Review Summary: The sound of My Dying Bride partying like it's 1992.
There was a time when I would have never believed that My Dying Bride were capable of an album like The Barghest O’Whitby
. Even as far back as The Angel and the Dark River
, it seemed pretty apparent that the band were intent on ditching the death doom that had started their career. No one would have blamed them, of course, since all of their peers were doing the same thing, but My Dying Bride’s attempts to branch out were never as successful. Case in point – by the time they had released the garbage that was 34.788%... Complete
, there were many people that started to believe that the band were finished; that they had lost whatever spark they once had. Every fan knows that the band did rebound and even returned to their roots a bit, but those albums still never held a candle to the band’s earliest material – until now. The Barghest O’Whitby
is a single twenty-seven minute track that reaches all the way back to As the Flower Withers
for the bulk of its inspiration while maintaining a bit of the melodic sound that they’ve been working on since The Light at the End of the World
and it’s pretty damn good.
The song begins with rolling thunder and a bit of wind – which, while not groundbreaking, does a good enough job of setting the mood. That mood, in case you’re new, is darkness and despair. When the first gritty riff comes in with a despondent violin melody played over the top, it instantly reminded me of the band’s earliest album; a feeling that is only enforced by Aaron Stainthorpe’s throaty growls. During this section, the pace is gut-wrenchingly slow, the main guitar melody is dirty and raw, and the violin part (while sparse) is excellent. Eventually, the song picks up the pace and Aaron transitions to his (love-it-or-hate-it) clean singing. From that moment on, the song seamlessly transitions from one idea to the next with regularity, eventually hitting just about every element that has ever made the band good. Throughout the twenty-seven minute runtime there are moments of oppressive funeral doom, gritty melodic passages similar to the band’s current direction, dirty old-school riffs, quiet ambience and noisy feedback, and even a fast-paced death metal part. By the end of “The Barghest O’Whitby”, it’s obvious that the band made an effort to really pay homage to the raw sound of their earliest material while still including their current direction, and the result is very satisfying.
My Dying Bride have released some excellent doom during their history and they are no stranger to extended track lengths, but this is still something new for them. This is the band finally integrating their current melodic sound with the grit and gloom of their earliest material without a single nod to the questionable middle part of their career. It’s an ambitious undertaking that will force fans to indulge in multiple listens before they can fully appreciate the entire opus, but the payoff is definitely worth the effort. Even during the first listen, though, “The Barghest O’Whitby” is a satisfying journey thanks to its multiple transitions and moods that almost make it feel like the band collaborated with their 1992 selves and returned with the best of both worlds. If My Dying Bride can hold onto whatever inspiration set this song in motion, I see an exceptional album in their future.