Published on October 25th, 2012 | by joseph goral0
Album Review: Murder By Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon
I was first introduced to Murder By Death’s music a few years ago by one of my great friends, Brian Hierstien. Brian and I had just started hanging out and he thought their sound would be something I would dig based upon God knows what vibe I gave off. Maybe it was the amount of drinking I did back then. By the way, Brian is a fucking phenomenal artist and one hell of an awesome person. The artwork he has given me as presents over the course of our friendship is kickass. See below for proof.
If you’re unfamiliar with with Murder By Death, this is a great record to introduce yourself to their sound. They’re originally a college band from Bloomington, Indiana who has made a name for themselves touring and releasing quality material for over a decade now. Over time, their sound has evolved quite a bit, with marked departures from the status quo of their aesthetic along the way. Their latest release, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon is the culmination of many stylistic influences and experimentation by their members. While it maintains the dark country Johnny Cash on his worst day vibe cultivated in their older work, it has a more refined sound that would seem to appeal to a larger audience simply due to how awesome it is. Their previous release, Good Morning, Magpie, was a bit of a departure from the sound that they are known for. While it’s a great record, it has a more than slightly different feel to it than its predecessors. This latest release seems to be a return to the vein that they had been working in while finding new ways to invigorate the blood flow.
Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon is a highly polished record. It achieves what I believe they were striving for on Good Morning, Magpie, which is a more commercially viable sound while maintaining the complex and individualistic signature of their work. While I dig the fuck out of it and have let the album play through more than a few times, I have found myself wanting to hear more of the southern style gothic material that is highly present on their previous efforts. Frontman Adam Turla’s lyrics don’t dissapoint, but the literary style of songwriting that he has adopted seems to take a bit of a turn on this album. It is not a turn for the worse. I would describe it as him maturing as a writer and finding new voices to speak with. The addition of a horn or two to compliment the ridiculously talented cello playing of Sarah Balliett is fucking awesome. Her ability to use her instrument to add a haunting quality to their songs or to add a hurried and frantic feel to others is frankly bitchin’. The album does have a great range, incorporating slower and faster tempos to achieve a pretty dynamic sound. Their ability to work songs such as the country duet style ballad Lost River along with tracks like Hard World or Straight At The Sun with punk overtones into one cohesive effort is pretty kickass. Having seen them perform a few of these songs live before the album dropped makes them a bit more anthemic to me than they might be if I had heard them for the first time in my living room. The Curse of Elkhart is good example of this. The energy during the chorus while it was played live translates very well to my speakers.
Overall, I dig it. I’m not too hot on how the album begins but from there it only gets better. There are a few tracks that I like less than others but they’re not bad by any means. If you have the chance to see them live, it’s a great time full of whiskey fueled musicianship and they ALWAYS play an encore.