Murder by Death - The Red of Tooth and Claw
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Indiana’s Murder by Death are a band that always throws curveballs at listeners. With a name like “Murder by Death” you’d expect them to be another mediocre metalcore band and not a country/folk influenced rock band. Their last album In Bocca Al Lupo was a complete change of style from the preceding, Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them. A good number of songs on In Bocca Al Lupo were more upbeat and every song told a different story revolving around either sin or punishment. Their new album, The Red of Tooth and Claw, marks yet another departure from their previous works, only this time the band has made an album that flows perfectly from beginning to end.
Vocalist/guitarist Adam Turla’s voice is nearly a full octave lower than everything they’ve recorded before on the dramatic opener, “Comin’ Home.” Turla sings at a very low-range for a good portion of the album. He sounds like he is channeling Johnny Cash and Nick Cave at the same time. “Ball & Chain” is repetitive and kind of a disappointment after “Comin’ Home.” Luckily, the rest of the album is anything but a disappointment.
The music is even more upbeat than In Bocca Al Lupo, most noticeably on the tracks “Spring Break 1899” and the single “Fuego!” The latter is one of the best songs on the album. It has a very simple beat that creates a perfect desolate atmosphere provided by the bass of Matt Armstrong, Dagan Thogerson’s drumming, and the electric cello of Sarah Balliet which has become a main factor in their music. “Fuego!” leads into the instrumental “Theme (For Ennio Morricone),” which sounds exactly like its title. The band’s music is described by some as “the soundtrack to 1,000 Western films never made” and “Theme (For Morricone)” is a great example of that sound.
Other standout tracks on the album are the fast paced “Steal Away” and the powerful “Ash.” The one somber acoustic track on the track is “A Second Opinion.” Fans of the band’s slower material may be disappointed with that, but “A Second Opinion” really does shine, mostly with it’s lyrics.
The main highlight of The Red of Tooth and Claw is “Spring Break 1899” which is probably the band’s most impressive song to date. It’s more upbeat than anything they’ve ever done before and incorporates humor to twist the plot of a man trying to find out the events that took place the previous night. It’s a very unexpected closer, but it ends the album on a high note. Another very interesting thing is how the ending chords to the song are the same as the song, "The Devil in Mexico" which is the opening track to Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them. This could mean that the story of this album may possibly be a prelude to the one of Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them.
The one complaint I have with The Red of Tooth and Claw is that it isn’t quite as great as Murder by Death’s past two albums, and it may take a couple listens for some fans to get used to. The band’s style is very outside of the mainstream mindset, so not everyone will love this album immediately. However, this is an outstanding album and one of my favorite releases of 2008.