Review Summary: Despite everything, My Dying Bride have released another solid addition to their discography.
A lot has happened in the five years since My Dying Bride released Feel the Misery
. After almost three decades, the band left their longtime label to sign to one with a wider reach, Nuclear Blast. They replaced their drummer not once, but twice, ending up with Jeff Singer of Paradise Lost's In Requiem
fame. They also had longtime founding member/guitarist Calvin Robertshaw leave for the second time in his career – he was originally with them through 34.788%...Complete
before returning for Feel the Misery
. The most significant event, though, was that vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer. This put the band in limbo as Aaron put all of his time into her, and even briefly considered not participating on the album at all. This gave the band’s remaining founding guitarist, Andrew Craighan, nothing to do but write without any outside influences. In the end, Aaron’s daughter eventually went into remission, and the band managed to deliver The Ghost of Orion
So, what happens when you give a guitarist complete control of the songwriting without having to worry about anyone else’s input? Most likely, you end up with a guitar-driven album like The Ghost of Orion
. My Dying Bride have never been known for an over-abundance of keyboards, but they’ve definitely been present on previous releases – not this time. This time, with the exception of occasional violin parts, The Ghost of Orion
is dominated by guitar riffs, harmonies, and melodies. In fact, their ebb-and-flow are the backbone of the entire album. What’s more, thanks to their move to a bigger label, the production is one the band’s best; giving the songs a full, crisp, sound that wasn’t always available on previous releases. Of course, the defining element of any My Dying Bride release, the feature that lets you know without a doubt who it is you’re listening to, is the unique vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe. If you’ve heard one of the pre-release singles (“Your Broken Shore” and “Tired of Tears”), you should already be aware there has been a significant change in the way Aaron delivers his lyrics. On The Ghost of Orion
, Aaron’s vocals are layered at almost all times. The foundation of his delivery is the melodic spoken-word delivery he has always been known for, but over the top is a harmonized melodic style that could actually be called singing. Between the abundance of guitar melodies, and the layered harmonized vocals, The Ghost of Orion
is easily one of My Dying Bride’s most melodic releases.
Unfortunately, everything is not as great as it could be. The main issue with The Ghost of Orion
is just how homogenous it is. Over the course of the album, there is a glaring lack of dynamics of any kind. Whereas previous releases could be counted on to move through different tempos, moods, and tones, The Ghost of Orion
never really does. Effectively, there are two tempos (slow and non-existent), and since the guitars make up almost all the melodies, the tonal range and array of sounds is fairly limited. Also, despite this being one of the most developed vocal performances of Aaron’s career, it didn’t expand to the point of including actual vocal hooks. These issues make for an album that is still excellent while it is playing, but as soon as it ends there’s very little that stands out – and the things that do are hard to trace back to any particular song. The average doom song isn’t exactly known for catering to the instant gratification crowd, but even by those standards these songs take quite a few listens to click. In the meantime, they’re excellent while they’re on, but there’s very little that is going to stick the first few times the album ends.
The Ghost of Orion
could have been a disaster. From the beginning there was a chance Aaron Stainthorpe wasn’t even going to be on the album, and even once he was back it could have been a rushed production. Instead, the band have returned with one of the best sounding albums of their career, accompanied by one of the most accomplished vocal performances. The guitar-driven melodies, too, are excellent and remind me of The Angel and the Dark River
. If there is a problem with the album, though, it’s that everything is just a little too similar in tone and tempo, and it takes more than a few listens for individual songs and elements to start clicking. Despite this, The Ghost of Orion
is My Dying Bride’s best sounding album from a production standpoint, featuring some of Aaron’s most accomplished vocals, and guitar melodies that harken back to the days of The Angel and the Dark River
, and it is a welcome addition to the My Dying Bride discography.