Guyliner-less Murder By Death
When one hears the band name Murder By Death, one might assume they are a death metal band hailing from Eastern Europe covered in ridiculous black face paint; or maybe they are some even lamer screamo band in tight black jeans and guyliner. But few would think the band, which got their name from the 1976 Peter Sellers comedy, would play stripped down, whiskey-soaked alt-country.
But there’s one thing that separates Murder by Death from their peers: cellist Sarah Belliet whose cello adds depth and moodiness to even the simplest of songs. Her strings often bring to mind Western film scores, especially on the album’s centerpiece “Theme (for Ennio Morricone).” This is no coincidence, as Ennio Morricone is a famed film composer mostly known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time in the West.
It’s fitting that the band took their name from a film, as everything about them feels very dramatic and theatrical. Their songs tell stories that are typically told on the silver screen, not on rock albums. Zombies, pirates, bar fights, prison breaks, and of course, the devil made up the band’s previous albums, and Red of Tooth and Claw follows suit with its tales of murder, lust, revenge, and again, the devil. According to singer/guitarist Adam Turla the album is a “Homer’s Odyssey of revenge, only without an honorable character at the center.”
The album begins with the slow-burning “Comin’ Home.” On 2006’s In Bocca Al Lupo, Turla drew comparisons to the late, great Johnny Cash, but on this new record, he goes even deeper and lower than the Man in Black. Next up is “Ball & Chain,” which in any other band’s hands would have been a corny pop diddy, but this is a sprawling, driving epic that straddles the line between love and lust.
The album closes with the almost doo-wop “Spring Break 1899,” which tells the story of a murderous scoundrel headed south for Mexico in search of salvation. Musically and lyrically the song perfectly completes the album just as epically as it began.
Perhaps next time you are in the mood to watch a film, you should close your eyes and listen to Red of Tooth and Claw instead. You’ll find the experiences much the same.