My Silent Wake – Lost in Memories, Lost in Grief


Somerset metal unit, My Silent Wake, approach the nineteenth year of their existence with album number twelve ready for market. It’s a remarkable output for one of south-west England’s most underappreciated metal groups and a testament to their unity of purpose and vision. Each member of the collective is a veteran of the death metal and doom scene, and, in the case of drummer, Gareth Arlett, they have a man in one of the UK’s finest hardcore bands (see Dishonour the Crown). Why do more people not court My Silent Wake? Are they not the definition of a band on our doorstep?

Over the years, My Silent Wake have developed a reputation for being an epic doom metal band. But Lost in Memories, Lost in Grief is more than a doom record. The tempo of side A is far too lively to fall into a niche category that’s famous for its slow pacing and chest-booming guitar tones. Opener, ‘The Liar and the Fool’, builds from a sorrowful piano looped around a sombre voice that whispers and mourns with an anguish that wants to express itself in tears. The sudden hiss of distorted power chords challenges this mood, yet an alternation between Ian Arkley’s roaring death metal vocals and Simon Bibby’s sorrowful lamentations transports you to a heart ache that has no panacea. Imagine Paradise Lost with the atmosphere of Type O Negative and the serenading sadness of Lycia. The harsh vocals are easy to warm to after three verses. Then you notice that the riffs are loud and heavy enough to warrant a strike of the air guitar. Listen how they shift into an esoteric guitar introspection at 04:10 using the opening piano motif. The muscle behind this music hints that a future triumph over adversity may be possible.

Arlett’s hardcore background does not shine through in his playing style, but it informs the spirit of his drumming in ‘Wolf’ and ‘Another Light’. The former thrives on an agitated upbeat rhythm switching to half-timing for the opening verse. Listen how the latter contains a fierce edge that makes you grit your teeth as if wrapping a leg wound in a tourniquet. You can bring the thunder and lightning to you rather than wait for it to reveal itself – and you know you can control it. Do you feel the glowing mist creeping up your shirt as you imagine your body shrouded in a silhouette?

Make no mistake – My Silent Wake are a metal band. ‘Lavender Garden’ sees Bibby’s melodramatic vocal projections take the best of the goth traits and the clarity of traditional metal for their anthemic purpose. Behind him, dual guitars wail in harmony. The riffs are imaginative enough to elevate beyond the usual goth metal approach of existing for no other reason than to signal the changes in the vocal lines. Here, the organ furnishes the mix with another layer of contemplation before the awesome change to a thunderous doom riff and expressive solo at the three-minute mark. This is what Anathema would have sounded like in 1993 if they listened to The Mission rather than The Sisters of Mercy for inspiration. Clearly, My Silent Wake’s favourite pastime in the first half of this record is to embrace a grandiose gallop.

Only on side B do the minor flaws of this record come to the surface. These songs are longer and want you on your knees, in the rain, under the threat of pneumonia. But you might prefer the warm shelter of a barn to shield you from the hostile weather. The song title for ‘The Last Lullaby’ suggests that this should be the final song on the album instead of the second from last. It’s also the most languid effort on this record, like the standard moments of the new My Dying Bride LP. The organ allows you to focus on something other than the helpless doom chords and comfortable self-pity, but you wonder if eight minutes might be a struggle. Fortunately, the band share your concerns and orientate towards a bloodthirsty surge at 02:40. And there it is – the gallop that defines the mood of this opus. An overflow of triad shapes takes over from here like the realisation of a burden that can no longer be contained.

My Silent Wake understand that you can merge colossal guitar riffs with brave smiles and latent tears. Violins and power chords co-exist in in ‘No Time’ like exhausted animals no longer in a fight to the death. We’d be praising ‘When You Look Back’ as classic material if Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) composed this song with the same memorable lead guitar phrasing to introduce the growling malevolence of the death metal growls. The finger spasms of grief in Lost in Memories, Lost in Grief border on self-pity, but it’s a self-pity with a high level of self-awareness. There’s no reason to believe that album number thirteen will see a decline in quality on the evidence of this effort.


Verdict


Release Date: 03/05/2024

Record Label: Ardua Music

Standout tracks: The Liar and the Fool, Wolf, When You Look Back

Suggested Further Listening: Paradise Lost – Icon (1993), My Dying Bride – The Angel and the Dark River (1995), Solnegre – The Spiral Labyrinth (2023)