Workhorse band, man.
Like I wrote (tongue firmly planted in cheek) on their debut release Like the Exorcist, But More Breakdancing, Murder By Death is a dusty Western goth band.
In actuality, it’s the farthest thing from ironic that this band hails from Indiana. Bloomington, to be exact, and just an hour or so south of Indianapolis, where the NBA’s Pacers play. To make a sports (I said #SPORTS!) analogy, MBD could be independent music’s version of the House That Rik Smits Built: teamwork, no flashy players, and consistency. What more could you ask for out of your relentlessly touring rock band or professional sports franchise?
The group’s second album Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them? is a slow burning concept record. Released in 2003, it’s important not to come into this record expecting upbeat tracks like “Brother” or “Comin’ Home” (two of my favorite MBD jams). At 9 tracks and an intermission, Who Will Survive is a 9-chapter story about a town that battles the Devil incarnate, a story inspired by lead vocalist Adam Turla’s time spent studying religion in college.
The album was released on Eyeball Records, which afforded the group some interesting collaborations: on opener “Devil in Mexico,” Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance provides guest vocals. And on “Killbot 2000,” the first Murder By Death track I ever had the pleasure of listening to, Geoff Rickly of Thursday also does guest vocals. But, truth be told, I don’t know if it’s the mix or just me, but I don’t hear their voices anywhere on the tracks. The production on the record is pretty bassy and at times lacks clarity, but shines on cellist Sarah Baillet’s pieces, like on “That Crown Don’t Make You a Prince.”
Who Will Survive closes with the one-two punch of “Pillars of Salt” and “End of the Line,” which might be the best combination of songs on the whole album. At 9 minutes long, “End of the Line” serves both as the cliffhanger ending, and the longest Murder By Death song to date. It’s worth listening to for its sheer length alone, and how it wraps up (or doesn’t) the album’s narrative.
As long as fans of the band’s newer work can temper their judgment and appreciate the a slightly varied style and Adam Turla’s “old voice” (e.g., the one that isn’t the cavernous, “Is his voice being slowed down in post, but in real time?!” we’ve come to expect), this album is an enjoyable spin.
From Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them?, this is “That Crown Don’t Make You a Prince” –
Standout tracks: “Killbot 2000” and “End of the Line” and “Masters in Reverse Psychology”
Weakest track: Probably in sheer terms of flow, “Three Men Hangin’”
RIYL: Dusty western bar fights, gothic Americana. O’Brother, The Snake The Cross The Crown, William Elliot Whitmore.