MY DYING BRIDE‘s three decades of misery almost came to an end several years ago. Following 2015’s universally lauded »Feel the Misery« album, vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s daughter, just five years old at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. Shocked and heartbroken, Stainthorpe put all band activities on hold while he, his immediate family, and MY DYING BRIDE put their collective energies into eradicating what Stainthorpe called, “the cruellest of God's bitter and loveless creations.” The high hurdles, however, didn’t stop with cancer. In 2018, returning original member and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw texted his departure, effective immediately.
No reason was given or explanation provided to anyone. Then, just as MY DYING BRIDE had regrouped after positive news that his daughter was effectively cancer free, returning drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels departed right before the band were slated to enter Mark Mynett’s studio, Mynetaur Productions. Down two members but feeling right as rain, MY DYING BRIDE moved on, mastered the doldrums, recording magnificent new album, »The Ghost of Orion«, to the joyful tears of fans across the globe, in the process.
“We’ve had everything thrown at us but we’ve managed to come out the other side smelling like roses,” Stainthorpe says in his sturdy Yorkshire accent. “It proves that the challenges, for which there are many, of being in a band can be overcome. We overcame everything! From cancer and members leaving to feeling like all hope was lost in the studio. I think a lesser band would’ve said, ‘Ah, f**k it! This person’s left, that person’s not reachable. Let’s just call it a day.’ It wasn’t like that. We were strong. We carried on. And the evidence, thankfully, is just about to be released. There’s no stopping MY DYING BRIDE.”
MY DYING BRIDE formed in the dying summer of 1990 by Stainthorpe and guitarist Andrew Craighan. Across nearly 30 years, England’s most disconsolate export had not only extracted itself from the hardscrabble confines of their hometown of Halifax, but also turned into world-wide phenoms—nay, kings of doom-death!—their employment of violin, keyboards, Romantic era literary devices, and obsessively long songs serving as distinct identifiers. Albums »Turn Loose the Swans« (1993), »The Angel and the Dark River« (1995), »Like Gods of the Sun« (1996), »34.788%... Complete« (1997), »The Dreadful Hours« (2001), and »A Map of All Our Failures« (2012) weren’t merely hour-plus long slabs of suffering but calendar moments, where desolation, sorrow, and all things blue (in dirge form) were passionately trumpeted and celebrated by fans absolutely devoted. MY DYING BRIDE albums became life events for the low spirited and downhearted. Indeed, few bands in the ‘90s sounded like the Brits.
“I will agree MY DYING BRIDE were, or rather are, something unique,” says Stainthorpe. “We’ve been called the ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the ears’ by Rolling Stone. We’ve toured the world, or at the parts of the world that would have us. And we have 14 albums—counting »The Ghost of Orion«—of material to call upon should we find ourselves in various parts of the world again. For »The Ghost of Orion«, however, we wanted something that was different from the things we’ve done before. It’s still MY DYING BRIDE. It’s heavy as hell. It’s miserable as hell. Yet it’s easier on the ear. We have, dare I say, catchy moments on »The Ghost of Orion«. So, we wanted an easier-on-the-ear approach rather than throttling people with utter misery for no reason. We tried to make MY DYING BRIDE a bit more accessible.”
Like »Feel the Misery«, MY DYING BRIDE’s new album was written in isolation by Craighan. While the circumstances were similar—guitarist Hamish Hamilton Glencross left in 2014 and Roberts in 2018—the outcome of Craighan’s solo sessions turned into something very different. The guitarist had nobody off which to soundboard. Not a sideman. Not a bassist—four-stringer Lena Abé was on maternal leave. And certainly not his long-time writing partner in Stainthorpe, who was entirely ensconced in providing mental and physical reinforcements to his daughter’s cancer fight. Alone, Craighan unfurled a litany of killer songs in 'Your Broken Shore,' 'To Outlive The Gods,' The Solace‘ (featuring Lindy-Fay Hella of WARDRUNA fame) and 'The Old Earth.' The rest, as they say, is history.
“As he was with »Feel the Misery«, Andrew was on writing duties by himself,” Stainthorpe says. “I’m sure he really loved it though, despite the loneliness of not being able to share with me. I mean, if he had sent me riffs and asked for my input, I probably would’ve left the band and said, ‘Do you not know what’s going on right now in my life?!’ He obviously knew that. We’ve been friends for such a long time. He knew me. So, he kept on writing by himself, which is exactly how I preferred it. He came up with all the riffs, and I think he came up with some of the violin riffs as well. There’s a lot of Andrew on the album. He’s a really great songwriter!”
