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Greetings! My name is Matthew, and I love to listen to all types of metal. I'm a high school English teacher and aspiring writer. I also write reviews for the Metal Utopia webzine!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Silent Wake - "Silver Under Midnight" Review

My Silent Wake - Silver Under Midnight
Bombworks Records
Genre:  Doom/death metal


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Ian Arkley (guitars, vocals, percussion, bass)
Kate Hamilton (bass and dulcimer)
Mark Henry (drums)

            Dark, melodic, and invigorating.  Those of us who are doom metal fans are used to seeing descriptors such as “dark” and “melodic” employed in conjunction with doom acts, but not all bands can measure up to the last adjective, “invigorating.”  My Silent Wake’s album Silver Under Midnight beats out the status quo and quite easily achieves this most important signifier.  On the whole the album is melodic, catchy, and memorable; and the band accomplishes this without being trite, overwrought, or irritating.
            But I get ahead of myself.
            Every band has a history to tell, and My Silent Wake is no different.  The band found its roots in the death of Ashen Mortality, but front man Ian Arkley traces his roots even further to thrash outfit Seventh Angel and was briefly in the death/doom band Paramaecium.  The experience in all of these bands has allowed Arkley to imbue his music with a wide range of influences.  Some examples include the almost thrash-like riffs in IV: Et Lux Perpetua, the foreboding, chugging doom leads in Shadow of Sorrow, and the Gothic undertones that run throughout many of My Silent Wake’s albums.  Fans of doom staples like Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride will find My Silent Wake to be right up their ally, and even admirers of bands like Opeth and Cormorant will find many moments to enjoy.
            Silver Under Midnight is an album filled with contrasting portions of melody and this serves to give the album a keen harmonic edge.  The haunting tone of “Midnight” and the use of a dulcimer immediately draws the listener in and then the sonic juggernaut that is “Destroyer” fills the air with churning guitar melodies, passionate growling, and baritone singing.  The recipe for this lengthy song is one that My Silent Wake has perfected over the years.  By juxtaposing heavier portions of music with lighter, melodic sections, and utilizing crescendos, the band fashions an intriguing meld of sonic variability.  “The Last Man” sees My Silent Wake approaching new musical territory.  Generally, outside of instrumentals, the band has constructed longer pieces of music.  Here they have experimented with “The Last Man,” a song under four minutes, and the general impression that it invokes is a positive one.  Time will tell if such an experiment will grace our ears in the future, but the upbeat pace and driving rhythm proves that My Silent Wake is certainly capable of delivering this kind of song.  There’s a lot to cover in Silver Under Midnight, but I’d like to jump ahead to the finale on the album.  Without a doubt, the 14-minute track “Third Season” is the opus of Silver Under Midnight.  It immediately brings to mind past favorites like “Through Greenest Meadows,” “Wilderness of Thorns,” and “Rebirth.”  There are enough twists and turns in the song to satisfy even the most critical listeners, and I think that those who generally aren’t a fan of longer songs will be drawn to “Third Season’s” captivating melodies and superbly executed time changes.

 Photo by Andrew Joules

            There are a few downsides to the album, but they generally don’t reflect the musical ability of the band members.  Rather, they deal with the mechanics of doom metal itself.  You’re not always going to be in the mood to listen to music like this, but when you are, it will certainly hit the spot.  In addition, some listeners may prefer shorter songs as opposed to the longer pieces on this album—but for the first time, a song like “The Last Man” serves to fill this void.  One thing that I would like to see is more incorporation of the bass as an audible rhythmic asset in songs.  This is something that the band has done well in the past, but for the most part it seemed to be lacking on this album.
            The lyrics on the album are meditative and speak largely of struggle and the broken nature of human beings.  There are also philosophical ponderings, the contemplation of the last man to live on the Earth, and a lover’s lament.  As a writer, I fully appreciate the depth of thought that went into these lyrics.  Some people simply listen to the music and ignore the lyrics, but for me they’ve always been an integral part of music.  How can one not feel moved by the persuasiveness of such poetry that resides in a song like “Third Season?”
            As we fall to the winter
            Keep me here by your side
            Far away from tears and mourning
            From the world where they reside

            When we wander through the wasteland
            Through the darkness, through the night
            In the spring life will awaken
            Warmth of summer comes in sight

            From cruel skies
            She was my shelter
            Cold in my grave
            In Darkness I beheld her
            From dying light
            New paths discovered
            Lives intertwined
            Two exalted lovers
            Cold in my grave
            Broken I held her

            Silver Under Midnight demonstrates that My Silent Wake is a band that delivers consistent, enjoyable doom metal.  Where some bands slough off after a few releases, or hit the backburner, My Silent Wake continues to plow ahead with definitive goals backed by musical talent.  If you’re new to the band, I’d suggest taking a look at their back catalogue as well, for it’s definitely worth the time.  If you like your music dark, melodic, and invigorating, then Silver Under Midnight deserves an honored place in your collection.

Overall rating:  8.17 out of 10.0 (Excellent)
Musicianship:  8.5 out of 10.0 
Song structure:  8.5 out of 10.0
Album structure:  7.5 out of 10.0


How did I come up with my rating?  I rate the following categories:  musicianship, song structure, and album structure.  I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.

1.0-2.9 (Poor:  musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good:  musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average:  musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent:  musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior:  musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)

Note:  Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores.  I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.

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