O’Death – Outside
Record Label: Ernest Jenning
Release Date: April 19, 2011
O’Death are a gothic Americana band from Brooklyn whose bluegrass-tinged sound would seem more likely to originate from the Ozarks or Appalachia than the hipster capital. Outside follows Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin (2008) and a pair of earlier self-released efforts.
How Is It?
Besides boasting some seriously badass cover art, Outside contains plenty of music to match, as it’s filled with songs that are organic, aggressive and eerie. While the arrangements are steadfastly rustic—indeed, the album largely abandons some of the schizophrenic Gogol Bordello-like propensities present on their earlier albums—this is no rustling Abigail Washburn album. Instead, vocalist Greg Jamie sounds like a haunted Neil Young taking charge of Nick Cave’s banjo-toting Bad Seeds. That sounds like an odd juxtaposition, but the description is apt; O’Death adopt the classic rural sound typically used for songs of praise, whether that be of the Lord or of bucolic life, but their songs are infused with a dark, sinister edge and are anything but idyllic.
Outside is also the band’s most cohesive work to date, maintaining a consistently unsettling mood throughout its duration, in contrast with their more mercurial (though entertaining) earlier offerings, and would make a fitting soundtrack for a noir-ish Western flick. The band stray most from their bluegrass influences with their use of some martial drumming which transform songs like “Ghost Head” and “Alamar” into ominous marches. The robust strings are also a dominant presence, whether they’re flitting along at a galloping rhythm (“Black Dress”) or gliding creepily underneath (“Ourselves”).
The record documents a satisfying progression in O’Death’s sound, as they populate these bleak, mostly minor-key dirges with their own singular eccentric energy. Make no mistake, it’s very much mood-specific music. The chilling chorus of ghostly “ah-ah”s of “Look at the Sun” or Jamie’s cryptic lyrics about “blood flowing through the iron cave” on “Howling Through” aren’t a suitable background for family barbecues. But for a chilly, moonlit night around a campfire? That’s the perfect setting for O’Death’s unique brand of menace.