Murder By Death "Red of Tooth and Claw" Review

When one hears the band name Murder By Death, one might assume they are a death metal band hailing from Eastern Europe and covered in ridiculous black face paint; or maybe they are some lame screamo band in tight black jeans and guy-liner. But few would think the band, which got their name from the 1976 Peter Sellers comedy, would play stripped down, whiskey soaked alt-country.

It’s fitting that the band took their name from a film, as everything about them feels very dramatic and theatrical. Their songs tell stories that are typically told on the silver screen not rock albums. Zombies, pirates, bar fights, prison breaks, and, of course, the devil made up the band’s previous albums, and Red of Tooth and Claw follows suit with it’s tales of murder, lust, revenge, and, of course, the devil. According to singer/guitarist Adam Turla the album is a “Homer’s Odyssey of revenge, only without an honorable character at the center.”

The album begins with the slow-burning “Comin’ Home.” The song is a strong showcase for Adam Turla’s increasingly deep vocals. On 2006’s In Bocca Al Lupo, Turla drew comparisons to the late, great Johnny Cash, but on this new record, he goes even deeper and lower than the Man in Black. Next up is “Ball & Chain,” which in any other band’s hands would have been a simple relationship song, but instead is a sprawling, driving epic that straddles the line between love and lust.

One thing that separates Murder by Death from their peers is cellist Sarah Belliet. Her cello adds depth and moodiness to even the simplest of songs. She also adds to the cinematic feel of the band, as her strings often bring to mind western film scores, especially on the album’s centerpiece “Theme (for Ennio Morricone).” This is no coincidence, as Ennio Morricone is a famed film composer mostly known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time in the West.

The album closes with the almost doo-wop “Spring Break 1899,” which tells the story of a murderous scoundrel headed south for Mexico in search of salvation. Musically and lyrically the song perfect wraps up the album, and ends it just as epically as it began.

Perhaps next time you are in the mood to watch a film, you should close your eyes and listen to Red of Tooth and Claw instead. You’ll find the experiences much the same.