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At least their first mistep is an ep - 78%

Gutterscream, January 20th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Peaceville Records

“…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 laced 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 attempt 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…”