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Music Review: O’Death – Broken Hymns, Limbs, And Skin

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After self-releasing their first two albums Carl Nemelka Family Photographs (2004) and Head Home (2006), Brooklyn-based quintet O'Death finally release their independent label (Kemado Records) debut for the band's third full-length LP Broken Hymns, Limbs And Skin.

O'Death is unique in the sense that it features all of its original members — Greg Jamie, vocals/guitar; Gabe Darling, banjo; Bob Pycior, fiddle; Jesse Newman, bass; and David Rogers-Berry, drums — dating back to the band's 2003 inception while each was attending Purchase College (State University of New York).

With each subsequent album and each passing year, O'Death has grown from its modest roots as an imaginative, yet very raw band. But even though the band members were doing something each of them loved, the music took its toll.

Rogers-Berry recalls how creatively drained the band was after Head Home was released: "By the end of that year [2006], I was like, I don't know if I can do this project. This is making me really crazy and sick and I don't like it" (press release).

O'DeathUltimately the band started writing and playing again, which led to the much more toned and focused Broken Hymns, to which Rogers-Berry enthusiastically proclaims that this is "why we have this band."

Known for its combination of traditional folk and punk melodies, O'Death mixes in other genres and sounds throughout the fast-paced LP. "Lowtide" opens with a banjo solo that sounds somewhat eastern before the band jumps into their brand of gypsy bluegrass. In "Legs To Sin," what might be interpreted as manic is instead the precursory replication of a future improvised live performance.

In an almost whirlwind-like fashion, Broken Hymns bounces through genres and often intertwines some without so much as a brief pause. The tempo feels naturally inviting, similar to a village gathering celebrating a local marriage with "Mountain Shifts" being the lone song to ever suffer from the forced reaction of a scripted response. Much of the album, on the other hand, embraces spontaneity to the point where even the obvious experimenting of "On An Aching Sea" can feel spur-of-the-moment.

Dedicated to Eliza Sudol, the late fiancé of Rogers-Berry, O'Death's Broken Hymns, Limbs And Skin excitedly captures the blending of multiple musical genres in route or in most cases on the fly.

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