Music Reviews

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Artist: My Silent Wake (@)
Title: There Was Death
Format: CD
Label: Minotauro Records (@)
Rated: *****
'There Was Death' is the 10th studio album from Somerset, UK Gothic Death/Doom Metal band My Silent Wake. In the not too distant past I've reviewed a couple of their more experimental non-metal albums ('Eye of the Needle,' 'Invitation to Imperfection') and was really impressed by what I heard. Now I wouldn't count Gothic Death/Doom Metal among my favorite genres, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it once in a while. The ringleader of this outfit - Ian Arkley (lead vocals & guitar) is not one to sit idle, and I probably should have expected a new MSW album by now anyway. On this album the rest of the band is comprised of the usual suspects - Addam Westlake (bass), Gareth Arlett (drums), Simon Bibby (keys & vocals), also with some guest growls and screams by Esoteric's Greg Chandler, who also recorded, produced, mixed and mastered the album. (Nice job Greg.) I briefly went back and listened to MSW's 2015 'Damnatio Memoriae' album to get a feel for the band in their GDDM mode, and also to see how they progressed in the genre. In some ways it's a step beyond, in some others not so much. 'There Was Death' is 9 tracks, a sort-of concept album (on death, obviously) which opens with 'A Dying Man's Wish.' This is a morose mass of sludge that crawls along like the dying man in the title. Arkley's typical guttural growly vocals seem more like they're narrating a story on this one than singing a song. Plenty of doom and gloom, but it sound very indulgent and fails to ignite the spirit. Oh boy, if the rest of the album is like this, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Fortunately the next track "Damnation Memoraie" (btw, not on the album of the same) redeems the opener quite nicely. It give you nearly everything you might expect from a great Goth/Doom/Death Metal band- good catchy riffs, momentum, forceful vocals, nice changes, and excellent playing all the way around. "Killing Flaw" rips it up for 2 1/2 minutes before Arkley even gets a gruff word in. It also happens to have a spooky gothy organ break. "Ghosts of Parlour Lives" is my favorite track on the album. It begins like a darkwave number, with a lighter touch, but turns somewhat metal a little ways in. Kind of balladish, but not what I'd call a true ballad. Nice chorus of voices, and I'd swear there's an (uncredited) female in the mix. Although I've heard only a fraction of MSW's albums, this song may well be the best thing Arkley's done in this genre. There's a sensitivity too it that is often lacking in this kind of music. It also sports some very cool changes. "Mourning the Loss of the Living" is only a 36-second transitional piece of just Ian's voice and guitar in non-guttural, non-metal mode, and it sounds pretty good too. Title track "There Was Death" is a bit disappointing not having anything outstanding going for it other than speeding up toward the end. "Walls Within Walls" is a hard-charging number with more oomph, and it just might appeal to metalheads of any stripe. "No End to Sorrow" sounded like a completely different band at first with acoustic guitar and Arkley's non-growling vocals which turn growly on the second verse. And uh, yeah, this is a goth doom-death metal ballad. The album ends with "An End to Suffering," at first an atypical track for the GDDM My Silent Wake, sounding more like it belongs in their experimental camp with quieter acoustic string instruments and harmonium, until the anthemic metal buildup at the end. The vocals are (mostly) gruff but it's a nice mood piece anyway. I can see Gothic Death/Doom Metal fans going nut over this album in spite of what I believe are some shortcomings. Definitely worth a listen anyway even if you're not a big fan of the genre. It hits the market in February exclusively on the Italian Minotauro Records label (Music from the Labyrinth). BTW, the album cover is by the renowned Finnish artist Juha Vuorma.



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