The Last Dinner Party: ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ Serves Up A Hearty Banquet

Published on 5 February 2024 at 09:10

Words: Heather Collier


Breathy and wanton, 'Prelude to Ecstasy' is the score to a gothic opera. With soft-footed flute, twinkling keys and cymbals crashing like waves against a jagged shore, BRIT Rising Star winners The Last Dinner Party lead us through their Transylvanian dreamscape of grandiose ballrooms, crimson lace and effervescent potions. A musical séance that transcends time and logic, the quintet summons us through Victorian ghost stories, tigress vocals and a queer 70s strut – and if that’s not enough, the instrumentals will make you feel as if you’re watching a 19th century ballet knowing that one of the dancers is about to be murdered in plain sight. There’s a lot at stake, and the fearless five-piece aren’t afraid of being burnt.


With bloodsucking singles like ‘Nothing Matters’, ‘Sinner’ and ‘My Lady of Mercy’ already floating in the ether, there’s still a lot more to feast on. The title track will have you walking down the aisle in a candlelit cathedral filled with concerned onlookers, while a mysterious vampiric man waits for you at the end. ‘Gjuha’ is an Albanian modern masterpiece – a chorus of phantoms and eerie echoes of the past, while ‘On Your Side’ is a touching admission of love, with lead vocalist Abigail Morris channelling Kate Bush’s cries for Heathcliff.


‘Beautiful Boy’ is a set of floor-to-ceiling windows flying open like a pair of arms, while ‘Mirror’ is the chase scene in a vintage horror. Morris demonstrates a tantalisingly raw vocal with a classically cut accent and pronunciation, a bleeding ink that could in fact be pressed much harder into its paper. This is also true for ‘The Feminine Urge’, but there’s no use in mulling over such things when you’re writhing around your bedroom to Emily Roberts’ Zeppelin-kissed guitar solo. In The Last Dinner Party’s case, there is no such thing as excess – in fact, why not run away with it even more?


Portrait of a Dead Girl’ is much darker in its ways, spinning a disturbing web of the macabre and the uncanny, all within the realm of Angela Carter. There’s an air of Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ about it as it flirts with the concept of death at the hands of a predatory lover. Some of the lyrics are a little on-the-nose, but if anything, prove that a rock group can be extremely well-read. The fresh-faced Londoners are clearly enchanted by the world they have created around them, and it is not a project that can simply be magicked up overnight. 


Industry plant rumours have now been cast off into the shadows with all of the other tabloid talk fossilised in cynicism. Strip away the Joan-of-Arc-wench-core aesthetic and you are still left with some of the most original musical storytelling of the past decade. It’s easy to assume the revolving wardrobe of corsets and on-stage maximalism are all a bit of a gimmick, but there is a real-life community and mythology being built around it. This is a band that is not at all flustered by a potential sell-by date, because not only are they good, but they quietly know it too.


Now that their long-awaited album has arrived, the group are also riding the more recent high of their confetti-strewn performance at Camden’s Roundhouse on Thursday evening, the first of many career-defining shows set to take place this year.


‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ is a fruitful debut, serving up a platter of desire, envy, and twisted fairy tales all ripe for the picking. It is a record that demands to be heard – and felt. Hungry for more, The Last Dinner Party will no doubt continue to whet our appetites.


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