Record Review – O’ Death – Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin (Kemado)

New York based Gothic/Country/Punk band O’Death are named after the Dock Boggs penned song made famous by Ralph Stanley on the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. Like that hauntingly plaintive Appalachian dirge “Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin,” the third LP from O’Death, 14 tracks recollect tales of sorrow and ecstasy nearly reaching levels of a Pentecostal tent revival on a hot, sticky Summer night. If Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were invited to contribute to the same “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack it might sound a lot like this.

The release commences with “Lowtide” with its gypsy plucked violin trot that quickly breaks lose to a full runaway gallop, all cleaved through with Greg Jamie’s unnerving vocals.  Jamie intermingles British Sea Power and Brake’s Eamon Hamilton nervy wail and Pixie’s main howler Frank Black to result in something unflinchingly manic.

“Fire On Peshtigo” is a searing thrash-hoe-down that gives off as much heat as those described in the lyrics. You can almost imagine Bob Pycior’s fiddle smoking and threatening to burst into flames. “Legs To Sin” is a mountain jig that owes as much to white-hot punk as it does to old timey dittys.

“Mountain Shifts” is a woozy junkyard waltz that might tickle Tom Wait’s fancy. “Vacant Moan” starts with Gabe Darling’s slow discordant  claw-hammer banjo but quickly careens toward a wheezing, stuttering thunderous end.

“A Light That Does Not Dim” recalls The Pixie’s “Nimrod’s Son” (which O”Death covered on a 7″ single in October 2007) with all it’s primal impact and “Grey Sun” puts a fine point on the Gothic elements of O’Death’s with the refrain “hang the hardship baby, we go to sleep and then we die.”

“On An Aching Sea” is a slinky trash can sea-shanty of a poisoned marriage and “Angeline” is a sweetly aching tale of loneliness, abandonment and mortality. Like the before-mentioned Ralph Stanley’s genre of mastery, Bluegrass, there is no shortage of dark and tragic narrative in these songs.

Like their sonic brethren The Felice Brothers, Th Legendary Shack Shakers and Those Poor Bastards, O”Death takes a fever dream of music echoing from the saloons, alleys and churches across America’s past and distills it into a dark elixir of blood, moonshine and adrenaline.

O’Death – “A Light That Does Not Dim” – Roisin Dubh in Galway – 09/26/2008

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYRNk10xN6g[/youtube]

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2 thoughts on “Record Review – O’ Death – Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin (Kemado)

  1. September 29, 2008 at 6:18 am

    I’ve been listening to this album for a couple of weeks now.
    It is so good. I love when a band I like releases a new album that surpasses all hopes I had for it.

  2. Baron Lane
    September 29, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I had no expectations and was surprised that roots music has taken such a gothic/punk turn by tapping into something that’s always been there.

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