathema and Paradise Lost has had a differing approach during their careers, with My Dying Bride being the one that kept the doom flame always lit during all this time, even though they’ve had an always present gothic presence ever since the release of The Angel And The Dark River back in 1995. The mournful cries of Aaron or the creepy violins have been part of the band’s story and back catalogue and those elements are back again in full force.
As referenced before this is a conceptual work that tells the story of a demonic force, an evil presence of the British folklore featured here in the shape of the cover art’s monstrous black dog. Ever since it was immortalized in literature by names like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, this animalistic demon that preys on lone travelers and careless townspeople has been some sort of “boogeyman” if you want of the post-medieval times in British towns such as Whitby. This 27 minute EP has only one song, which could prove a daunting task even for a band used to make 13 minute songs, telling the story of this evil spirit and is seemingly divided in three acts.
The sound of winds howling and thunder cracking opens the way for this monumental song, building up the atmosphere and darkening the air when all of a sudden comes a riff from the golden years closely accompanied by the discording violin. The production is raw like in the early days of the band and such can be witnessed in the pounding drums and bellowing roars that Aaron spits forth. The pace is slow but the rhythm is well kept by the good drumming with a single riff being repeated by the guitars with just enough variation to keep you holding your breath, while a trembling fear dominates you. But it’s when the drums take the aural assault into double bass territory with shivering cymbals hits, colored only by the dreadful guitar work that this song begins to show its true grace. The song keeps building forward as I witness a melody that brings me back to their 1995 opus, with its unmistakable gothic and melancholic approach and again some brilliant violin work that sets the mood perfectly.
This brings the end of the “first act” around the 15 minute mark, making for more than half of the song already. A perfect example of a long My Dying Bride anthem of yesteryear that thankfully doesn’t end here.
Instead, and after a fade out that lasts only a few seconds, the sounds of storm return with the echoing guitars hovering over them and again we’re presented with some perfectly executed drum work and the melancholy of Aaron’s clean singing. The guitars are the main drive here and this remarkable riff keeps your attention until it turns into something uglier, something darker that now approaches you and threatens to consume your very soul. This is the creepiest part of the song that howls at you just before it explodes at the 22 minute mark for one of the harshest and heaviest moments the band has done in a long time. This takes me back directly to 1992 with Aaron sounding anything but melancholic or soothing. Here he sounds like a roaring demon and the guitar riff is totally infused in old school death/doom, with the drums returning to double bass patterns. Again you’ll notice the rawness of the production as the distortion and reverb make you tremble with fear with the menacing yells of the black demon himself eating away at your sanity. Here is where you find the apex of brutality in this work and it’s as daunting as you’d expect from the band in the beginning of the nineties, letting go only at the very last seconds where the wind and thunder close the circle full.
The band succeeds here in many fields. It manages to make an appealing conceptual work that reeks of folk horror without being cheesy while going through a single 27 minute song that never loses your attention. The fact that the song is sort of divided into three parts or acts makes for enough variation to always keep it interesting and even provides for some brutish and muscled moments like they hadn’t done in a long time. If anything this EP shows that My Dying Bride are still alive and not dwindling as some may have thought. It proves also that the band is able to recapture the old school feeling of their formative years if they search for that mindset. And ultimately they achieve on bringing to the table one of the strongest efforts on their career, one that can stand tall against works like As The Flower Withers and The Angel And The Dark River in both the brutal approach of the first and the melancholic yet darkened feel of the second.
Describing this work is like describing Bram Stoker’s masterpiece Dracula, it’s as beautiful as it is creepy and dark, it’s long but never lets your attention whither because of all the detailing and compelling storytelling, and it’s a work that is set to be remembered by many because of its grandeur. This is definitely one of the good releases on an already great year for metal and another stroke of near genius by the bride that refuses to die.
Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine
As if to prove they haven't gotten old and soft after the indulgent three-disc classical release Evinta, My Dying Bride are right back and grittier than they have been in almost two decades. The Barghest O' Whitby is one, impenetrably long song, in line with much older material in terms of sound, and their single most ambitious work yet. Alright, so it was originally planned as separate tracks, but the choice to release it as one makes for a more challenging and involving listen and the piece(s) benefit from the decision.
This is basically the sort of thing I did not expect them to do, but here they are forsaking all the slight differentiations in sound they explored during the last eighteen years and plugging in for basic, brilliant English doom with a cool story to boot. The song is basically slow right until the end, marked by a couple of quiet moments, twice or thrice building into emotional climaxes that suggest catastrophe and tragedy with more aptitude than in a long time. From a more tense, understated first half to the all-out melancholic keening guitars in the song's third quarter to the explosion of death growls, chugging guitars and double-bass drums at the end, this is everything you want from the Bride.
The band is tight. Craighan and Glencross are utterly reliable throughout. Howling wind (obviously) before the creaking, groaning guitars burn menacingly into life at the beginning, introducing the least goth-friendly the band have been for a long time. Heavy and melancholic by turns and at once, and also escalating. At about 8 minutes you get the sort of guitar riff you really need from doom, low, slow and heavy, before one of the band's more familiar melodies breaks through like light over a cemetery, seeming like it was lifted from 1999. The whining, repeating motif that marks the song's middle seems to tip its hat to the memorable opening of 'The Cry of Mankind'. It fades out so that the song can come back in with a highly miserably, keening section that must have been the beginning of a separate track to begin with - but as another chapter to the darker first half, it works brilliantly, utilising the sort of sad, epic and effective leads they were known for originally.
The violins are still there, but now they add the same macabre unease they did for Turn Loose the Swans, rather than the slightly more flamboyant arrangements heard of late. Aaron Stainthorpe sticks to the rasping growls that peppered recent songs such as 'A Chapter in Loathing' to such great, grisly effect, for the song's first six minutes, bringing them back later with some snarled narration to top it off. Simply put, this first section is genuinely a return to the sound of the band's first, never forgotten album. His clean vocals have some of the desperate, perverse poeticism I remember being so chilling on Songs of Darkness, Words of Light and such classic tracks as 'The Wreckage of My Flesh'. The wailed double-tracked backing vocals later on work awesomely, with a big dog's howl sampled at one point for further awesome points.
The drums get more space than they usually do in the band's increasingly compact songs. When drumming slow you really have to sound individual to impress, and particularly in the early minutes of this opus, Dan Mullins supplies some really atmospheric, crashing fills and tumbling drum rolls that sound in line with some of the more experimental sludge drummers. The cavernous, echoing sound afforded by the production helps as well, a far fetch from the sterile drum sound on For Lies I Sire.
The kid who got his hands on a download of The Dreadful Hours all those years ago (bought it since, keep your wig on) would really dig this. It makes me more interested in buying their next album than I have been since hearing the excellent A Line of Deathless Kings five years ago. Mandatory purchase for fans of these old English daddies.