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Frightening folk music

O'Death - Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin
(Kemado Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 14, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

On O'Death's sophomore full-length effort, Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin, the Brooklyn-based sextet unleashes an intense inbreeding of folk, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and even a bit of country-punk and metal. It's a creative concept that ultimately may just be a bit too scary for its own britches.

The album immediately races down from the mountain with the psychobilly number "Low Tide," complete with twisted acoustic guitar, Romanian-spiced violin and Greg Jamie's demented, snarling vocals. The mayhem continues throughout the backwoods folk-rocker "Legs To Sin," the high-speed chase of "Ratscars" and the disquieting nature of "Fire On Peshtigo," where Jamie agonizes and howls over his own burning demise in the middle of the Great Peshtigo, WI Fire from 1871 (a disaster that caused the most deaths by fire in U.S. history).

The overall production of this album is slicker than their decidedly more rough hewn 2007 debut, Head Home, yet the sound of the songs are still packed with the mud of the Deep South and axle grease of a traveling carnival. No matter how slickly produced this record could've gotten, though, it would still be knee-deep in mire and cloaked in Spanish moss due to Jaime's haywire hillbilly howls and spastic shouting through most of these numbers. He does manage to tone his carny-barking down a bit on the numbers "Home" and "Grey Sun," where - at his more subdued moments - he sounds like a frail Neil Young.

While O'Death's deranged and spastic approach to the many folk styles they've patch-worked together with barbed wire, moonshine and spent chewing tobacco can be interesting at times, it's also just as polarizing. You'll either be drawn to it like a moth to a flame or will be running away from it in horror.

Watch O'Death - "Low Tide"

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