If music was a hard-on then o’death's new release Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin is it. This is not a casual listen but a hard one. Listener Profile: Risk Taker
The exhilaration and exhaustion that succumbs experiencing o’death live is well known. The instruments, vocals and power penetrate straight away. Their mix of punk, metal, roots with Americana corner originality. Influences that morph not mimic.
On Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin production tricks are not apparent. With the help of Alex Newport they have captured the gestalt of their live sound and more. This recording highlights the robust sound of muscular instrumentation, stellar song structure and composition evoking a rollicking acoustic symphony. Every track is constructed with contrasting movements: mock speed, measured nuance and scaffolding volume.
I’ve always had an affinity for string instruments. Bob Pycior plays the fiddle like a lead guitar creating riffs that jolt and intone. The characteristic sappy sound of the fiddle can’t be found here and good riddance. Greg Jamie’s vocals evoke a subtle swell, rise to a nasal pitch and seguay into guttural channeling that inspire his voice of distinction. Gabe Darling’s awesome vocal accompaniment, ukulele and banjo playing are staples of the music. The foundational force of o’death’s masculine sound is fueled by Jessie’s Newman’s beefy bass accents and David Rogers Berry’s psycho punk drum auxiliary of chains, cymbals and gas tanks. He rears them in with unbridled force.
It is difficult not to highlight all the songs on this release because the penned words and striking music is alive with death. The intensity of “Fire on Peshitgo” about an historical lake fire where many died sets the contextual backdrop for the remaining songs dedicated to an individual, Eliza. Her short life was ended abruptly but is celebrated and mourned. / and robbing life of dignity / to every desperate end / alone / breathless air / lake on fire / land too /.
The lamenting slow tribute “Angeline” is breathtaking in its beauty and honesty / the leaves have turned / your ways have burned / your naked flesh against the sun /. The concluding full-bodied chorus / Angeline / Angeline / all your friends on their hands and knees / tired of your tragedies / is like a joyous funeral music procession.
First track “Lowtide” starts with the plucking of the ukulele and continues to build in volume with the fiddle strong-arm enunciation. As the drums crash and burn the vocals rise in pitch and pathos ending on a pluck. / I plant the face in water / I held her broken feet / I taught the wave that caught her / now she is yours to keep /. Hang the hardship baby / we go to sleep and then we die / is the choral interlude of “Grey Sun” and cries out like a folk epic with words that kill, literally.
Greg Jamie’s Neil Young like vocal and Darling’s harmonies are highlighted in “Home” that slowly begins with the chorus of / home / home / the air I breath / and is broken up by a fiddle interlude that scaffolds to a full orchestration emphasizing the urgent chorus. Greg Jamie’s vocal flurry is in nasal overdrive on “Legs to Sin” and catapults into a screaming metal-head. “Mountain Shifts” polka beat lends to the muscular masculine all-band chant that increases with breathless pace in this experimental song arrangement. / Her hair lays violent / dead in the stream / I hope that she’s peaceful / wherever her body may be /.
Bridging the fast to slow sounds of contrast that are brutal “Vacant Moan” combines slow fiddle interludes and chains hitting cymbals. / I plant my feet / I left the ground / I sought the wind too / I fought this out /. Then adds the most intense fast rant chorus gone haywire. All my / all my / all my own / could have grasped a vacant moan / then the lush of violence / crushed the pride of naked wind / dance the dance of broken veins / by the hand of all attained / left before you all the same / broken from the start /.
“Crawl Through Snow” has a rock opera structure then it softly enters into a divine passage / and on that foggy night / the trees fired up / and grew endless / I held the beast at bay / grew tired / from the light fading /.... ending with an impressive finale of full orchestration.
With Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin, o’death has moved the music culture forward displaying their capacity to experiment with what is and evolve to what isn’t. In contrast to death, o’death’s music is alive. It breathes and celebrates the importance to live and feel everything to full capacity.
Side Note: Jimmy Joe Roche Packaging design is top notch. Collage and hand written lyrics are placed on pages in the likeness of an authentic artists journal with pasted artifacts, scribbling and photographs. Starting off organized and evolving into a living document.
odeath website and blog!!