Murder By Death have been called many things, including indie, alt-country, and folk, however, the band’s seventh album, Big Dark Love, just proves more and more that this band is unclassifiable. They can easily play with dark cabaret acts, like The Dresden Dolls. They can share the stage with Modest Mouse and Neutral Milk Hotel. They can jam with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Barenaked Ladies.
Unlike other Murder By Death albums, the main theme of Big Dark Love is love, in all of its forms. This change of thematic presence also brings some interesting musical choices as well. For instance, in “I Shot An Arrow,” the band toys with descending sustained chords throughout the verses before moving to a standard ascending progression in the chorus. It creates a unique sound, stuck somewhere between romantic and melancholic. Add in the strings and theremin-synth vs. the horns and piano, and you have a perfect visual of an emotional roller coaster that is a relationship.
On the flip side, the final song of the album, “Hunted,” takes an epic turn, as if love has become a decisive battle. It’s Nico meets Ennio Morricone in this track; a Western crescendo soaked in textures, constantly building up but eventually dying out.
Between the heavy reverb washes, haunting cello, and acoustic noodling, these songs are a step above the rest. Big Dark Love can easily be described as the sounds of a macabre mariachi whose goal is to warn wary travelers of the triumphs and pitfalls of love.
In A Word: Bittersweet