Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin

The uppercase-shunning o'death has reinvented bluegrass and old-time music for the post-punk generation with blistering energy and inventive arrangements that mix grunge, gospel, country swing, rock, metal, jazz, and jug-band music. The band took New York City's anti-folk crowd by storm with its frenetic live shows, and while the lyrics may be a bit more poetic and more folk than anti-folk, the music retains its energetic blend of punk and old-time mountain impulses.

"Low Tide" is cast in the frame of an Appalachian murder ballad. Banjo player Gabe Darling, who has developed his own style without the usual influences of bluegrass and old-time music, makes his instrument sound like a broken music box, adding odd percussive accents while Bob Pycior contributes his usual frenzied fiddling and frontman Greg Jamie delivers a shrieking, impassioned vocal. "Angeline" is a short dark eulogy to a woman who lived a bleak hard life. "Vacant Moan" is a punk hoedown that spins a frightening web with desolate apocalyptic lyrics and unexpected shifts in tempo, while "The Mountain Shifts" is a skewed waltz with a bleary, drunken wordless chorus detailing the lives of people decimated by a volcanic explosion; the supersonic coda laughs in the face of impending doom.

True to its title, Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin is heavy with references to death and destruction, with barely a shard of light. But the band's frenzied playing and Jamie's almost frightening vocals make this trip into hell well worth your while. (Kemado)


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