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My Silent Wake : There Was Death


My Silent Wake show exactly why they remain one of the most consistently creative and relevant of the UK's extreme doom acts with this latest full-length.



Damn, sometimes I do wish there was some money to be made in the world of Doom! Not so much because I want to lead a playboy lifestyle, basking in the reflected glory of being associated with the scene, but simply because - with a full-time job sucking up the working week - there are never enough hours in the day to cover everything that deserves coverage, and even my somewhat erratic grasp of the importance of timeliness delivers the occasional embarrassed and guilty twinge. This being a case in point: I've had the pre-release version for some months, but only now got around to buying an actual, physical copy and spending enough time with it to write it up.

I say physical copy, but actually I bought one of the offer packs with both digipack CD and double vinyl versions included, and - in line with previous musings over the virtues of different formats - it's the latter that I've ended up playing most. Which is a compliment, given that full-on, through-the-speakers, hi-fi time is rather more limited than I'd like: I have to be selective about how it's spent, with albums that really reward the experience. And, indeed, such a one is 'There Was Death'. Not that the digital version - through headphones or on PC - is lacking in any way, but the more spacious, expansive output of my sizeable Goodmans speakers brings out the absolute best of it.

It's probably fair to say that 'There Was Death' picks up somewhere close to where we left off - 2017 saw the release of ambitious experimental project 'Invitation To Imperfection' and the re-release of 'Damnatio Memoriae': this - especially with its additional overdubbed tracks - being the more direct harbinger of this latest full-length. Being MSW, of course, you wouldn't expect it to simply retread old ground, and on that it doesn't disappoint. There are some obvious points of continuity - Juha Vuorma's excellent artwork, for example, or the bass-heavy rumbling thunder of opening track 'A Dying Man's Wish', which wouldn't have sounded out of place amongst those overdubbed versions. Though, if I'm brutally honest, it actually sounds a little laboured to begin with, before things really hit their stride at about the five-minute mark, and never look back thereafter.

I've commented before on MSW's ability to both manage, and make the best of, whatever set of personnel are currently rotating through the West Country massive: that's no less the case here, with newest member Simon Bibby's keyboards not just adding extra layers and variety to the compositions, but also facilitating the whole complexion of the album. Less raw, aggressive and old-school Death/Doom than 'Damnatio Memoriae', there's still clearly that same raging core of the Arkley/Arlett/Westlake power trio line-up - not exactly softened by the keys, but given a fuller and deeper flavour. That's not the whole story, though, as revealed by the beautiful acoustic intro leading into the measured Gothic choruses of 'Ghosts Of Parlous Lives', the folk-tinged, resigned ballad of 'No End To Sorrow', and the melancholy, majestic and stately dirge of 'An End To Suffering'. On an album that continually demands attention - not because it's hard to follow, but because it's so absorbing and compelling - all of those are genuine, goosebump-raising trips into absolute fascination. And the wider palette offered by the additional instruments (including zither and dulcimer), plus the sterling performance of some guests - Greg Chandler, inevitably, but also Sarah Broomhead's ethereal vocals - is essentially what makes them work so well.

The only thing that does leave me a little curious is how strict the underlying concept of the album is. Even with the lyrics in front of me (included on both CD and vinyl format), it's not entirely clear whether there's a complete narrative involved, or if it's more of a group of works loosely coupled to the realisation and consequences of facing up to Death's approaching bony finger. I suspect the latter, with a range of topics that can be read as addressing everything from that rage against the dying of the light, through passing through the eye of the needle, to the acceptance of memories of loss. Well, regardless of motive, all of those are expressed in vocals that not only run the entire gamut between world-weary sadness and shockingly abrupt anger, but can make you feel and believe in their emotion.

I prefer to avoid both hyperbole and attempts to actively 'sell' my personal favourites to anyone, as a general rule, but over the years that I've been listening to MSW, I have come to regard them as one of the most consistently creative and brilliant of all the long-standing UK extreme Doom bands. It'd be a hard call to rate them in hard, cold numbers against Esoteric's delicious sonic terrorism, or My Dying Bride's most seminal albums, but if I had to pick a top three, that would be it, and 'There Was Death' is perhaps the finest example of why that is to emerge in this decade. Spin it up. Even if you don't yet know why you need it, trust me - you do.


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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. A Dying Man's Wish
2. Damnatio Memoriae
3. Killing Flaw
4. Ghosts Of Parlous Lives
5. Mourning The Loss Of The Living
6. There Was Death
7. Walls Within Walls
8. No End To Sorrow
9. An End To Suffering

Duration : Aproc. 63 minutes

Visit the My Silent Wake bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-08-05 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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