Artist: My Dying Bride
Title: The Barghest O' Whitby
Genre: Doom Metal
Release Date: 7th November 2011
Label: Peaceville Records
Whilst the other pioneers (KATATONIA, ANATHEMA, PARADISE LOST) of the modern sound of Doom Metal run off from it or flirted with other genres, MY DYING BRIDE (who cites their influences as CANDLEMASS and CELTIC FROST) has been quite faithful to it. They were formed in 1990 and released eleven studio albums so far. The “quite” goes in terms of a departure into ambient and neo-classical territory with the last album ‘Evinta’ (commemorating their 20th anniversary) which saw fans and critics showering the band with the raised eyebrow. There wasn’t anything bad with experimentation; it enriched their sound which can still be heard to a degree in their new EP ‘The Barghest O’ Whitby’. The single is comprised of one piece lasting nearly half an hour and is completely dedicated to it. As an aside let me say that visually it is represented by the artwork of their front man, Aaron Stainthorpe. Another one is that there had been changes to the line up, Shaun Macgowan enters on violin and keyboards and Shaun “Winter” Taylor-Steels is back on the drums.
As for the concept of the single, these guys come from Yorkshire and so they’ve utilised the local legend of the Barghest O’ Whitby. In the English folklore, the barghest is a goblin often appearing in the shape of a large dog and whoever comes across it should see it as a presage of imminent death or misfortune. Imagine a big black dog with huge teeth and claws, one who will be often seen brooding in the moors, on the hills shrouded in loneliness and mist, and occasionally it will come to snare a lone traveller in the city of York. There are several explanations of the word ‘barghest’, but what suits most in conjecture with this single and its evocation is the “spirit of the funeral bier”. I don’t think either the ‘Hound of the Baskerville’ of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can escape the association being made (but of course there’s no Sherlock Holmes and his loyal Watson here) or the association of Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’, where the black dog is the shape-shifted Count himself, freshly arrived at Whitby - this one actually suits the mysterious and ominous nature of this work more. Having said that, let’s forget those and just deal with this new way of perceiving it through the MY DYING BRIDE’s music.
Of course what you will be treated to apart from music are dark, superbly written lyrics steeped in the flavour that English literature used to have (and convey at its heart) with poetic power and reminiscent of William Blake with its breath of mystery in its imagery and elegance in its penning - which at least to me was always what’s held my great liking of the band.
Just to illustrate...
“It is my sins that you deplore
Count them fair, for I have more
To my mouth I carry you
In crimson teeth, the breath I drew
I make you dust, as you were flesh
Honoured to see a performance in death
We have no time, no time at all
There's empty rooms and shadowing halls”
Suitably it is opened by the thunder and a fierce wind that will transport you to the beautiful yet treacherous landscapes of Yorkshire moors, foreboding evoked by the heavy doom riffs’ atmosphere cut by the violin. The vocals range into the growl and snarl territory more than usual, but of course the clean vocals are there. Stainthorpe inhabits his lyrics with an intrinsic evocative quality and he’s really put himself into it full-on. The ending is where you’ll find the influence of their previous experimentation the most. The guitars in their ferocity become an orchestra of the blackest, heavy as hell and furious composition - they feel more like dark-tuned cellos and violins than riffs coming from guitars, vocals and drums matching their fury perfectly, in fact it’s begged many rewinds to that part alone and immersions in pure enjoyment of it.
It’s great to hear a single dedicated to its chosen theme, rather than one with fillers, songs aimed to sell albums, myriad of remixes - it just makes a change from the usual ware. Above all that, it’s a brilliant offering of music with rich, complex and heavy atmosphere and some of the best lyrics around. A single that also grows deeper and deeper as I come to re-listen it.
So let’s part with the ending stanza -
“My form is bloody and it is true
It is the night I wear around me
From lies I grew a spit of untruth
I help the frail sky to its sleep
Nameless, I come and without end
Within the moor and without end.”
The Barghest O' Whitby – 27.04
Aaron Stainthorpe – vocals
Andrew Craighan – guitar
Hamish Glencross – guitar
Lena Abé – bass
Shaun “Winter” Taylor-Steels – drums
Shaun Macgowan – violin and keyboards
Total: 10 / 10