When last we heard from My Dying Bride, just last year, they were continuing to build their legacy with the very good “ A Map Of All Our Failures”. That record was all things My Dying Bride; heavy, doomy, progressive, and singularly theirs. They are one of those rare bands that have carved out a sound entirely their own, and when you hear it, you know exactly who it is. Not content to let that tome of death/doom gather dust, the band is back already with an EP of songs recorded around the same time, reinforcing everything “A Map Of All Our Failures” brought to the table.
Few groups can make music as oppressive as My Dying Bride, who can turn even the happiest major chords into funeral dirges. The title track is a glacial creeper, with long droning chords and whispered vocals, and the occasional violin coming in to make the already bleak sound even sadder. The uptick in tempo changes the mood, but never pulls the pall off completely. I don't think My Dying Bride is capable of doing such a thing.
The EP shifts gears with “Var Gud Over Er”, a death metal track given the My Dying Bride treatment. It takes a bit too long for the song to break free of the opening riff, but when the shift comes to a spoken word section, the song begins to unfurl in positive directions. The reintroduction of that first section works better, and is shorter, leading into a typically doom-laden bit. And all of this is only half of the nearly nine minute song. The remaining time is filled with droning doom similar to the first track, which begins feeling a bit stale by the end.
“A Pale Shroud Of Longing” sets the stage once again with the crying strings of a violin, showing what an integral part of their sound the instrument is. The riffs are appropriately morose, and the song walks in the shadows, but it's the violin that best embodies the sorrow and misery My Dying Bride is trying to exploit. After a short break, the chugging guitars change the tempo, and help make this the best track on the EP.
The final track, “Only Tears To Replace Her” is slathered in drama, with a spoken word intro that can be taken as fitting or cringe-inducing, depending on how you view it. Coupled with the rest of the song barely being more than a few notes dragged over an additional three minutes, there isn't much to hear.
“The Manuscript” is only twenty seven minutes of music, but it feels longer than that. Doom always tests patience, but there's not enough going on in these songs to warrant the lengths they go to. Too much of the songs is made up of a single droning chord and a meandering vocal. It works in sections, but becomes tiresome when it begins to fill every song the same way. Each of these tracks can work, but packaged together it's just too much of the same thing.