Reviews Murder By Death The Other Shore

Murder By Death

The Other Shore

Not many bands can make it eight albums into their career without a single dud. Murder by Death's mainstays, Adam Turla and Sarah Balliet, have spent nearly 2 decades honing their skills as songwriters, and they’ve let their growth lead us out into Space. The Other Shore has Turla returning to more of a long form narrative again. However, it may take a few listens to get a firm grasp on how to interpret the story. Basically, the Earth is going to shit and a couple go their separate ways. The overarching themes are loneliness, love, and regret with all of space as its backdrop. 

The Other Shore started out as a space-rock opera of sorts that was heavily influenced by David Bowie. You will undoubtedly hear those influences later on in the record. However, the story begins on Earth. Fittingly, the Americana/Folk-Rock sound that Murder by Death have molded into kicks off the album on, “Alas.” The track introduces us to one half of the couple (lets call them Lead-A) that the story focuses on with them leaving presumably to find another planet to inhabit. “Chasing Ghosts” introduces the other main character (Lead-B) to a mid-tempo bluegrass number. If you’ve come looking for some aggressive Folk-Rock, “True Dark” is for you. It’s deeper in tone and finally feels like an introduction to new bassist, Tyler Morse. How I view the story over the past couple of songs is the second lead has been growing remorseful and is finally taking off to find Lead-A. What I interpret to be the first act, ends with the driving track, “Stone.” 

The second act is where The Other Shore shines. This is where the record enters its more dynamic, space-y, sound. “Travelin’ Far” keeps us following Lead-B. The track is primarily acoustic guitar and banjo. David Fountain manages to capture the musical equivalent of twinkling stars. It’s magical and beautiful and I don’t think there’s a better soundtrack that could go along with a line like, 

"Travelin' far
To be where you are
Travelin' far
Towards the brightest star"

It’s the most effective song for the listener to really develop a mental image of what’s happening. We finally catch up with Lead-A on “Only Time.” Balliet succeeds elegantly in using her cello to convey drifting through nothing-ness in complete solitude. Murder by Death start to pull out a little psych-rock on “Space,” with its whirring chorus and distorted layered vocals in the second verse. When I first heard this album being coined as a “space-western” this is exactly the type of song I was hoping for. It’s something very fresh from the band and I’d love to hear more like it. “Bloom” brings the second act to a close with what I believe is Lead-A finally landing on another planet.

Next up is “I Have Arrived.” It’s kind of jarring going into the song. The track is incredibly upbeat and a stark contrast to the dread and loneliness we’ve been feeling for most of the album. Musically, it doesn’t fit into the album well, but it’s an integral part of the story. You could say the song serves as a recap of what’s happened so far as well as kicking off the final act. Lead-B has finally reconvened with Lead-A… after 4 years. Narratively, it’s a little unclear if the character(s) in the last two tracks are still Leads A and B with their child or the son and grand-daughter of the leads (who are now dead?). What does seem to happen is either the leads go back to witness the Earth finally crumble or their child goes back to witness his parents’ homeworld come to and end. “Last Night on Earth” is a bit of a waltz with the character watching madness ensue on the planet. The highlight of the track is the when it turns from slow and moody to rambunctious and Morricone-esque while evoking both hope and devastation at the same time.

The Other Shore deserves your full attention to fully appreciate it. While it’s not as direct with its story like Who Will Survive… or Red of Tooth and Claw, there is a journey to follow. The tracks can stand on their own, but they work best is the context of the whole album. I urge you to really set the time aside to sit with the record and follow along with the lyrics. Murder by Death have written one of their best albums and introduced some new doorways to explore. Hopefully they’re willing to return to some of the new sounds they played with and expand on them. This band still has room to grow and that’s so exciting! 

9.0 / 10Aaron H
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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9.0 / 10

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