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Murder by Death - Red of Tooth and Claw (Cover Artwork)

Murder by Death

Murder by Death: Red of Tooth and ClawRed of Tooth and Claw (2008)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 3
User Rating:


Contributed by: DarrenMcLeodDarrenMcLeod
(others by this writer | submit your own)

It's hard to argue with Murder By Death's track record. The band's debut full-length, Like the Exorcist, But More Breakdancing was a solid introduction and perhaps the most experimental of the band's releases. 2003's Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them? not only avoided the sophomore slu.
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It's hard to argue with Murder By Death's track record. The band's debut full-length, Like the Exorcist, But More Breakdancing was a solid introduction and perhaps the most experimental of the band's releases. 2003's Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them? not only avoided the sophomore slump, but also saw the band really finding its voice, deeply rooted in dark narratives and a western influence. The band built on that success with 2006's In Bocca al Lupo, an eclectic collection of songs that drew inspiration from Dante's Inferno to create a moody concept album focused on sin and punishment. Needless to say, this strong history has created high expectations for for the band's latest release, Red of Tooth and Claw. So, just how does the album stack up to it's predecessors?

Within the opening seconds of the disc's opening track, "Comin' Home," the first thing that becomes apparent is that Murder By Death's singer Adam Turla somehow sounds even more similar to Johnny Cash than he did on In Bocca al Lupo. Turla's baritone drawl carries the track, with repetition of the title creating a skeleton that the band works around. Once again, the band shines musically, with the rhythm section providing a wonderful backbone while Sarah Balliet's cello once again offers beautiful melodies that often steal the spotlight.

Another highlight of every Murder by Death release is the lyrical content, and while Red of Tooth and Claw falls slightly short of tradition, it still holds its own. Due to the album's motif of repetition of lines, the poetry can occasionally be disappointingly simple, but when Turla is free to be a storyteller, he's still among the best in the game. The album's nomadic narrator is constantly on the move, struggling to appease his many vices: "The heat floats on top of our skin / Like an ice cube in a glass of gin / … / Baby, it's been so long / that even the roses hips are turning me on."

One problem that becomes apparent, though, is that while the band had successfully evolved their sound over the previous three full-lengths, this one seems to have been painted-by-numbers, so to speak. Most tracks feel as though they would fit comfortably on In Bocca al Lupo, and while that may delight some fans, most probably wanted to see what surprises this talented group could come up with. Furthermore, a lot of tracks seem slightly uninspired at their outset; "Ash," for example, is fairly ordinary until about halfway through, at which point the song finally gets off the ground and delivers.

Though the disc becomes stagnant far too often, when it is at its strongest, it has some of the best moments that the band has to offer. In particular, the album's closer, "Spring Break" is a chilling track that features a perfect buildup to a triumphant conclusion. The previously disillusioned narrator finally makes a last-ditch effort at creating a new life for himself, without realizing the inherent contradiction in forging a new life that hardly differs from the fashion he has conducted himself through the album's entirety.

There are many drawbacks to creating great records. You may attract the wrong kind of audience, you may become fodder for rumor-filled music blogs or you may just face a greater pressure from your record label to stick to a successful formula. But perhaps the most common downside to creating a lauded album is that the next disc you release is going to be examined with far more scrutiny than it otherwise would. Murder By Death's Red of Tooth and Claw falls victim to this trap, and despite being a fairly solid disc in its own right, simply cannot stand up next to the band's back catalogue.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
iamthebat (April 8, 2008)

I think, after having this for a while now, it is an underrated CD. It has grown on me a lot. The other two might be better, but really, this band is just plain consistent, and at a very high level.

Oh, and the crowd needs to move around more at live shows. I get that they aren't a punk band, but you can still dance.

sleepwalk (April 1, 2008)

Absolutely addicted to them--can't get enough. This album is spectacular, almost flawless. Ball and Chain anyone?

Kursk (March 31, 2008)

This is my favorite album by them, itslike In Bocca Al Lupo 2.0, There were times that that album felt kind of dull and unlively. Every song on this one, ncluding the instrumental are grab my attention. My favorite release ths year so far.

Angiepants (March 31, 2008)

Score is for the people who still haven't found out that MBD isn't metal.

punkphil (March 31, 2008)

so now punknews reviews metal bands, great.

ilovelamp (March 30, 2008)

i saw these guys last night in chicago. the original piano player made a guest appearance and played for half the set, i guess his first show with them in like three years. that was pretty rad. but the other half of the set was pretty lackluster.

the opening bands, however, kicked ass, especially kiss kiss and o'death.

as far as this album goes, i'd say its pretty good and definitely better than the last one. but seeing vincent play that piano with them last night just made me miss the old murder by death.

