Murder By Death - The Other Shore - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Murder By Death - The Other Shore

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-24
Murder By Death - The Other Shore
Murder By Death - The Other Shore

More than a decade removed from the genre they helped to proliferate, Murder By Death has managed to make a career out of their one-time novel approach of channeling indie-folk through an American(a)-gothic lens. The band’s latest album (and 8th overall) The Other Shore finds singer/songwriter Adam Turla and Co. offering a slightly different take on their trademark sound.

Opening with an ode to wanderlust, “Alas” is essentially everything you’ve come to expect from Murder By Death in a five-minute package. With thundering drums, a sublime cello-solo, and Turla’s ever-reliable rasp, the band is clearly in fine form right from the start. Meanwhile, the upbeat two-step “Chasing Ghosts” and the tom-driven “True Dark” provide the album with a riveting opening salvo.

From there, The Other Shore settles into somewhat familiar territory, with Turla guiding his cohorts through mid-tempo romps (“Stone”, “Space”, “Bloom”), and tender balladeering (“Travelin’ Far”, “Only Time”) all the while exploring the plight of two lost souls in a not-so-distant dystopian future. It’s heavy-handed stuff for sure, but hardly the first time Turla has tackled a longwinded, densely layered narrative.

The saving grace here is that unlike many of their previous releases, the eleven songs that comprise The Other Shore work just fine when removed from the context of the larger story. Diehard fans that choose to dig deeper will certainly be rewarded, but passive listeners will immediately find enjoyment with the record’s accessibility. The melodic juggernaut “I Have Arrived” might be the best Grateful Dead song that band never wrote, while the string-driven “New Old City” is one of the most satisfyingly sparse arrangements in the Murder By Death repertoire.

While the band has always excelled at finding a way to balance the bevy of folk instruments they employ with their traditional ‘guitar, bass & drums’ setup, The Other Shore also benefits from one of the best production-jobs in their catalog. Sarah Balliet’s cello cuts through like a hot knife through butter, no longer battling with the band’s rhythm section (drummer Dagan Thogerson, bassist Tyler Morse) in the way she did on previous releases. And for his part, Tulla’s voice soars above the rewardingly dense, but never cluttered mix.

While the record is sure to elicit differing opinions from the masses (fans may loathe the ‘departure’ while there is little here that will bend the ear of an already-decided critic), for their part, the band sounds like they are having a blast (and maybe that’s all that really matters?). Both decidedly dynamic and meticulously concise, with The Other Shore, Murder By Death has finally managed to unravel the secret of ‘less is more’.

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