Whilst it’s normally the cold North of Yorkshire a band like this would permeate from My Silent Wake hail from Somerset, down south. An understated outfit, they have been going since 2005 and have released 10 studio albums to date as well as a plethora of splits, EP’s singles and collections. It seems however they have never really got the attention they deserved. I’m as guilty as anyone else and although I have caught and enjoyed them live numerous times I have never sat down and properly listened to them in detail on album, until now that is. I’m glad to say I finally made the effort.
The 63 minute album starts in atypical doom death fashion with ‘A Dying Man’s Wish,’ brooding weighty guitar lines of the My Dying Bride variety, thundering slow drums building up like the first peel of thunder in a very blackened sky and hoary growled vocals with death at their heart from the sole remaining founder member Ian Arkley. Tracks are long and somewhat ponderous; atmospheres are jet black and subject matter far from happy; this is miserable stuff in all the right ways. It sounds like it could only be British, scarred from the early years of our unholy trinity and other forgotten and similarly underrated acts such as The Enchanted, The Blood Divine, Dominion & The Drowning. It’s what is going on under the surface that begins to haunt. The keyboards have an arcane and again British black metal vibe against them, subtle and mystical within the framework of the music. Adding to the head-banging bravado of a song like ‘Damnatio Memoriae,’ which is also flavoured by some mournful solo work and plenty of angry and distempered vocals. Other things are hidden in the midst of the music; there’s the sound of an accordion, and some female backing vocals, perfectly placed. The lyrics are important, sometimes a line is delivered with urgency and really makes you sit up and take notice. The roar of “helpless, you watch your children die” is one such example on the powerful ‘Ghosts of Parlous Lives.’ It’s actually a song I could easily imagine from the likes of Primordial and Alan Averill delivering that line. He may not but speaking of guests there is one vocally and he also recorded, mixed and mastered the album. It should come as absolutely no surprise that “he” is Greg Chandler.
Although with repeated listens (this is certainly an album of depth that requires concentration) everything hits the mark including a brief segment of poetry, it is the last 3 tracks and the versatility of the material on them that really seems to have fascinated me. ‘Walls Within Walls’ is a blackened belter, seeing the promised storm really hitting and drenching us with ferocious vocal hailstones and brutish power. By comparison ‘No End to Sorrow’ is a graceful and gorgeous piece of violin etched near neo-folk that rises and glistens with a feel of hope and determination amidst an otherwise violent sea. The last song again sees a dramatic change with a haunting dulcimer residing over the lengthy finale that is ‘An End to Suffering.’ It’s a bit Dead Can Dance and shows another side of an album that has really kept me on my toes and spoken in many different ways. I definitely should have been paying more attention here over the years and hope for the opportunity of catching some of these songs live.
“Return to dust!”
(8/10 Pete Woods)