My roommate introduced me to the band Murder by Death. I found myself instantly impressed by their blend of soulful, Johnny Cash’esque blues and hard rock leanings. Some might simply call this Americana, but the Indiana born quintet is quite obviously deeper than the title of a genre. Their latest release, Big Dark Love, is proof of that.
The band’s fearless leader is Adam Turla. Over the course of the band’s history, his voice has deepened and matured like a tasteful red wine — only getting better over time. My introductory album was Red of Tooth and Claw — where songs like “Fuego!” and “’52 Ford” quickly had my attention. Big Dark Love is stylistically similar on a musical level, but Turla’s vocals have more fold to them this time around. He uses the fullness of his range and is not afraid to employ harmonies, but still stands with his emotional integrity — making the message of each song completely convincing. The creepy title track gave me chills, “isn’t that fun?”
Likewise, Turla delivers a tear – inducing performance on “Send Me Home,” which deals with death of a loved one. Quite the same is suit on “Hunted,” which lyrically encapsulates a man’s perspective on women’s issues. “We don’t know what it’s like to be hunted. We don’t know what it’s like to be wanted,” Turla admits.
But Murder by Death is not the Adam Turla show, thank God. Each member is quite obviously showcased in his or her own way, perfecting the art of being a band. Quite simply put, you can’t have one without the other. And none of their music is ‘simple rock songs’ either, which is why Sarah Balliet’s cello playing is so perfectly placed on each song. Cello isn’t a typical rock instrument, either. But before you dismiss her back to the first cello seat in orchestra class, realize that without Balliet, Big Dark Love would not have quite the round aggression it needs and accomplishes.
Likewise, the rhythm and bass section of the album simply kicks ass. With songs like “Natural Pearl,” and “It Will Never Die,” a strong ‘backbone’ is not the important thing. The important thing was to create a natural ambiance. The title track does this extremely well. The showcased members are less Turla and Balliet and more autonomously Matt Armstrong on Bass, Dagan Thogerson on drums — he delivers an equally emotional and driving drum performance — and a strong presence from David Fountain on keys and additional stringed instruments. Fountain’s performance (including his vocal harmonies) throughout the album displays a sort of musical growth for Murder by Death, as if the band has taken another step in the evolutionary process.
Either way, Big Dark Love is another slam dunk for Murder by Death. No questions asked.
Key Tracks: Big Dark Love, Send Me Home, Hunted