Frontman Aaron Stainthorpe of U.K. doom metal veterans MY DYING BRIDE says he considered asking guitarist Andrew Craighan to get a temporary replacement for him in the aftermath of his young daughter’s cancer scare just so the band could finish its 13th studio album. In September 2018, Stainthorpe revealed that his daughter’s cancer diagnosis led to the cancelation of the group’s four festival appearances in late 2017. She has since beaten what Aaron has called “one of the cruelest of God’s bitter and loveless creations.”
In a recent interview with the “Brutally Delicious” podcast, Stainthorpe opened up about the difficulties he and MY DYING BRIDE faced in completing their forthcoming new album, and some of the drastic steps he considered after he struggled to regain his vocal prowess while in the studio.
“I found it really difficult to get back on the bike,” said Aaron (hear audio below). “It was just so tough. Andrew carried on writing the music after he took a break as well because it was such a shock to all friends and relatives, that everybody stopped what they were doing, really. So Andrew took a break as well. When it looked like this was going to take a long, long time, Andrew carried on writing — really threw himself into the writing process and had written all the guitars, and recorded all the guitars on the album. It sounds immense. The whole record was finished before I’d even heard a single note. Because I couldn’t get back into it. I went to the studio to listen to some of the material and I thought it was great, but I had no interest in writing for it whatsoever. My focus had completely shifted from music to my daughter, which was understandable. The music meant nothing to me. It was a very unusual thing because the music has been everything to me for the last — well, we celebrate our 30th anniversary next year, and the music has meant everything, but just lately, it just meant nothing. It meant nothing to me. So I watched Andrew creating all these wonderful songs and I had no interest in singing on them at all. It was only when it was actually finished and I was encouraged to go to the studio just to see what happens, see if there’s a spark, see if some creativity could come back, and it did.”
He continued: “When you listen to these great songs when you listen to them on ‘war volume’ which is super-loud — you know what studio speakers are like — they are immense. I just stood in the middle of the room and what little hair I’ve got stood on end. I thought, ‘Right, this is what I needed. I needed to hear it full blast.’ And I almost needed a deadline as well. There was never any deadline. [MY DYING BRIDE‘s new record label] Nuclear Blast, no one said, ‘Come on. Let’s get this done.’ Standing there, listening to it all completed — there were a few violins, a few tweaks to go on it, but for the most part, it was completed, and then I felt a spark. I felt the urge to put pen to paper because I wanted to be a part of what I was hearing. I couldn’t walk away and leave the album as an instrumental. That was never going to happen, but I did consider asking Andrew to get another vocalist just for this album. But I only considered it for a short while. Then when I heard all the music, I thought, ‘Right, I’ve got to be a part of this.’ But the writing process still took forever. Even though I had all the music laid out before me and Andrew would say, he would even guide me a bit and say, ‘Sing on this riff because it will suit your voice. Skip the next couple of riffs and then try singing something on that riff,’ which no one has ever done before. Normally you get the music and you sing on any riff if you like. He was helping me through that process as well.”
Aaron added: “And eventually, over time, I started to get my mojo back. I could feel the music and I could feel myself returning to the fold. But it took me a year to do the vocals, which is absolute insanity because normally can get them done in ten days. For it to be such a prolonged affair, it was just so painful and even when I felt inspired to go and do it in the studio, I’d sing the first couple of lines and I knew it was all out of key and it was just terrible. Mark, the studio engineer, would say, ‘Take your time. Just take your time.’ And then I’d have another go at it and it was worse. It was painful. It was painful for me and it was painful for Mark. I just thought, ‘I’m not sure I can do this. My heart’s in it, but now the physical act of actually vocalizing on this music, it was a challenge I never expected.’ To limber up a bit, I did some death metal vocals on a couple of the songs and I think I needed to do that. When you do death metal vocals, all your anger and all your rage comes pouring out and it’s a great stress-buster. Once I’d done a couple of songs death metal-style — which we all liked and we’ve kept them somewhere — then we went back a couple of days later and said, ‘All right, let’s start on song one again. I think I’m ready for it.’ I picked up the ball again and off we started to go. It was a slow process. I thought I’d walk straight back into it with great ease because I’ve done it so many times but it was completely opposite. It was trying to get a square peg into a round hole. Eventually, we forced it through, and the results, I think, are staggering.”
Last December, MY DYING BRIDE parted ways with drummer Shaun Steels “due to unresolvable drumming issues.” He has been replaced by Jeff Singer (KILL2THIS, PARADISE LOST), who will appear on MY DYING BRIDE‘s new disc.
This past May. Peaceville Records celebrated the 25th anniversary of MY DYING BRIDE with a deluxe 92-page 12-inch hardback book on the rise of the U.K. doom metal legends. “A Harvest Of Dread” contains five discs of rarities, early works, newly unearthed and never-before-heard pre-production demos, band track favorites, and live audio.