My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion (Album Review)

Doomful sextet My Dying Bride have navigated through more than their usual shares of pain and misery to bring The Ghost of Orion on Friday, March 6th via Nuclear Blast Records.

Their thirteenth overall studio album, anyone who knows the band understand the five-year gap since 2015’s Feel the Misery was not by design, it was more by necessity.  Taking time away from My Dying Bride, Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe retreated to be with his daughter stricken with cancer, who fortunately took a positive turn, thus resulting in his return. 

Although, in the time between then and now there have been several changes. Returning for the new album are founding Guitarist Andrew Craighan as well as longtime Bassist Lena Abé and Violinist/Keyboardist Shaun MacGowan. However, two new faces come in the form of second Guitarist Neil Blanchett (on semi-permanent loan from Valafar) and Drummer Jeff Singer.

Additionally Jo Quail adds work as a guest cellist, while Lindy Fay Hella of Wardruna adds her distinctive voice to one particular track. At the suggestion of former Drummer Shaun Steels, the band found themselves working with a fresh Producer, Mark Mynett, and the album was recorded at his studio, Mynetaur Productions. Compounding the darkly inviting appeal, the artwork was handled by Eliran Kantor (Testament, Fleshgod Apocalypse), whose wife stood as the model for the cover image.

While it is not a stretch to assume that a large portion of the band’s thirty years of material was based on close personal experience, The Ghost of Orion is especially harrowing when put into focus with the recent familial woes experienced by Stainthorpe. The frontman readily admits the entire album is influenced in some way, though he avoided the temptation to ‘fill the album with it.’ That said, “Tired of Tears” is one song where the lyrical content is Stainthorpe laid bare, and indeed, the first half of the album can be taken as some of his aggression, anger, and eventually introspection. This is while the second album is more of a collection of individual tracks, with some of the most heart-wrenching material the band has written, regardless of muse.

These factors in mind, the album opens with “Your Broken Shore,” a track which was gifted as single this past January, including video shot with help from former Bassist Ade Jackson. A powerful song, it features some of the growliest work from Stainthorpe in a while, both in depth and perspicacity. While recent albums were not exactly rash departures (such as 1998’s under-appreciated 34.788%…Complete ), the vocal, guitar, and violin work here are a deep reach back into the band’s Doom-Death roots. The last minute of the track is a haunting string movement that fades out toward, but not exactly into, “To Outlive the Gods.” The pulls back to the era bookended by 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans and 1999’s The Light at the End of the World, but with an almost Rock feel, and somehow more accessible, as much as My Dying Bride can be. 

Then there is “The Solace” Which features guest vocals from Lindy Fay Hella of Wardruna. Stainthorpe takes the track off here and the interplay of the voice of Hella with the guitar from Craighan is almost too painful to absorb. This is while “The Old Earth” is structured around an amazing Craighan riff peppered by some old-style raspy vocals from Stainthorpe. On the other hand “The Long Black Land” starts with a seemingly innocent string movement that sounds much more morose once the guitar takes over. Two shorter tracks come in the form of the title-track, which allows distant whispers to mark imminent doom, and orchestral closer “Your Woven Shore,” which uses choral accompaniment and more cello to bring something of a close to the similarly penned opener.

There are more than a few lenses through which a fan can view this album. In simplest terms, it is the new My Dying Bride album. Perhaps more emphatically, it comes off a five-year wait, the longest of the band’s career. Most delicately, it comes after three of those years that were subsumed by juvenile cancer diagnosis, treatment, and remission, shaking the band to its very core. Ultimately the album stands well on its own two feet, without any need for context nor explanation. That is why Cryptic Rock gives The Ghost of Orion 4 out of 5 stars. 

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