Murder By Death
COOKING VINYL Re-released 4.6.07

The setting is a small western town. In swoops the Devil himself, infecting the townspeople with a pestilence of paranoia and alcoholism; a Miltonian Devil, as wracked and tortured as the people he infects. No, you havenít stumbled on a misplaced book review Ė though Murder By Deathís musical version of Mikhail Bulgakovís ĎThe Master and Margaritaí is certainly a very literary album. Itís also superbly well-written. Concept album this may be, but without the grandiose bombast that usually lays such concoctions open to ridicule. The writing is acerbic, self-lacerating and tight.

The sound is interesting. Murder by Death seem to glean praise from within the hardcore scene, but they donít really fit into it. They are essentially an indie band, but they pull off complementary alternative and western influences with impressive aplomb. Their slurred lyrics drawl over slide guitars and barroom piano pieces. They mix in monotone drum rolls, sombre cellos, simple strumming and gruff vocals and manage to synthesise the Devil and the Wild West in sound. This isnít big music; itís all wistful loneliness and minor scales. There is an ingenuity layered around this convoluted cowboy music, but simplicity at its centre. It comes off at times as a tumbleweed in the wind.

Itís not perfect of course Ė they never are. It can start to sound samey if you allow your attention to wander from the task of exploring the albumís many corners and dark places. There are many moments of searing intensity, but even so Murder By Deathís distinctive sound almost comes to work against and they are on the border of sounding homogenous. But I am not inclined to dwell on the albumís shortcomings. Itís inventive, different, experimental and largely successful. Swig some whiskey, don your spurs and ride this album into the sinister sunset.

Hannah Thompson