Review Summary: Murder by Death continue to alter and change their style with Red Of Tooth and Claw.Red Of Tooth and Claw
marks the second album without keyboardist Vincent Edwards as a full-time contributor. Why is that significant? Well comparing Like the Exorcist, But More Breakdancing
and Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them?
with their latest albums, there is clearly a difference as far as songwriting is concerned. Songs like “That Crown Don’t Make You A Prince” and “Those Who Left/Those Who Stayed” from their previous albums were so dark and sinister, fitting perfectly with Murder By Death’s eclectic line-up. Post-Edwards, Murder By Death’s songs tend to be more structured and less challenging, but seem fitting for Murder By Death to adapt to with their new Americana style. Yet, they still find a way to stick in a song that just blows the top off an album, like “Raw Deal” and “The Big Sleep” from In Bocca Al Lupo.
It’s clear they from In Bocca Al Lupo
they have moved on without their notable keyboardist, but how far have they come with Red Of Tooth and Claw
One of the biggest changes over the years with Murder By Death is their conventional song-writing. Tracks like “Comin’ Home” and “Ball & Chain” are structured as plainly as any radio-friendly song. Both choruses are phrased practically the same, repeating the song titles, but beyond that, each song makes a defining statement with its style. “Comin’ Home” begins with Adam Turler’s almost eerie voice (eerie how it has changed, but that specific tone is only present in “Comin’ Home”) and has a much quicker tempo. Though “Ball & Chain” plays like a slower version of “Comin' Home,” featuring a cameo by keyboardist Vincent Edwards, that comes out much more rich and vibrant. From here, the album only progresses.
Tracks like the fast-paced “Rum Brave” and “Fuego!” pick up some necessary slack for two indefinitely weak opening tracks. “Rum Brave” is reminiscent of a country-western hoedown, but with a little more spunk (and likely more interesting). Meanwhile, Adam Turler and company are simply stunning in their single, “Fuego!.” Not only do they pace the song well, but the vocal performance is simply stellar. Honestly, in all of the songs Murder By Death have put out, “Fuego!” is quite possibly the pinnacle of what Turler’s voice can amount to with gorgeous harmonies. Also, it shows how much confidence Turler has gained since his reserved vocal performance in Murder By Death’s debut, along with how much his overall tone has changed.
“Ash,” “Theme (for Ennio Morricone),” and “Spring Break 1899” are three tracks that set the record off. The indie-rock affair “Ash” delivers a focused and energized punch to Red Of Tooth and Claw
with a oscillating cello keeping pace. On the other hand, “Theme (for Ennio Morricone)” is a delicate instrumental piece that resonates with a triumphant and lush sound, without the glitz or the glam that can make it feel less unique. Lastly is the ever-so elegant “Spring Break 1899.” Murder By Death could not have wrote a better ballad, nor a better ending to this album. “Spring Break 1899” is so timid with its triplet-feel fluttering throughout, creating waltz-like dance. Yet, beyond the classiness is a stringently remorseful feeling attached, eating at the song’s heel, which is finally released within a beautifully crafted bridge. After the songs regains composure and finishes, there are a few seconds of silence that is a reprise of the intro from “The Devil In Mexico,” which finishes the album with an ominous presence.
The rebuilding project with Murder By Death is far from over. It is hard losing a musical support-beam, and recovery can be brutal or fairly smooth, but Murder By Death have taken it in strive. I feel this album is a bigger step in the direction of moving towards the old Country-Western/Americana sound that they desire. While Murder By Death haven’t completely lost their sinister roots (“Steal Away” and “The Black Spot”), they just seem to make it more accessible. After all, what’s the point of asking for a part II of any album? As challenging as it may not
seem, the changes Murder by Death have brought with Red Of Tooth and Claw
are a sufficiently demanding and acceptable result.