O’Death is a band that was introduced to me a little over a year ago by my good friend Jamie in New Orleans, LA. I was very interested in their sound and their musicality; however, I never really took to them at that time. With the release of their new album, Outside, I rediscovered their music and developed an even greater love for them.
One of the biggest surprises for me in looking into their background was to find that this band didn’t come from the south at all. Their sound certainly makes me think that they grew up somewhere south along the Mississippi. I suppose featuring such instruments in your music as the banjo, fiddle, and ukulele will tend to do that. These southern style musicians however, honed their craft in good old NYC. Forming in 2003, their music quickly developed almost a cult following. They have a great folk sound that is sort of different from the folk sound that is prevalent in popular music today. Everyone has heard Mumford and Sons on the radio which has a more folky Irish feel to it. O’death goes for more of an Americana-folk that would be created on the front porch of a small cabin down by the river. Their gothic take on American music creates songs that seem to be more fitting of a funeral than any sort of celebration.
As O’death have matured, their songs have done so as well. This is the third release and it is by far their least frantic and chaotic. Evidently they have more or less begun to drop the punk association that many tagged this band with earlier on in their career. This album finds them still varying up their style; however, always returning to a muted and low-key sound. Refer to the videos I have included below to see just how their music has differed. “Low Tide”, a song off their last album, is clearly more hectic and punk rock influenced than their newest video: “Bugs”. One of their biggest reasons for maturing may be some of the trials they have been forced to face in the past few years. David Rogers-Berry, drummer for the band, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and forced to undergo both chemotherapy and a shoulder replacement. This forced the band to drop off their 2009 tour and take a break until a return to the stage the following summer.
O’death manages to create a sort of unique sound that they change and develop in each song. The songs will typically manage to come back to the way in which they started, but they go through many different changes throughout the trip getting there. “Bugs” starts out sounding like a long lost track off some Elliot Smith album. However, after the first verse, the banjo manages to find its way into the mix and takes it off in a completely different direction for the chorus. It fits together quite nicely, but being the first song on the album, it is the very first taste of a lot of southern style songs.
Every song on the album somehow manages to sound like some sort of indie strolling minstrel gypsy song. O’death manages to create a sound that not many are attempting at this point in time. Some of the songs do manage to sound slightly light and happy; however, a great quantity of the songs come off with a funeral dirge sound to it. A song that really embodies this concept is”Alamar”. This song starts off with people almost monk chanting in the background. Then a jarring guitar comes in followed by a very heavy metallic sounding drum. You could almost see them following a coffin towards a pre-dug grave site followed by mourners. It is a great song, and probably one of my favorite on the album; however, if you are looking for a pick me up, I wouldn’t recommend a lot of songs on this record.
Another song that sounds just as sad and mournful is “The Lake Departed”. The song starts with an almost old church organ sound, followed by heavy drums and bass, and then finished out with lead singer Greg Jamie’s quavering vocals singing out “Leave her body in the snow, there is no where else for her to go”. Not exactly a pick me up, and of course, it is the final song on the album. So, it leaves you with a very ominous impression of the album.
There are some more upbeat songs on the album. You of course do have to understand that O’death’s version of upbeat is much different from most other bands. “Back of the Garden” has a much lighter feel to it. This is more based on the instruments and not on the vocals. It even contains what i believe to be the most danceable song on the album. Of course, it may be more fit for a tango than anything. “Ghost Head” is another fairly upbeat song. You can once again blame this more on the instruments than the vocals.
All in all, I am very happy with the album O’death has put out here. I don’t think it will be for everyone, and I am sure there will be those that really can’t stand this style or the vocals. However, I’m content to enjoy O’death despite them being a pretty big downer a lot of the time. I don’t think you’ll put this on to enjoy a day at the beach, but I think you’ll find yourself going back to this album more than you thought you would. So check it out.
Teacher Grade: B