Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Silent Wake-Damnatio Memoriae

House of Ashes Productions

Produced, engineered and mastered by Greg Chandler (Esoteric) at Priory Recording Studios in West Midlands, UK, is the latest & possibly greatest release from British death/doom band My Silent Wake. It features some of My Silent Wake's strongest material to date and this long player serves as the proper follow-up to 2014's well-received "Eye of the Needle". Opening by way of the aptly-titled "Of Fury",  "Damnatio Memoriae" features eight (Stone Cold Forever) tracks in all for a total run-time of 54:55. As per usual group founder/visionary mastermind Ian Arkley (Century Sleeper, Seventh Angel, ex-Ashen Mortality, ex-Paramæcium, ex-The Other Window) is the driving force behind My Silent Wake (MSW) and here on the band's latest release this multi-talented front-man/songwriter not only exceeds all expectations as a vocalist, but proves himself (once again!) praise-worthy as both a guitarist and keyboardist! Of course long-time fans of MSW won't find that little piece of information all that surprising. Since forming the band back in 2005, with a self-titled, 2-track EP released that very same year, Ian Arkley has released one spectacular recording after another with this new one moving the grand total of full-length albums up to eight! They've all been dangerously good in their own right so why should "Damnatio Memoriae" be an exception? Other than seeing another change in the band's line-up (which is something that has become common place for MSW over the years!) the only real difference between "Eye of the Needle" and "Damnatio Memoriae" takes place in the style department. They are both wonderfully atmospheric and (in regards to the individual song arrangements) technically-amazing, but whereas five out of seven numbers on the band's 2014 album are drawn-out and experiential in nature (the "Eye of the Needle" number "Three Furies" has a run-time of over 21 minutes after all!) much of "Damnatio Memoriae" is short and to the point. Other than "The Empty Unknown" (with a run-time of almost 14 minutes!) My Silent Wake's new album ends up being more direct in it's approach and (in general) things feel a bit more streamlined and focused. Speaking of which, MSW does feature a new cast of characters for album number eight here. Now trimmed to a (power) trio, My Silent Wake (MSW) is rounded out on this album by bassist Adam Westlake (Leppe, Striga, ex-Husk) and drummer Gareth Arlett (Amputated, ex-Awake by Design, ex-Control the Storm) and with that streamlined line-up we get a streamlined sound. Please note that the term "streamlined" should not be seen in a negative light. For example it does not mean that less thought and care went into the recording of this album. It does not mean that album number eight isn't as well-crafted, imagined or (frankly-speaking!) clever as previous MSW releases. And it most certainly does not mean that this album is any less praise-worthy or recommend! Instead of all of that noise, "Damnatio Memoriae" is streamlined in order to put more of an emphasis on traditional doom and Gothic doom. And to that point, "Damnatio Memoriae" is classic Gothic/doom metal the way it used to be. Try on the likes "The Innocent" and "Chaos Enfolds Me" and you just might find yourself blissfully whisked away in time and space to the early nineties. The sweet sounds coming from your speakers might feel vaguely familiar (what with the great "Now it Destroys" sounding as if it could have originally been released anywhere between 1990 and 1993!) and chances are you might have a slight case of déjà vu. That's especially true if you find yourself on the other side of 40 of all places! Only here on this eight-track album you get to enjoy timeless doom/Gothic doom with the benefit of a much-improved production job! One example would half to be "Highwire". Back some twenty or so years ago (when this kind of gloriously extreme Gothic doom was in it's prime!) a lackluster production would have tragically muffled the rich bass playing of Adam Westlake. Seeing as Greg Chandler's skills are so exemplary (his stellar work-history speaks for itself) not even once is that a problem on "Damnatio Memoriae". Every key piece falls smoothly into place for MSW and this album sounds crisp and distinctly clear. Despite it's clean appearance and overall smooth finish there is still something dirty about "Damnatio Memoriae". One can't help but feel as if My Silent Wake's new album is (sublimely) raw and rough. What's more, "Damnatio Memoriae" might very well be the HEAVIEST MSW album to date! And I do not take that statement likely! Even slowed down the material here is HEAVY and it's almost as if Ian Arkley went into this album with this ideal in mind. Well, that and the great idea about making this punchy album feel as natural as humanly possibly. It very much feels like a guitar, bass and drums kind of album. While I wouldn't compare the actual music of "Damnatio Memoriae" to the following band, early Black Sabbath comes to mind as structure-wise and performance-wise this aggressive LP strikes the perfect balance between man and the traditional instruments that are usually associated with classic metal. This suggested correlation goes hand in hand with the great news that My Silent Wake is currently in the process of raising funds in the hopes that "Damnatio Memoriae" might receive the royal vinyl treatment! Over at the linked website MSW explains why a vinyl release is necessary and I could agree more band when they say "We’re doing this campaign because as doomsters through and through, we feel our music can be best appreciated on glorious plastic! Unfortunately the goal is only at 39% perfect, but with 53 days left* we're all hoping they make it! If you're a fan of the band and/or a collector of heavy metal vinyl be sure to head to the group's pledgemusic page as ANY and ALL donations will be appreciated! Of course there are some real goodies to be found on the page so PLEASE do your part if you can! Otherwise, "Damnatio Memoriae" will be released on CD even if a official release date has yet to be announced. Whether you are new to this band or a long-time fan I highly-recommend "Damnatio Memoriae". And the end of the day this is Gothic doom metal/classic doom metal of the highest quality. It's also a album that has been made possibly thanks to one of the genre's true unsung heroes, Ian Arkely. 

*As of this posting.

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