My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (2020)

My Dying Bride have returned with The Ghost Of Onion…. Err, Orion. I seriously thought it was “Onion” the first time I saw the album title, and considering the depressive nature of the UK doom metal legends music, onion sounded pretty damn close. You’d often think there were onions being cut in the recording studio, just to provoke a few more tears from frontman Aaron Stainthorpe. That being said, there’s actually a song on the disc called “Tired Of Tears” which may be a response from the frontman regarding the onion cutting that goes on in the studio.

That being said, this is a much different and less death metal influenced release than we’ve gotten previously and to be honest; it reminds me an awful lot of Paradise Lost’s mid-era work, before they decided to retain the death metal elements of their early era. I’m reminded of albums like For Lies I Sire or A Line Of Deathless Kings with this style of mainly clean vocal work, although a hint of death metal can be found on the record. Perhaps a hint is unfair, but I felt that I’d heard almost forty-five minutes of what I would consider to be meaningful clean vocal performances before I heard even the first growl.

Normally, such a thing would have bored me and Stainthorpe has done so before but because there were vocal harmonies this time around, I found myself actually quite interested in most of what was being displayed here. Upon giving the disc another listen however, I find that my analysis is not true. There are indeed some growls on opener “Your Broken Shore” but “To Outlive The Gods”, “Tired of Tears” and “Solace” are completely devoid of a harsh vocal style.

“Solace” in particular is a bit of an odd one, it consists of a melodic background and female vocal harmonizing. This piece feels more like an experiment than anything else and I think that’s the route these guys are going here. “The Long Black Land” brings back the death metal elements, although the style beforehand has been quite hefty from the beginning. What I really mean here, is that the death/doom elements of the band’s early albums start to show.

The title track is a tad eerie, but it is not necessarily amazing, nor does it work to build anything to the atmosphere. Thankfully, we have “The Old Earth” to kick things up a notch, which is desperately needed around this time as I feel they may have meandered a bit too much on this recording and have left little to chew on. The songs are quite lengthy, but few seem memorable. The album then abruptly ends with “Your Woven Shore” which once again shows the band meandering around into atmospheres and such.

Let me break this down, My Dying Bride fans. The amount of actual doom metal apparent on this fifty-eight minute disc is about forty-six minutes. Honestly, it should have been left that way. All of the meandering and useless interludes take away from the main goal of the album, which is gothic doom metal with touches of death metal. This leaves listeners with five real metal cuts, namely; “Your Broken Shore”, “To Outlive The Gods”, “Tired Of Tears”, “The Long Black Land” and “This Old Earth” as a closer. The other three tracks never needed to leave the cutting room floor. They should have been cast off for some B-Sides compilation in the future. They could have renamed the album “To Outlive The Gods” which works well as an album title to begin with, it carries about a sense of pretension and would fit the cover painting, as the figure depicted does seem like some kind of narcissist who would think she could perhaps outlive gods. I also never liked the idea of naming a record after an interlude.

Despite all my issues, I would still consider The Ghost Of Orion to be quite solid regardless of all the issues that plague it. Perhaps these guys felt that they didn’t have enough songs for a full release, even though I remember some of their earlier discs finishing around the forty-six minute mark. Not every album needs to run for an hour and fans are getting their money’s worth regardless; even with the trimmed fat. Bands shouldn’t feel the need to fill an album up with useless meandering and interludes when there are plenty of cuts that hold up well on their own. We are not hip hop artists, we do not need fifteen or seventeen tracks on a disc. We don’t need skits or meandering. We only need substance and there is more than enough of that here without all the fat. Next time just give me Orion and leave the ghosts in the studio.

Note: I had just learned about all of the trials and tribulations that occurred prior to the recording of this album. I’m sure it was a very difficult, painstaking process. I was also unaware that it had been so long since we’ve had a new My Dying Bride album. Days seem to run into each other at such a pace that I actually hadn’t been aware that this was their first recording in five years.

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