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My Dying Bride - The Barghest O' Whitby CD (album) cover

THE BARGHEST O' WHITBY

My Dying Bride

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.14 | 6 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars "My form is bloody and it is true, it is the night I wear around me..."

As a long time fan of this band, I was so excited, especially as a progressive rock fan, to see doom metal masters My Dying Bride release a single 27 minute piece. The band has always shown plenty of progressive elements in their music, with long instrumental sections, dramatic vocals, inventive arrangements and rich lyrics. They have constantly refined and experimented with their sombre and highly emotional music, so it's very admirable to see them push themselves with a long and challenging extended piece.

The title refers to a "barghest", a word for an English spirit that takes the form of a huge black dog, with monstrous teeth and claws. Often conjured by acts of violence and betrayal, they torment and prey on solitary travellers. Some sources place the inspiration for the descriptions in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes book, `The Hound of the Baskervilles'. The tale takes place in Whitby, the same town as Bram Stoker's `Dracula'. All perfect settings for the grim and bleak tale that follows.

Beginning with the crack of thunderstorms and howling winds, down-tempo sludgy bass, metal guitar riffs and weeping violin create a mood full of unease and violent rage. The painfully slow riffs in the opening few minutes are completely unmelodic and vile. The music is dissonant, dirty and even slightly atonal, making it hugely oppressive. Aaron Stainthorpe's growls, in the guise of the title beast, are ferocious and predatory. When he switches to clean vocals, he has such a mournful, solemn and deeply moving quality. The majestic winding guitar lines weaving around the violin is effective, with long drawn out notes and squalling feedback heightening the tension. They drift into a quieter and more reflective middle section, before one of those classic My Dying Bride highly emotive and imperial sounding twin guitar melodies breaks through the sound of cracking thunder. Commanding drumming builds the drama swamping Aaron's seductive tones. He effectively uses both clean and maniacal shrieking vocals double-tracked in this section that is highly unnerving and tormented. The climax has a suitably dramatic and nightmarish rush of adrenaline and crushing tension. Squealing distortion, punishing kick-drums and rapid-fire riffing announce the return of the growled Beast, as the piece spirals into chaos and thrashing foul violence. The piece returns again to the rainy misery of the opening.

Aaron sounds as charismatic as ever, his growled voice still truly devilish, his clean voice full of sorrow and regret. When he takes on the inner monologue of the title beast, his growl has appropriate snarl and spitting rage. As always his lyrics are poetic with vivid detail. The band compliment him perfectly, resembling a dark well of swirling aggression and raw primal ferocity.

`Whitby' is a truly uncompromising work by the band. The production is thick, cold and harsh. Some listeners may find the piece too dense and plodding, with little in the way of memorable riffs or vocal melodies. I don't think this is due to a lack of inspiration or the well of ideas running dry, I think it's more a case of the band pushing themselves and their audience in new directions. It's bleak, hard, challenging and slow to unwind. Looking at it from the perspective of a progressive rock fan, these sort of musical statements are hugely satisfying. There are many other albums from the band that I enjoy more than this, that I return to more often, but it's still a fascinating and worthwhile piece. I wouldn't, however, recommend it to new listeners, as I think almost any of their other albums would be a more ideal introduction.

I purchased the album on vinyl LP, with the piece split over two sides. There is no obtrusive cut, as the first side ends just after the mellow section in the middle of the track briefly fades out. The front cover features a stunning painting of the title beast by Aaron, with the vinyl format especially showing off the haunting and moody artwork. The inner sleeve contains the lyrics laid out like a beautiful gothic poem.

With it's grand mix of alternating vocal styles, moving violin, metallic riffs and gothic splendor, `The Barghest O' Whitby' truly encompasses all eras of the 20 year band and reveals all kinds of new possibilities. It's a satisfying and demanding grandiose work of great depth, well worth three and a half stars.

This 27 minute piece is a dark and wicked symphonic poem carved on a slab of hard grey stone.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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