Review Summary: New look, same great taste!
There are so many different ways a band or musician can create a sound that is entirely unique to them. Usually it’s one very specific detail that can be pinned on them, such as the singer’s voice, their style, a certain instrument, a certain type of harmony, a certain emotion, a certain type of word choice in lyricism, or a countless number of other elements. These ideas are something so unique that make the musicians identifiable to the ear after only a second of listening.
In the case of Murder by Death, there so many of these elements. It’s more than just one ingredient that makes them stand out; it’s every bit of musicianship, creativity, and thought they put into their craft. There’s not another group out there that captures the heart of drinking whiskey while your small town gets destroyed by the devil with the same accuracy and heart in which Murder by Death achieves. However, in an even more amazing feat, Murder by Death is able to change these unique elements with every record they release. Just like you could identify a band’s sound after one second due to a unique factor, you can identify and differentiate any one of Murder by Death’s albums from one another.
With Big Dark Love
, they’ve changed their sound once more. This is a big sounding record, as frontman Adam Turla put it during their most recent Kickstarter campaign. Right from the beginning, Big Dark Love
begins differently than any previous release from the band. “I Shot An Arrow” is introduced by the drum groove that remains throughout the entirety of the track. With a link motive provided by the cello and piano, we’re put right into the meat of the track. This is so new for Murder by Death, but they’ve executed it perfectly. In previous albums, the introduction track has always begun more softly and mysteriously, and eventually hits the listener with the big western sound that Murder by Death fans are so fond of. While at first it may be easy to miss that method of initiation, “I Shot An Arrow” is way too great of an introduction track to dismiss for any reason. It has been favored for resembling a David Bowie track, even by Adam Turla himself, and it’s not an inaccurate statement. This is a whole new style for the band, and it causes an absolute pleasurable experience for the listener that remains throughout the entire album.
With many of the subsequent tracks, Murder by Death resort back to their always well executed formula of having the track grow more and more until it reaches the most climactic moment. While it’s a formula they’ve used time and time again, it’s a formula that they pull off time and time again. The climax of “Big Dark Love” features a rare 2 against 3 rhythmic variation that drives this new big and lush sound from the band into perspective. It also serves as a perfect transition into “Dream In Red”, one of the band’s most well-crafted tracks to date.
Murder by Death have matured more with every release, and Big Dark Love
is no exception. From the intriguing and thought provoking lyrics on tracks such as “It Will Never Die”, “Send Me Home”, and “Big Dark Love” to the brilliant use of instrumental layering on tracks such as “Dream In Red”, “Last Thing”, and “I Shot An Arrow”, the sounds that are being produced by the band are sounds that are absolutely new to them yet are completely unique to them. Adam’s vocals have found a new range and timbre that are slightly different from the last few albums, and Sarah Balliet’s cello playing has more life and emotion than ever before. As short as this album may be, it’s an incredible success for the band’s career. They are exceedingly self-aware and careful with everything they do, and it will continue to help them mature as musicians, songwriters, performers, and undoubtedly as artists.