Red of Tooth and Claw
Vagrant Records: March 2008
Consuming passion, love, longing, revenge, and destruction are a few of the themes intricately balanced in Murder by Death’s latest alt-country release, “Red of Tooth and Claw.” Thundering whisky slathered pain through vocals the likes of Johnny Cash or the generation trendy Nick Cave, singer/guitarist Adam Turla shows a side of brooding masculinity that isn’t afraid to express anger through tear streaked eyes. This is made all the more frightening in the ominous elegance and delicate seduction of cellist Sarah Balliet, whose wintry accompaniment is finally given a voice in the boys’ club four full length albums later. Eerie southern goth rock is done quite well- snarling insolently in tracks like “Comin’ Home,” “Rum Brave,” and “52 Ford”- but the band’s evident attraction to Grecian tragedy and impossible heroism serves as its own Achilles heel. Eager character development and overstated themes weigh the album down, missing the mark ever so slightly. Fans may forgive, but what’s left bleak and incomplete serves as a tear in an otherwise strong and seamless fabric. Through this opening, tragedy turns tragic and grief becomes a luxury.