• Old 'Stache

Murder By Death Explores Darkness and Light through Illustrious Instrumentation

written by: on June 15, 2012

As the most recently signed band to Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, Indiana-natives Murder By Death have had quite a 2012 thus far. The quintet starts their tour in July, with a customized set built by the band themselves and plan to release their sixth full-length album.  During their set at Chicago’s Do-Division fest in June, MBD played several new songs—all of which resemble songs of the beloved Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them, their second album. But the bad started on an even lighter note than that; sound wise anyways.

Like the Exorcist but More Breakdancing, released in 2002, was the band’s first full-length album under the name Murder By Death. Their previous EP, Little Joe Gould, was released in 2001 as their self-titled debut before changing their name. But Like the Exorcist is unlike anything the band has released since, or that many other artists have released for that matter.

Beginning with “Those Who Stayed,” an entirely instrumental track, MBD sets the tone of a pleasant time overrun with eerie chaos. This album and track especially gives the spotlight to cellist Sarah Balliet. The female heartthrob performs as though she is belting out on the instrument, and she has proven to be a major asset to the band.

Like the Exorcist has minimal lyrics all together, and Adam Turla’s current Johnny Cash-like voice is lighter and more distant. This album crackles like a dusty antique. Its tone isn’t as in-your-face as albums like Red of Tooth and Claw or In Bocca al Lupo, but it’s just as powerful.

“I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is the closest to pop it gets on Like the Exorcist. Turla sings to the unhappy, insecure woman that is hungry for attention: “If you can’t make up your mind just how different you should be, reorganize your priorities to expect more sympathy.”

At a Murder By Death show, it’s likely to hear fans chant “Intergalactic Menopause” at some point during the night. The track is among of the band’s all-time greatest.

Its light, airy sound is guided by Balliet’s cello and Turla’s echoed vocals and is an ideal match to anyone going through a life change. It’s gorgeous and depressing at the same time, a common theme in MBD fans. Like many of the band’s songs, the tune begins slowly until all instrumentation meets together in a glorious clash.

This is when all goes to hell. “Those Who Left” begins with creepy sounds, likely to be a theremin. In the band’s next effort, Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them, the story line focuses on the devil invading a town. “Those Who Left” seems to be where it beings. An entirely instrumental track, which lasts eight-minutes, is a haunting rendition of, what one can only assume, devastation. This track also showcases one of the band’s core original members still with the band today, Matt Armstrong on the bass.

The band brightens up a bit in “Holy Lord Shawshank Redemption is Such a Good Movie.” The track enters like a sun rising over a dark night. Another mainly instrumental track, “Holy Lord” only has a few distant vocals from Turla and leads into the ambient “Broken Silence (No title)” that is seemingly just background noise.

Murder By Death’s increasingly heavier sound throughout their discography has left some Like the Exorcist fans unsatisfied. But the always prominent theme of life, lust and loss is still there. The band’s most recent release, Good Morning, Magpie, is without a doubt their weakest album, but every artist has their low point. Longtime fans will always cherish the beautiful sounds of Like the Exorcist, and the band with likely keep the tracks in rotation in set lists. Murder by Death takes vintage to the times of silent films, creepy to peaceful and indie rock to a haunted land of whiskey.

Murder By Death – Like the Exorcist but More Breakdancing tracklist

  1. “Those Who Stayed”
  2. “I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”
  3. “A Caucus Race”
  4. “You Are the Last Dragon (You Possess the Power of the Glow)”
  5. “Joe Bou”
  6. “Flamenco’s Fuckin’ Easy”
  7. “Intergalactic Menopause”
  8. “Those Who Left”
  9. “Holy Lord, Shawshank Redemption is Such a Good Movie”
  10. “untitled” (hidden track)