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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.