Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

Yorkshire-based Doomsters My Dying Bride have never been the kind of band which shies away from experimentation. Clear evidence can be found in any of the band’s recordings including “Evinta” - a collection of fourteen compositions which was released earlier this year and which saw the band presenting riffs and melodies of old in a new classical/orchestral environment. As this release ended up dividing fans and music journalists alike, some might think that a return to a more riff-orientated style would be an attempt to win back all those ‘rebelling backbenchers’, however the truth is that Aaron Stainthorpe and co began working on this material pretty much at the same time, resulting in the release of a one track EP entitled “The Barghest O’Whitby”.

Some of you might question the purpose behind the release of yet another My Dying Bride EP, especially as it features a single composition, however you may be relieved to know that “The Barghest O’Whitby” is a twenty seven minute piece which brings together most of the elements of the band’s musical past and present. Even though a member of the band since 2009, it is only now that violinist Shaun Macgowan is given the opportunity to see his name featured in a My Dying Bride release and his contribution is integral in terms of creating the dark and sinister atmosphere that this great band has been known for over the last twenty one years. The end result? A composition that pays its respects towards the band’s past while looking to the future with much needed optimism.

Following a dark/atmospheric intro, the listener will be swept away by a simple slow-paced riff which is accompanied by a mournful violin theme, thereby creating a beautiful contradiction. Aaron Stainthorpe’s vocals are harsh and commanding, working closely with Dan Mullins’ galloping drum theme once the tempo is suddenly raised six minutes into the song’s duration. This constant change of mood pretty much characterises the first part of the composition, however it is the dark/atmospheric passages that seem to dominate the proceedings, as suggested by the mass of melodic lead guitar and violin tunes that are on offer here. The second part kicks off with the same atmospheric ‘wind and rain’ effects at first, however the pace is now much slower and the sound comes across as harsher in comparison. Aaron’s contribution of a multi-layered vocal theme nineteen and a half minutes down the line enhances the song’s already heavy atmosphere and when the first groovy head banging riffs decide to make their appearance around the twenty second minute mark, they come across as a much welcome break, providing this multi-layered composition with a truly dynamic ending.

When I had the pleasure of interviewing guitarist Hamish Glencross earlier in the year, I was somewhat warned of the band’s intentions to work on heavier material and that is why “The Barghest O’Whitby” did not come to me as a complete surprise. Mixing doom laden guitar riffs with dark melodies has been a craft that My Dying Bride have been perfecting over the last twenty one years and that is really the reason why this twenty seven minute behemoth of a song sounds so coherent and engaging throughout its duration. If you are a fan of the band, getting your hands on this release is a no-brainer. If, for some strange reason, you are one of these people who have never heard of My Dying Bride before, “The Barghest O’Whitby” may not necessarily be the best way to introduce yourselves to their music, but it is a perfect example of their musical diversity and artistic skill.

John Stefanis