England’s masters of melodic doom My Dying Bride return with a second heap of sorrow in 2020. Following their vaunted The Ghost of Orion full-length, this time they have a much shorter presentation in the Macabre Cabaret EP. Digital and CD formats offer three songs. The EP reviewed here is from the 12” vinyl that contains the bonus track, “Orchestral Shores (Buiksloterkerk Cathedral Mix).”
Macabre Cabaret opens with the ten-minute title track. Lena Abé and Shaun Macgowan introduce this morbid tale with a bass and organ key combo. While Macgowan also plays the violin, the violin is not present on the EP or at least noticeable. Macabre Cabaret hinges on keys and guitar notes that hang in the air like gloomy, grey clouds. Aaron Stainthorpe projects his vocals morosely in the newer, melodic fashion shown on the year’s earlier full-length. He hints at death metal growls, but that style is a secondary device. The track drops in action nearly a third of the way through the song, giving way, once again, to the bass and keys. This section is the most powerful part of the song. It conveys a deeper sadness with a vacuum-like distance.
“A Purse of Gold and Stars” follows with a metallic less luster. This track is built mostly around keyboard-driven atmosphere. It’s a soft, quiet track consisting of light piano notes, but there is a dynamic built upon longer, louder notes in the keys and Stainthorpe’s voice. Also of note are Jeff Singer’s distantly rolling drums, which intensify the swell without pushing the tempo. The rolls and fills between long notes are a major facet of My Dying Bride’s sound, which is not lost on this EP.
While guitars were stripped away on “A Purse of Gold and Stars,” the next track “A Secret Kiss” is built around them. Neil Blanchett and Andrew Craighan harmoniously combine ringing chords in the creation of doom-filled dirges. The harmonics are of particular note as this track is reminiscent of the material found on their magnum opus Turn Loose The Swans. There is a dichotomy of gentle violence in the riffs, accentuated by Stainthorpe’s clean and harsh vocal division.
As mentioned earlier, the EP reviewed here was taken from the vinyl version that includes the bonus track “Orchestral Shores (Buiksloterkerk Cathedral Mix).” This track is a shortened, orchestral version of “Your Broken Shore” from The Ghost of Orion. The chorus on this track contains a powerful hook that proves hard to scrub from the brain. Cello sections are prominent and clean guitars replace the distorted sounds of the original. The track provides a delectable outro for those who spend the extra dough to spin this limited edition, colored vinyl.
It took a couple of listens to warm up to the EP. My Dying Bride’s music requires a certain mood. Once absorbed properly, though, their brilliance fully sinks in. The lack of violin was a turn off at first, but the atmosphere of the keys sets an unforgettable tone. Their sadness once again is supreme. The way the album is composed is genius. The title track is another classic in their discography. While EPs are often lost in the shuffle, Macabre Cabaret stands out as another fantastic offering that stands head and shoulders with the trinity of rgwue early EPs: Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium (1992), The Thrash of Naked Limbs (1993) and I Am The Bloody Earth (1994).
(released November 27, 2020 on Nuclear Blast)
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Watch My Dying Bride – “Macabre Cabaret” Video