Six months after the release of The Ghost of Orion, My Dying Bride are back with a three song EP, Macabre Cabaret. In a general sense,there aren’t many surprises: the record is dramatic, brooding, and almost oppressively heavy. The dominant feature of the EP, however, is the amount of space existing between the components of the material.
Lena Abé and Shaun MacGowan open up the title track with some nice interplay between the bass and keyboard, guiding the way until Andrew Craighan’s guitar enters the mix. Andrew’s presence on ‘Macabre Cabaret’ is notably restrained, and provides breathing room for the other elements to express themselves. Similarly, Aaron Stainthorpe’s trademark vocals make their presence known without ever forcing their way to the front. Everything is about place and space and pace. Even when the guitar and vocals step forward, they still cede ground to the thundering, unrelenting low end. Lena plants herself firmly in the centre from the opening seconds of the track and everything revolves around her. Even Jeff Singer’s drums—while present and defined—lurk and loom in the background, punching in emphatically and allowing the bass momentary rest, before pulling back and retreating to the margins.
‘A Secret Kiss’ is the standout on the EP, as well as feeling like connective tissue to The Ghost of Orion. The production continues to position the massive low end as a fulcrum, allowing iconic vocal and guitar performances layered atop to do as they will, though the bass never allows itself to be overwhelmed or pushed to the side. When space does become available, the drums and keys rest in the background, never seeming to really drive forward and stake their piece of the spotlight. The commitment to staying on the fringe plays a bit with the mind, especially when so much of dominant culture says if there’s space, take the space. And yet, a great deal of romance exists in what isn’t said or done, making the restraint exhibited on the entire EP quite fitting when viewed in context of My Dying Bride as a unit.
With the album closer, ‘A Purse of Gold and Stars’, the drums and keyboards are sparsely showcased with a moody spoken word performance overtop. The track feels somewhat incomplete, as though there is an partner track that never arrives. Of course, it could be there in that incompleteness where the larger themes come together: the toxicity of passion, the extinguishing of existence, and the desperate clinging to that which, for better or for worse, allows one to get through the night.
Macabre Cabaret is out via Nuclear Blast on November 20th, 2020 and can be ordered here.
Words: Tristan McCallum