The recent Murder by Death/O’Death
bill (Mar. 11, The Social) was a double dose of death and not a metal band
in sight. Life is weird like that sometimes.
In widening their palette, the rootsy rock of headliner Murder by Death
has migrated afield from their signature Southern Gothic rumble
and the mixed results in recent years have sometimes threatened to fade the distinction they’ve earned. The good news is that this uneven sonic searching seems to be confined to their recordings. Live, they still come with the full heft, fire and drama
that built them.
But perhaps more momentous was the return of New York’s O’Death.
When I first saw - no, experienced
- them at the original Will’s Pub back in 2006, their gypsy punk revival
clutched me by the neck and put me in a spell. They were just emerging then but were already one of the most feral indie folk acts around. They got signed soon after and went on to release on notable indie labels like Ernest Jenning
Since that first splash, however, their punk nerve
had gradually, sadly ebbed. But on their latest album – Out of Hands We Go
on interesting and upward Brooklyn label Northern Spy Records
– some of those wild, virile vines have crept their way back into the grave to awaken the skeletons.
There’s not enough of their early bloodthirst, and quite possibly never could be for me, but O’Death has recaptured some of their original ability to cut to the bone.
In fact, not all of it has to do with stomping the porch either. The atmosphere
they’ve been chasing for a long time now is something they’re finally beginning to master with incision.
Considering all this, and the fact that they haven’t played here in many years, O’Death was thankfully given major respect for an opener with a generous hour-long set.
In it, they proved that, even with more discipline now, they can still shake the shack like few can. But the cumulative effect was more complete and resonant than that. This was a reclaiming of folk music.
O’Death has nothing to do with the cherubic folk-pop that’s hot right now or even down-home country comfort. Their inspiration is the kind of deep, dark folk
that’s steeped in dirt and mystery, the kind that rattles with the power of superstition. It’s a gnarled sound that’s ancient, remote and fringe. And, live, it casts a mighty hex.
This crowd was theirs within 10 minutes. Welcome back, O’Death.
This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene.
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