My Silent Wake
There Was Death
16th February 2018 – Minotauro Records
01. A Dying Man’s Wish
02. Damnatio Memoriae
03. Killing Flaw
04. Ghosts of Parlous Lives
05. Mourning the Loss of the Living
06. There Was Death
07. Walls Within Walls
08. No End to Sorrow
09. An End to Suffering
My Silent Wake have an eccentric release schedule, releasing full records of ambience, acoustic and experimental offerings around their standard death/doom full-lengths. This isn’t unique to them; bands like Orphaned Land have adapted this pattern in recent years. It’s notable because it allows them to explore some elements that might choke a main release by allowing them to get some of the more experimental elements out of their system.
The real test for this kind of approach is bringing in enough of their unusual elements into their main releases. Fortunately, There Was Death is an excellent bridge between the heavy elements that make up the bulk of their sound and the flourishes that give it shape, distinction and colour. Here, they’ve managed to synthesise not only the gothic elements of a few albums previously (particularly the sombre Silver Under Midnight) but they’ve also brought in more understated acoustic elements on side-releases such as Preservation Restoration Reconstruction or Invitation to Imperfection.
Spiritually, the record feels like a continuation of Damnatio Memoriae, injecting the precision and ferocity with a lot more of the gothic textures that underscored their previous work. This is partially due to an increased keyboard presence, but there’s a lot more gentle nuance here; Damnatio Memoriae was an angry, destructive record, and whilst there’s a lot here that sounds raw, it’s a much deeper, warmer offering.
My Silent Wake are well-versed in putting together death/doom records and it shows; tracks like “A Dying Man’s Wish“, “Killing Flaw” and “Walls Within Walls” are among career highs. Some delicate, acoustic sections in “Ghosts Of Parlous Lives” stick out as especially detailed and evocative, and the thick keyboard textures that underscore “Walls Within Walls” do wonders to accentuate the sinister atmosphere. Everywhere the instrumentation appears to benefit from a less full-on approach; the percussive fills are smoother, the bass presence seems fuller and the acoustic elements are tastefully incorporated.
Accomplished though they are, the record is still dense and really does require a close listen for full effect. This is pretty much unavoidable for this kind of project and certainly for a band with this many influences, but it may come across as a little inaccessible. This is a shame and death/doom fans would be unwise to pass on it; one of the perils of having a particular, developed sound is that there isn’t a ready-made audience for its release.
There Was Death is a rich record, containing plenty of risks and flourishes, but it also never feels like it needs to strain itself to be too weird. Importantly, allowing themselves space to explore their fringe interests seems to have scratched that itch, which is to their great benefit. A tasteful, warm offering and certainly the best of their more aggressive material.