The proverbial porch that so many indie-folk bands claim to occupy must be getting a little crowded. Still, The Builders And The Butchers have carved out a dark corner of it for themselves. Since its self-titled debut four years ago, the Portland outfit has avoided falling into the earnest singer-songwriter trap by crafting a spooky, demon-chased racket full of jittery dynamics and Ryan Sollee’s wheezing preacher-speak. Dead Reckoning, the group’s third album, doesn’t do much to push beyond its predecessors’ mock-Pentecostal passion. But songs such as the opener, “I Broke The Vein,” and the interlocking “Blood For You” and “Black Elevator” weave sin and salvation into brimstone-infused stompers that transcend cartoon gospel. It helps that the production, rather than being hushed or atmospheric, is viciously sharp, full of punch-drunk drums and the stinging twang of strings. In spite of that attack, Sollee and his congregation of pickers, pounders, and pluckers are able to ply a certain amount of delicacy—albeit of an eerie sort—on tracks like “Out Of The Mountain,” a morally out-of-joint cautionary tale, and “It Came From The Sea,” the almost obligatory shanty. By hewing to a bleak, Appalachian theatricality without winking or hedging an inch, Dead Reckoning renders the Builders’ porch a stage—one obscured by cobwebs, tattered curtains, and the smoke of souls.
More from The A.V. Club