Hot on the heels of ex-bandmate Hamish Glencross’s latest effort with new band Godthrymm comes The Ghost Of Orion (Nuclear Blast), the fourteenth full-length from Yorkshire Gothic Doom royalty My Dying Bride. This year celebrating 30 years as an entity, any pressure the band may have felt is counteracted by an expectedly assured, emotionally raw performance that comes with such craftsmanship and experience.
With Calvin Robertshaw and Shaun Taylor-Steels having left the fold, it is the twin assault of Andrew Craighan and new six-stringer Neil Blanchett that provides the typically mournful introduction to ‘Your Broken Shore’. The opening track remains faithful to the MDB template, Aaron Stainthorpe’s vocal flicking between cold emotion and deathly darkness while the crushing crawl envelops the listener in a warm blanket of sorrow. Shaun MacGowan’s sweet violin strains mirror the aching chords within the Folk Metal feel of ‘To Outlive The Gods’and ‘Tired Of Tears’, while Jeff Singer’s powerful stickwork dictates the changing tempos and hulking riff with both might and feeling. The beautiful ‘…Tears’gives the impression of a Jethro Tull–Fairport Convention collaboration at a funeral, and while not entirely a new direction it shows an even more touching and engaging personality for the band: not so much mellowing as refining with maturity.
The glorious, Celtic-flavoured harmonies of Wardruna’s Lindy Fay Hella lead into the heartbreaking chords of ‘The Solace’– a true, rhythmless dirge evoking the blazing longboat setting sail for Valhalla – and here it becomes clear that a more understated approach is making the ‘Bride an even more potent force. ‘The Long Black Land’is the album’s first serious epic with Singer and bassist Lena Abe returning to the fray, reintroducing the rhythmic might without affecting the emotional delicacy of the song’s intent. It’s a return to the mix of vocal styles and harrowing strings that signify the band’s sound yet the reliance on that identity is not as apparent: the eerie, morose rebuild of the mid-section growing gradually into a brooding, atmospheric pulse which Stainthorpe joins so gently that it merely increases the sensitivity.
The sinister, cascading softness of the title track eases hauntingly into ‘The Old Earth’: a journey through medieval pain and misery possessing more burning protest and downtrodden disaffection than anything the group has provided for some time, yet with pace switches enacted on a sixpence; Stainthorpe’s raw anger breaking his throat during the track’s bruising, ponderous three-quarter; the coda’s buzzsaw chord progressions giving life to death. Closer ‘Your Woven Shore’ is an elegy, a pertinent choir lamenting a passing, MacGowan’s icicle-drop keys and stirring violin delivering a suitable end to this very welcome, rather refreshing and immense return.
8 / 10