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My Silent Wake : An Unbroken Threnody (Compilation)

A hell of a package: whether you're already a fan or not, you'd be foolish to miss out on My Silent Wake's first volume of memoirs.

This is kind of how I think of My Silent Wake: I was motorcycling in France last year, with a good few thousand mp3s on random shuffle to keep my helmet speakers busy, when 'Rebirth' (from the 'Black Lights...' split with The Drowning) came up. And then, despite all the other choices, I just had to keep hitting repeat on it, for the next couple of hours through the Alpine twisties. The point there being that they aren't a band who immediately spring to mind whenever someone wants a snap listing of my all-time favourites, but they probably damn well should be, given how completely every one of their albums captures my attention whenever I do play them.

'Rebirth' - all 24 minutes of its Porcupine Tree-ish prog-tinged glory - is just one of the gems included in the massive 2 ½ hours of bonus material that comes with this 10-year-anniversary compilation (strong hint - buy the CD officially through Bandcamp if you want to reap that particular highly worthwhile reward, labelled 'An Unbroken Threnody: Apocrypha'). Not that the spread of material - drawn, for this "Vol 1" of highlights, primarily from the electric rather than acoustic/ambient works - on the nicely-packaged Stone Groove Records 6-panel digi is lacking, but space limitations mean it does have to skip many of the longer tracks found in the digital extras.

What you get on the CD is, more or less, a couple of the more straightforwardly representative Gothic/Death/Doom tracks from each of MSW's six albums (that excludes the couple of splits, and the reworked/reinterpreted releases) plus an unreleased ambient piece. There are a few other flankers to be found, like the Hawkwindy space-stomp of 'Journey's End', the lengthy evolution of 'Tunnels', and 'Highwire''s Post-Punk cadences, but generally, you can look forward to 70-odd minutes of rocking, riffing, Peaceville-rooted classics (closest, as far as that's concerned, to Paradise Lost's approach, but an awful lot better). Some odd snatches of female vocals, different keyboard sounds, and variations in the bass and drum techniques serve as a reminder that this is a band who have had plenty of different personnel over the years: the only absolute continuation being the guitar and voice of Ian Arkley. And, given his long involvement with all sorts of bands over the years - from Seventh Angel to Paramęcium to Century Sleeper - guitarwork that reflects that variety of experience could hardly be described as an unvarying constant. Which only really leaves the distinctively rasping, seemingly world-weary, vocals as a central anchor for all of these pieces. In other words, you really can't complain - even with this sort of method of track selection - that there's ever any danger of things descending into an undistinguished 'sameiness'.

That's profoundly compounded when taking the bonus tracks into account: these are an altogether more radical selection, taken from the entire discography and spanning a selection of the longer, more progressive compositions from the "mainstream" albums, plus everything from the gentle, folksy, acoustic 'Revolution' and 'My Sorrow Is Yours' to the dark ambient 'A Death' and 'Silver', via the likes of heavy rocking 'Sullen Earth' and 'I Am Eternity''s swirling dirge. And, of course, the aforementioned 'Rebirth'. They make for a fantastic complement to the CD material, which mainly demonstrates the band's knack for cranking out perfectly-formed rock-'til-you-drop Death/Doom numbers, by also demonstrating what a truly original and experimental side there also is to MSW.

I guess I'd probably be one of those people who doesn't necessarily 'need' this particular release - after all, I already have all the vinyl and CD releases (and in some cases, as a supporter of crowdsourcing initiatives, even have my name on the credits), but frankly, nigh-on four hours of the best of Weston-super-Mare's finest musical export since Ritchie Blackmore, all in one package...how could that not be an essential purchase? I don't even need to rely on 'random' to throw up a track: there's enough there to pick it as 'album of the day' and get on with the riding, secure in the knowledge there isn't a weak track ahead of me. Maybe I'd go as low as an 8 for the CD-only version, if you're being cheapskate and looking for a bargain on eBay, but the whole package, rarities and all, well, there's no way it deserves less than a perfect score for value and variety. And perhaps it'll help remind me in future that when someone asks for my favourite Doom bands, MSW are right up there in the top echelon. Exactly as they should be.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. Sturm
2. The Last Man
3. And So It Comes To An End
4. Cruel Grey Skies
5. Burning
6. Journey's End
7. Oblivion
8. Tunnels
9. The Dying Things We're Living For
10. Bleak Endless Winter
11. Highwire
12. Shadow Of Sorrow
13. Mimir's Well
Bonus downloadable tracks
14. I Am (Eternity)
15. Black Oil
16. NDE Part 2
17. Revolution
18. A Death
19. Hunting Season
20. Death Becomes Us
21. Father
22. My Sorrow Is Yours
23. Sullen Earth
24. To Bid Farewell
25. Third Season
26. Rebirth
27. The Empty Unknown
28. Silver

Duration : Approx. 70 minutes (CD), 227 minutes with bonuses

Visit the My Silent Wake bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-04-25 by Mike Liassides
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