My Silent Wake – “There Was Death” (Minotauro Records)
There Was Death is the tenth studio album from the much-heralded UK doom outfit My Silent Wake. Passionate devotees of this West Country five-piece tend to hold them close to their hearts like a close friend. For many, My Silent Wake frequently provide the sombre and moving soundtrack to their own lives.
The band’s last full length release was the inspirational instrumental Invitation To Imperfection. As good as that was, it’s great to hear singer Ian Arkley once more returning to the kind of form he displayed on Damnatio Memorae in 2014.
My Silent Wake have again come up with the goods although at times the pace and aggression is unexpectedly dynamic for those more introspective cuts. Album opener ‘A Dying Man’s Wish’ starts the ball rolling, slowly, as My Silent Wake stir into life like a grizzly opening its eyes after a winter of hibernation. An evocative and menacing repetitive riff carries that striking Sabbath-like whine before Arkley enters with an almost snarling snappy vocal introduction. This is a weighty opener, heavy and traumatic, almost cruelly so as it pushes your emotions to the limits.
The second song, Damnatio Memorae, carries the same name as My Silent Wake’s previously mentioned 2014 full length release, which on the surface at least is a little strange. A punchier piece than the opener, the contours and gradients are more profound and allowed more room to twist and turn and rise and fall. A sustained acutely angled hook runs through the core of this track with everything else falling into it and bouncing off it. Collectively it works brilliantly, peaking emotionally at the midway mark before delving back into a myriad of darting grooves before rousing itself for one final peak brushing finale.
There is an altogether notably warmer sonic sheen spread across the opening rhythmic rolls of ‘Killing Flaw’ although it’s not long before the veil of darkness is tugged away as Arkley’s gravelly tones enter to signal a change in direction.
The 10-minutes that make up ‘Ghosts of Parlous Lives,’ are among the best on the album. It’s pure poetry with ambient droplets tumbling down, each dispatching shimmering ripples of sound. The embellishment of female choral harmonies adds another absorbing layer, one that offers forth an almost religious-like experience as the haunting ambient aesthetics go toe to toe with Arkley’s deep velvety tones and yet the two blend seamlessly and delightfully together. Melancholic and moving, ‘Ghosts of Parlous Lives,’ is a heart-crusher for sure, full of emotive sweeps and traumatic twists and turns all played out across a steady percussive backdrop with the guitars assertive with tempo and direction. The final stages of this epic journey, one of two tracks here to break 10 minutes, sees a shift in impetus, more surging and desperate, building to a sparkling and confident crescendo.
The title track has a little more life about it than its sombre title suggests. Terrific mid-paced riffage with an addictive groove at its core, spiked up by a thrusting final flourish more than capable of inducing a quick neck workout.
On ‘Walls Within Walls,’ My Silent Wake stitch together darkly woven threads but the pulse that pumps away at the heart of the track throbs restlessly while Arkley superbly serenades with his distinctive throaty hoarseness. It’s classic My Silent Wake, with engaging grooves escaping the cauldron to elevate the mood rather than simply pile on more heavy moaning riffs.
On the ballad-like ‘No End To Sorrow’ the grooves flow more smoothly than a well poured pint of Creamflow as My Silent Wake slip to a more sedentary pace with Arkley’s whispered words of wisdom nestling neatly within the gently evolving rhythms.
The album’s final track, ‘An End To Suffering,’ is the longest and opens with a lovingly plucked strings that movingly tug at your own heartstrings. The doom truly descends on this epic closer, Arkley’s solemn cries married alongside a monastic like echoing chant. It’s a song to take with you into the wilderness, and as they so often have down the years, My Silent Wake majestically say plenty without feeling the need to go for easy cheap quick hits.
There Was Death is a highly accomplished album from My Silent Wake, a band who never fail to take you on a fulfilling and rewarding journey.