It doesn’t seem five minutes since Yorkshire gloom merchants My Dying Bride released the none-more-miserable “A Map of All Our Failures” and here we are again with another new release. With four tracks running just short of half-an-hour, “The Manuscript” is quite an intensive listen despite being a stop-gap release – let us not forget the band released the 27-minute long one-track “The Barghest O’Whitby” EP in 2011, and that was after the experimental “Evinta” album of classical interpretations of the band’s best-known songs. If nothing else, you can’t accuse them of being lazy.
Of the four tracks the opening title track is probably the best, the song built around vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s mournful croon and some gorgeous melodies that evoke the misty moorlands of the band’s home county. Close your eyes and it isn’t too difficult to imagine the band playing the song at a graveside in the pouring rain; hardly the stuff of good cheer but it’s what My Dying Bride do and they do it better than anyone else.
‘Var Gud Over Er’ is a heavier song that leans towards the band’s death metal roots, with Stainthorpe swapping his fragile clean vocals for darker death growls. At nearly nine-minutes it’s the longest song on here and although it’s by no means filler material, it doesn’t linger in the memory as much as what went before it. ‘A Pale Shroud of Longing’ brings things back down with a cleaner, more funereal vibe before the poetic splendour of ‘Only Tears to Replace Her’ brings thing to a close with Stainthorpe reading his lyrics out over the bare minimum of musical backing, creating some of the most effective atmospherics that the band have managed to come up with in the studio.
As crushing and beautiful as only My Dying Bride can be, “The Manuscript” is another fine entry into what is turning into a pretty untouchable back catalogue of quality releases, and judging by current form that next full-length album may not be too far away.