A deserving corpse emblazoned in the κόσμος beyond assault and the threat of extinction by way of his hunt, Orion‘s giant shoulders no longer exist for men to stand upon and prove their use. This eternal trophy of Gaia’s resonates a constant pinging of the Nous when in sight, a seemingly eternal reminder of debilitation resultant of alignment with treacherous heroes. Those old mythos tattooed across the sky catch fewer eyes and minds than ever today, where mankind follows no stargazing wonder, or burning love for their world beyond their selves — No compassion to lead with nor primal compass to guide them. West Yorkshire, England based melodic death/doom progenitor My Dying Bride was yet the wary blinded giant, stumbling without a Cedalion in help, for a few years beyond 2016 while opportunistic strikes volley’d in their midst. Bearing an earnest and unbearably achieved vulnerability, ‘The Ghost of Orion’ is not a plainly churned-out fourteenth iteration within a charmingly dour legacy but a forced boost of evolution within, a shove into the Lazarus pit that’d turn stone giants into gasping frailties that’re now more human than ever.
The way they’d explain it, My Dying Bride collapsed into stasis in late 2017 as vocalist and co-founding member Aaron Stainthorpe‘s daughter fell ill with cancer, needing roughly two years to fight, rest and repair. In their impatience both drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels (Godthrymm) and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw (ManySuffer) took the opportunity to quit and start their own bands; Guitarist, main songwriter and co-founder Andrew Craighan is quite mature about this exodus, suggesting this shift may very well have lead to his own ideas flowing more freely. Well, without dodging around it any longer, yes this is not just a higher step forward from the renaissance of the bands 2010’s material but perhaps My Dying Bride‘s most professional, heavy and endearing record to date. Allow some nostalgia for their 90’s material if you will, I think ‘Feel the Misery‘ (2015) sated this need well enough, we have a modern melodic doom metal record in the form of ‘The Ghost of Orion’ and every moment of it is lucid and inspired.
Every cursed bump in the road and the callouses gained from gripping the reigns still tighter only ready the strong more intensely for what opportunity may follow. In this case this fourteenth My Dying Bride record offered a chance to modernize and lift the old dogs’ production sensibilities and lean into a more accessible but no less genuine self, skinned raw and healing beautifully. No stranger to doubled vocals and harmonization, Stainthorpe‘s vocals are at their most passionately disconnected — A seemingly monastic state of grief or fixation that bears great potential to hurt via such cathartic bracing. With that said, the harmonies are pure My Dying Bride circa their most breathy melodic death/doom stages with a few moments that compare well with the most recent album from November’s Doom without digging into full on catchy rock territory nor any blatant progressive metal influences. “To Outlive the Gods” reaches a point where the layering and cadence of the vocals almost begin to build a narrative that’d resemble the most ballad-esque moments from Týr‘s slower spectrum. Perhaps doubling this feeling, violins and Solstice-esque dual leads raise that particular song to a massively felt point of weight. To say that My Dying Bride are revitalized here on tape might suggest they were some sagging mare, instead I’d suggest they are changed in profound and brilliant ways not the least of which comes by way of strong harmonies and their most memorable songwriting to date.
Sides A1 + B1 are a bit of a concussion, a trauma eased and peeled off like a wet shirt from a bruised rib. These inspired singles, the melodic death/doom revelation of “Your Broken Shore” and the only direct tap into heart of the matter allowed (“Tired of Tears“) will quickly help the listener decide if both the beauty and the beast of the early days of the project might return through ‘modern’ ears with a sound that’d stand up to today’s greats. Speaking of the ‘old ways’, I was directly reminded of ‘The Angel and the Dark River‘ (1995) while listening to ‘The Ghosts of Orion’, though My Dying Bride were certainly more of a ‘gothic’ doom metal act at that point in time there is a similarly dramatic thread running through this album, grand and imposing but deeply personal in its own way. For an hour-long doom metal album getting to Sides A2 + B2 isn’t a painful experience so much as it can be emotionally taxing to soak in these deeper resonances, the beauteous hooks provided by Craighan beg to be re-listened to, to be stuck within each piece and admired as if capable of projecting imagery as touchingly morose as the album art (via Eliran Kantor) depicting a woman in mourning, smearing herself with the charred remains of a (presumed) beloved out of grief’s madness.
The second LP or, Sides A2 + B2, bring just two more main compositions between them with “Long Black Land” acting to combine all of the best elements of classic My Dying Bride and slick them all into on ten minute epic, which reaches a glorious atmospheric peak at its core. This song also features some of the most versatile performances from Stainthorpe to match the gently twisting sway of the piece, inching between a hum and a roar without so much as a gasp. This song also allows new drummer Jeff Singer (ex-Paradise Lost) to stretch out into a more mid-paced ‘rock’ beat that builds towards the endpoint; In fact it bears some mention that a new voice behind the percussion brings a less predictable dynamic than the last three or so My Dying Bride records, as much as I’d really loved ‘Feel the Misery’. The 10+ finale of “The Old Earth” may very well be my favorite song on the album, a trend within my doom metal bubble lately but this time for good reason. It might be the smallest point to latch onto but but there is just a hint of Rotting Christ-esque riff around ~7:25 minutes in that speaks to the level of smaller details that make ‘The Ghost of Orion’ a formidable whole, and an unexpected trip when revisited a number of times and scoured for every bit of its heaviness.
Of course even the saddest sack such as myself begins to feel like a vulture for real suffering when faced with the glut of fantastic doom released so far this winter, and there is further thunderous/throwback melodic death/doom to come soon — Yet having seen into the future, it is ‘The Ghost of Orion’ that is still mangling me, slowly holding my gaze, and wilting whatever resolve that’d come with the first glimpses of spring. Sitting for two entire days listening to everything My Dying Bride, I felt myself clenching into a ball at night and leaving the house stone-faced with their rhythms hanging over me like clouds despite the sun. What’d set my mind over the edge into dissociation would come with the eruptive new peak of ‘The Ghost of Orion’ and that ‘certain something’ that I didn’t get from recent records by similarly effective “legacy” melodic death/doom bands (October Tide, Officium Triste, Swallow the Sun etc.) That is to suggest My Dying Bride‘ve still got “it”, and they’ve managed a great deal of newly effective potency to work with. I’ve found it debilitating, and can at least wave one shaking finger in approval alongside a very high recommendation.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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