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Life in the old dog yet - 94%

gasmask_colostomy, November 16th, 2017

Probably not recorded as a 20th birthday present for me and then released two days late, The Barghest o' Whitby does claim the distinction of getting me confused about The Hound of the Baskervilles (the Sherlock Holmes novel), since I can't really see the difference between two stories where most of it happens at night and there's a fucking massive dog somewhere out in the park. However, the lyrics of the massive fucking song contained herein don't actually make any mention to the nightmare hound on the cover, so it's not abundantly clear what the song really is about or why I'm getting confused over a detective story. It's also unclear what sort of a move this was from My Dying Bride, particularly seeing as 'The Barghest o' Whitby' has never been included on any other release, but sure as hell is this an EP that stands out in the Yorkshiremen's (and sometimes -woman's) discography.

First off, 'The Barghest o' Whitby' is the longest song the band have put to tape, doing the rounds for 27 minutes in total, even if a good two or three minutes are atmospheric noises of a brooding storm and equally stormy squalls of feedback as Andrew Craighan and Hamish Glencross transition into the second section. What is quite easy to see is that those two men had stumbled across some block-heavy doom death riffs sometime about 2011, not only evidenced by the selection of grimy chuggers on here but also the symmetry of some of the songs on A Map of All Our Failures, the album released shortly afterwards. As opposed to the slightly warmer sound of the full-length, a concerted effort has been made here to add grit to the sound, guitars grinding menacingly around the five minute mark and Aaron Stainthorpe delivering his foulest vocals this side of As the Flower Withers. The new additions to the band are quite apparent too, Shaun Macgowan slipping the violin seamlessly back into the Bride's sound on some of the more downbeat sections that lead towards the second half, while the return of Shaun Taylor-Steels on drums (only for this release at the time, though now more permanently) is marked by the devastating final stretch of the song, which is described so vividly in caspian's review.

And if you're going to listen to 'The Barghest o' Whitby' for just one reason, it's got to be the climax of the piece. Bride fan or not, there isn't much more potent than listening to a mildly intriguing opening section that includes some worthwhile riffing, then being lulled back into the typical slumber of gothic doom's soft cocoon, only to awake in the middle of the night with cymbal and tom fills being hurled all around the sky like thunder, Stainthorpe working up to a slowly more and more anguished howl (the double tracking of his vocals is simply immense here), just before a wolf lets out a chilling call and the piece grinds to a halt. You'd be forgiven for thinking that was all, but there's life in the old dog yet and the guitarists launch themselves straight for the jugular like a savage bulldozer, knocking through the listener's ear canals and making you wish that all doom death albums had a moment like this. The violence doesn't last too long, the last few minutes allowing the storm to ebb away, but the effect of the building and dissipating threat is almost more powerful than the outburst itself, so well does it swell and promise to burst at any moment.

However, to round off the review, one should take a moment to consider whether it was really necessary for My Dying Bride to string us along for the preceding 18 minutes just to work in a climax that could have been a song on its own. Frankly, I'm sure it could have been made to work in a shorter form, but that's the joy of being a Bride fan - knowing that they pretty much have the licence to try what they like, especially seeing as their relationship with Peaceville is so special. I'm still not fully convinced that the slow gothic mid-section is entirely welcome, though there are some big motherfucking doom riffs between the violin parts (the one beginning at 8:20 is total gold standard) and the pacing of the song is very well judged, without much light showing between the joins. I sort of wanted to be harsh on this because the other reviewers have piled on the praise, yet The Barghest o' Whitby is such an obviously great idea - matched by fairly inspired execution - that I can't find it in me to say anything bad about it. Looking back, this was probably the start of My Dying Bride's greatest decade yet.

The old dogs can still bark - 97%

AgeOfTheWiccans, March 10th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Peaceville Records

As for their lastest EP, My Dying Bride have managed to create in this single track a variety of twisting and turning tempo changes, mood swings and emotional passages. This EP covers all the elements generally found on their LP and it does not disappoint. A whole 28 minutes of pure crushing doom with Aaron at its finest.

You may not know, but the song is really broken into two distinct parts. At the beginning of the first part, the atmosphere makes you feel like you are listening to some old Black Sabbath. It has the same vibe, you can hear the loud clap of thunder, the frigid wind blowing at you and you know it will be just as good of an intro as the one Black Sabbath created in 1970. The song starts of with distorted guitars playing off a traditional funeral atmosphere and it is accompanied with a somber violin melody that kicks in not too long after the thunder fades away. When vocalist Aaron comes into play, you don't expect the first wicked screams that come out of his lungs. It is a shock as he barely does it anymore, but this time he managed to unleash sadness and hopelessness that plunges you into this misery. This part of the song is much more raw in nature than their previous efforts; each note resonates and haunts you like this dog in a dense fog. It keeps you in this haunted atmosphere for a good 10 minutes as this emotional story unfolds, mind you that Aaron conveys it pretty well.

Before the beginning of the second section, things change in both tone and feel as the guitars fade away after 14 minutes or so, a light riff is all that remains. The song was supposed to be separated into two distinct parts, but they decided to make it into one long song. It is probably a good thing because the second part is a bit boring at first, but they kept the good stuff for the end. So clocking at 15 minutes, you hear a more commanding guitar lead and then the second guitar enters forming a harmony of depressive riffs, it is like a melodic sound just before the rage starts again. My Dying Bride shines very bright here; Aaron's vocal is at its peak strength, showing us that this old dog can still bark, the music takes you into a darkened path and you may feel like you are in a cold dark place. The final act is mesmerizing as it comes in the form of a brutal and heavy assault. The music is pounding and throbbing and to make it even pleasing to the old fans, Shaun Taylor-Steels is behind the drum kit. He plays at a break-neck speed as the song comes to an end while the guitars are burying you in a thick sludge of distortion and chugging chords. It was a good thing they got Shaun for this recording, he pulled it off with ease as the double kicks come in hard and heavy. The song flows very well into the changes in tempos and into a heavier territory at around the 24 minute mark. Aaron rages still, the drums are pounding and the heavy assault continues to finally diminish in intensity. To top it up, Mags delivers a great production on this EP.

This EP is a good introduction for those who you don't know MDB, I think it is a great come back into their death/doom period and it shows that they never lost the touch. It is really one of the finest EP.

MDB in top form - 92%

caspian, June 20th, 2013

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.

Dirge For A Haunted Dog - 90%

Papyrus11, April 15th, 2012

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:

The bride is alive, long live the bride! - 90%

androdion, November 25th, 2011

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