The title, »The Ghost of Orion«, has its origins in Stainthorpe’s lunatic-on-wine scribbling. Out of pages of prolix insanity and circuitous brilliance, the phrase A Ghost Crawls from the Mouth of Orion emerged. While the working title, 'But Once Black', had its place, it wasn’t fantastic enough. They wanted extravagance, mystery, and a title at least on par with »The Thrash of Naked Limbs« (1993) or »A Line of Deathless Kings« (2006). Stainthorpe and Craighan thought they had their album title in the obsessively long ‚A Ghost Crawls from the Mouth of Orion‘. Both were smitten by the phrase’s filmic qualities, but were uncertain as to how it would unfold verbally. Conflicted about the voluble qualities of the title, they edited it down to the simple yet no less maudlin »The Ghost of Orion«. As for its meaning, Stainthorpe is naturally leaving it up to the reader/listener to read into and interpret.
“Sometimes, when I have a glass of wine I write,” says Stainthorpe. “I don’t think I’m going to write a poem, a lyric, a short story, or a stanza. Whatever is going to come out of me just comes out. I start with a blank page. When I’m done the page is full. They’re the writings of a madman—just gibberish—but after a day or two, certain sentences or phrases stick out. That’s when you realize whatever you’ve written down has legs. ‚A Ghost Crawls Out of the Mouth of Orion‘ was a line in all the gibberish. I liked it and thought about working on it more, so when I told Andy the phrase, he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s got title all over the place on it.’ But since we wanted this album to be a bit easier on the ears, easier on the eyes, and easier to read we didn’t want to blow away newcomers to the flock with an outrageous title. So, we shortened it to »The Ghost of Orion«.”
The departure of drummer Taylor-Steels on the eve of entering producer/engineer Mark Mynett’s Mynetaur Productions in Manchester should’ve put MY DYING BRIDE on ice, but it didn’t. As luck would have it, ex-PARADISE LOST drummer Jeff Singer, whose drums were already set up at Mynett’s studio, was available to pull the Yorkshirefolk out of their skins-less predicament. From December 2018 through August 2019, MY DYING BRIDE, with Singer as the foundation, recorded »The Ghost of Orion«. At the helm, Mynett shepherded MY DYING BRIDE through their first non-Mags [Rob Magoolagan] recording session since Paul ‘Hammy’ Halmshaw and Keith Appleton conspired to capture MY DYING BRIDE debut, »As the Flower Withers« (1992). Mynett, who has a Ph.D. engineering, producing and mixing, was perfectly poised to be the new guy behind the board. Not only was he skilled and educated in the arts of sound, he was a super-fan of MY DYING BRIDE. Indeed, the sessions for most of the band were routine, if not unexpectedly quick, but for Stainthorpe time in the vocal booth was torturous.
“Recording the album was exhausting,” Stainthorpe says. “Every day something was wrong. I couldn’t get back to it. I was singing the vocals wrong. I had to be corrected every day on every song on every line in every song. It was like being beaten around the head. There was a point—around halfway through it—that I thought, ‘They’re gonna need another vocalist. I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t know where I am.’ After all I had been through I didn’t know how to vocalize for MY DYING BRIDE anymore. What I mean by this is we had been at it for three weeks and we were still on the first song! I had lost the plot. I would sit in the vocal booth, sweating like mad, staring at the ceiling, wondering, ‘Where has the fun gone from being in a band?’ I was really hating it. If had known what I was doing, we would’ve finished the album on time.”
Adversity, however, was overcome. From in-studio foibles to members departing to the life-changing aftereffects of dealing with a sick family member, the Brits rode it out. Replete with an excellent Eliran Kantor (FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, EX DEO) cover art—commissioned by Stainthorpe—and sporting 11 tracks, »The Ghost of Orion« posits MY DYING BRIDE back on the proverbial doom-death throne. In fact, they’ve never sounded better. From the doleful lay in 'Your Broken Shore' and the deathly traditional 'A Secret Kiss' to the grim 10-minute epic 'The Old Earth,' »The Ghost of Orion« is the product of a vibrantly creative band unwilling to rest on their laurels or past glories.
“The accelerator pedal might start to go down quite rapidly,” says Stainthorpe. “We were on Peaceville forever. Now that we’re on Nuclear Blast we know they want a higher profile for MY DYING BRIDE. We want that, too. When this album comes out we’ll be celebrating our 30th Anniversary. We’re hoping Nuclear Blast will promote the album greater than Peaceville ever could. Nuclear Blast are just a bigger entity. More resources. More of everything, really. They’ve got their hands around the globe. They’ll push and promote it like we’ve never had before. With that, our profile should heighten.”
And the story shall continue…
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