On 2006's In Bocca Al Lupo, Murder By Death captured a drum attack that flailed and scratched through Western-gothic frenzy and cello shredding. The new Red Of Tooth And Claw gives the kit a more direct sound, which is just one of many details that eats away at the excitement. "Fuego!" doesn't match the restlessness of its own lyrics: "Baby, it's been so long that even the roses' hips are turnin' me on," Adam Turla sings, but over the kind of ticking drum pattern that's become indie-rock shorthand for "cranky and/or nervous." Turla begins the album with his finest Nick Cave baritone on "Comin' Home," which would be more impressive and effective if it didn't hide the free-range panics and laments that make his voice so memorable. MBD works best when Turla leads the charge into melodrama, as on "Rumbrave." Otherwise, it's as if he's trying to stay balanced with the rest of his band: That's no recipe for the chaos that dominates his songwriting. Red envisions turbulence, stages it professionally, and downplays Murder By Death's power to frighten listeners and conjure up dust storms.
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