My Dying Bride have done something truly remarkable: they’ve piqued my attention, big-style. Maybe it was years of clandestine market research or a visit to some cobwebbed shaman, experimentation with psychedelics or an acupuncture/hypnosis combo, but deciding to record a 27-minute histrionic doom track about a supernatural dog is on the face of it an act of modest genius.
Seriously, after years of diminishing marginal returns making the semi-profound grief-on-wax of 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans seem a dim and distant and rarely revisited memory, this is exactly the sort of shit that gets our tails wagging. Re-recording old material with orchestral instrumentation, as they did earlier in the year with Evinta: no thanks. But this EP, invoking English folk legends of a large wild dog, stalking the moors at night, shitting on your freshly mowed lawn and scaring the cat, has all the Van Helsing/Sleepy Hollow atmosphere needed in the run up to winter. A track that might have seemed ridiculous in the summer now sounds just the ticket now that the leaves are rotting on the ground.
Despite having all the respect in the world the English doom/death band, they all-too-often came across as over-seriousness to the point of parody, like a sort of self-important melancholy wrapped in a frilly shirt and speaking in verses of super-bleak but kinda gauche sonnets. And that’s probably unfair, admittedly: their funereal demeanor is part of what made them such a valued alumnus of the Peaceville Three, with Anathema and Paradise Lost flanking them in the conquest to turn British doom into an international empire. But that’s how they came over, only to be consumed in small doses. The Barghest O’ Whitby is the sort of cinematic epic that Messrs. Stainthorpe and Glencross should be going for, every time.
It’s difficult to compartmentalize the Barghest O’ Whitby as it kinda flows all together, passing the most recognisable landmarks in My Dying Bride’s sound, but also incorporating some orchestral gravitas from new violinist/keyboardist Shaun Macgowan, and, on occasion, genuine aggression. Fans will really dig this, no doubt, but this EP should turn some new heads. The departure from their ordinarily romantic oeuvre to focus on effectively compose a doom/death soundtrack to a centuries old narrative is pretty invigorating.
The Barghest is a quintessentially English phenomenon. While the rest of the world gets Sasquatches and lake monsters, England gets a black dog. How understated, how polite… Even Scotland has Nessie to call its own. Anyway, here’s a trailer to the track, which is available to order here.