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Though released in the same year (recording time differs by about 9 months), this EP is a world away from 'Turn Loose the Swans'. I don't particularly want to compare them (partly because I've been avoiding reviewing 'Turn Loose the Swans') and I don't think that either of them come out perfectly from that clash, though 'The Thrash of Naked Limbs' is bound to lose the most. For starters, this sounds much rougher than anything Bride subsequently released and bears some of the hallmarks of the death metal sound that they were fast leaving behind. Those keener on the grimy, primal pollution that was breathed up from the earlier EP and the debut album would do well to check this out.
There are three songs on this EP, all of which reach 6 minutes, give or take. The title track is the most worthy song and has an excellent doomy riff set right from the off, using four or five different riffs at minimal pace, occasionally sped up to a slow-medium chug and sometimes benefitting from the wail of the violin which was key to Bride's appeal until it became overused and cliched. The lyrics and exploration of theme, as frequently occurred in the band's infancy, are both very well developed and fascinating, while the vocals (despite being all harsh) convey emotion in a way that Aaron Stainthorpe would not maintain after the following album. A song worthy of its own release.
The second song is either a throwaway ambient piece or an interesting diversion, depending on your point of view. Not much happens, but there's plenty of eerie nighttime atmosphere. The third song is more primitive material that really refreshes the band's death metal origins. I find this one of the more curious songs in the band's catalogue because of its clearly unsubtle mashing of death and doom sections (it flip-flops between them and rarely combines the two genres) and the odd quieter sections with some kind of distortion or keyboard effect playing behind the band. The riffs and ideas are quite simple, but the piece as a whole surprises and the purpose of the song and lyrics are felt, rather than fully understood.
As a stand-alone release, 'The Thrash of Naked Limbs' is inessential for most, though those who are interested about Bride's early non-album work would be advised to purchase this or to pick up one of the cheaper collections of EPs that exist. Those who explore will find some great material and some diverting curiosities.
“…my fearful hands tremble their way…”
After the flower croaked and before the swans could wreck havoc, the sextet pooled their still-striding creative brilliance for yet another ep, one that would mark a slight change in guitar tone from the previous utter crunch to a more fluid, less crotchety caress, retaining only one song’s worth of that special My Dying Bride disconsolate atmosphere that was quickly and oxymoronically gaining momentum. But before the disc is even thrown on, we go through an unconscious, but willful mental checklist. Judging from the song titles, the band hasn’t abandoned the tragic romanticism that laces its lyrics like the colored veins in marble, and to some this is a highlight to all of the band’s endeavors. Odd man on the roster keyboardist/violinist Martin Powell continues wielding plastic ivory and bow to the hurrah of many fans that’re seeing him as the wild card helping distance his comrades from the rest of the pack. The cover, just as deep and indefinite as anything they’ve ever thrown their name on, pitches no new curves. From where does this checklist form, and why? It comes from doubt; that learned negativism (or realism) that says all good things come to an end. It’s a painfully true statement, but it doesn’t have to happen at this very second. Give it about 1,083 of them.
In all respects, there’re really only two songs here. “Le Cerf Malade”, a near instrumental with only four verses of French stretched unnoticeably over its lifespan, is a much less stellar, less eventful, and less motivated translation of Frost’s spooky effects tracks “Dance Macabre” and “A Tear in a Prophet’s Dream”. Moreover, with its carpet of background moans, distant bells, cryptic quasi-Gregorian chants, keyboards, and other unassimilated cacophony, it’s a precursor to the ambient style worn by the likes of Arcana, Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, and Mz.412 as well as the dungeon chamber music of Mortiis. Of course, MDB didn’t invent these styles by a long shot, but expounded on them in an almost natural assimilation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly form the glue adhering the two real songs.
In the vein of the band’s now dependable resonance, the title cut is a slow, groping earthquake of a song. Violin chirps and weaves through plodding rhythmic caverns where Aaron’s demon-spirited barks echo unintelligible warnings to all. With “Gather Me Up Forever”, tempos change more regularly, alternating death and doom with bipolar-like range, but with that regularity comes song structuring almost too predictable and one-two, one-two, something possibly keyboards or even horns could’ve broken up.
So here is the band’s first stutter step. At the cost of an ep (perhaps the best place to experiment and not get hung by your ankles), the guys attempted further exploration into the atmospheric netherworld they’ve created. Abstract “Le Cerf Malade” misses its mark while “Gather Me Up Forever” is maybe the group’s first ‘typical’ song, if not generic. As a band, what can you do but follow it up with what is possibly your finest moment?
And now, the swans.
“…the brilliant stories cascade about me…”