CellarDoor (March 30, 2008)

DeathMetalNews.org ?
The review is on point, but I disagree with the score.

greg0rb (March 29, 2008)

Haven't gotten this yet... need to. All I know is - if you go to see them on this tour, get there in time to see O'Death. You shant be disappointed.
-Greg

HonestAbe (March 29, 2008)

I always say to people who don't seems to care much that these guys are like a weak version of a lot of the bands from the denver scene;

MUNLY
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction= user.viewprofile&friendID=9749120

Woven Hand
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewpr ofile&friendid=90411388

etc.

Anway, whether you agree or not, you should check out MUNLY if you like these guys

lol_omg_wtf_nambla (March 29, 2008)

I like this record the more I hear it. One of my big complaints about In Boca.. was that the band seemed to regress a bit as far as instrumentation went. Not their fault at all, what with being down a keyboardist and all, but still. It seemed that since the guitar had to do more "song driving" there was a little less texture to the music than had been present on the previous two albums. That said, I still liked it a ton, and I think the change in the vocals helped pick up the slack to a considerable degree. With this album though, the band seems to have found their stride with the new lineup, and that's really encouraging. The band is "developing" in the good sense of the word that is so rare these days. Good on 'em I say.

onegirlarmy (March 29, 2008)

also, I saw the band twice... granted neither time they were headlining but I didn't find them boring at all. One kid in the crowd even started breakdancing during "The Desert Is On Fire" and the band loved it.

onegirlarmy (March 29, 2008)

Psssh, this should be four stars. awesome fucking record, and I wasn't really into the last one. this one blew me away and is most likely going to be in my top list of 08 (I know its early to say but I just have a feeling). eh, to each his own I suppose.

inagreendase (March 29, 2008)

They were getting better with every record, but after my first listen of this I'm not so sure that's still the case.

the only MBD record i have is "Like The Exorcist..." and dude sounds nothing like Cash...so what the fuck (apparently) happened?

He started singing differently / with more of a baritone on the album after...pretty simple...

colin (March 29, 2008)

cut the shit someone needs to review the new zion

i want to but being a mega-fan there's no way i could give an objective review. it's at least a 9, though. although pitchfork says it's a 5.

Hey_Asshole (March 29, 2008)

i keep hearing this Johnny Cash comparison...it does not makes sense to me.

the only MBD record i have is "Like The Exorcist..." and dude sounds nothing like Cash...so what the fuck (apparently) happened?

baseball (March 29, 2008)

I'm going to disagree. I think that while they did not try anything drastically new on this album, their song writing is probably the most well rounded it's ever been. This album flows great and sets its own mood just like the previous ones.

This album also finishes stronger than anything else they've done, second half of this album has several songs that shoot to the top of their catalogue, in my opinion.

billnye (March 29, 2008)

cut the shit someone needs to review the new zion

usversusthem (March 29, 2008)

Honestly he sounds fucking exactly like Cash. I was listening to my iPod on shuffle a month or two ago and a track from In Bocca came on and I was all like, "Oh hey it's the man in black keep on rockin Johnny Cash" and then after a minute and a half or so I realized that it was MBD.

Anyway, I really hope this sounds more like Who Will Survive than In Bocca.

bryne (March 29, 2008)

If I ever make a movie I'd want to have this band do the score.

I really enjoy this record.

HOISTDATRAG (March 28, 2008)

Pretty good, "In Bocca..." is one of my favorite albums, so I wasn't expecting this to top it, but still, I find myself skipping through about a little less than half of this album.

phildisaster (March 28, 2008)

i'm way into this record. saw them live recently and they killed it.

sweetsugarpezz (March 28, 2008)

i fucking love this band.

GlassPipeMurder (March 28, 2008)

not bad, i was hoping for a little more energy...

blanktapesemptybottles (March 28, 2008)

does anyone else think on some songs he salivating so much it's ridiculous?

canaandrumzz (March 28, 2008)

I really liked some of their songs when I first heard "In Bocca Al Lupo" but now I don't know the last time I listened to it. They were alright one time I saw them and downright boring the second.

fuzzy (March 28, 2008)

Mind numbingly boring live. I could not believe it when I saw them. I used to have a passing thing for their music but it was totally lost after seeing them.

DarrenMcLeod (March 28, 2008)

Funny... see, to me, colin, the band kept getting better (until this release). I feel "Who Will Survive" is a huge step above "Like the Exorcist", and "In Bocca" is their best by just a hair.

colin (March 28, 2008)

this is a band that just went in a direction i didn't really care for. the first release is so brilliant, and the second's western vibe added a nice twang to what they were working with. but after that they just keep releasing material that is farther from that experimentation and just, meh. nothing really grabs me.

niveK82 (March 28, 2008)

This is better than a 6

telegraphrocks (March 28, 2008)

Fuck your six!

This is such an awesome fucking record.
It's holding at the #1 spot for the year (so far).

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