If the band name sounds ominous, don’t be fooled by Murder By Death’s latest output, Big Dark Love. In an album full of constant surprises, Murder By Death’s 7th studio album sets the indie rock band apart from others with innovative instrumental amalgamation and strong musicality.
Indie rock bands are a dime a dozen, but the use of cello and innovative combinations add a flare of originality to prevent Murder by Death getting lost among the crowd. The tune most indicative of this originality is “Dream in Red.” Beginning with male vocals and a piano ostinato with shaker, lower pitched voices interject an echo around the main melody. Electric cello voices are layered over top of each other, and eventually, the vocals, full drum kit, cello, piano, squealing guitar and synth announces the clear arrival of a climax. Clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, “Dream in Red” simply ends too soon.
While Big Dark Love primarily sticks to the rock genre, each tune has a very different feel. “The Last Thing” and “Natural Pearl” toe the line of country, both with a more uptempo, two-beat rhythm. “The Last Thing” features sweeter vocals and rhythmic but light dance beat, with a hint of mandolin in the background. “Natural Pearl” uses more cello, a darker vocal timbre and instrumental accompaniment with twangy guitars hinting at bluegrass. Despite large similarities in the basic approach, the stark difference between these back to back tracks is astounding.
The musical accompaniment and lyrics form a symbiotic relationship on Big Dark Love. “It Will Never Die” begins with a simple vocal feature. The instrumental backdrop thickens, and by the time the lyrics, “dark all around me”, the density of the instrumentals sound like the singer is enveloped in darkness. Shortly after, “sounds like thunder amplified,” yields to an intense instrumental fill, reminiscent of the explosive nature of thunder. The clear relationship between music and words deepens the impact of the tune.
Full of expertly curated music and lyrics, an original mixture of instruments and refreshing variety from track to track, Murder By Death’s Big Dark Love provides a lot to listen to. Though a true ballad is lacking on the album, which may have made a nice addition to balance out the rest of the record, a lot of big love goes to Murder By Death’s Big Dark Love.