Murder By Death – Mr. Small’s, Pittsburgh Pa.

Glancing at the crowd around me at Mr. Small’s, and being somewhat familiar with the music of the band Clutch, it seemed as though Murder By Death did not belong on this bill. My suspicions were furthered by the opening band Hex Machine. Hex Machine deafened the crowd with loud, fast screaming metal. While they were gifted with technical skill, I was unimpressed, as was the girl who was kind enough to give me her front row position for Murder By Death.

As they began their set, the Indiana-based quartet proved that they can hang with the hardest. While maintaining the sound and feel they’re known for, Murder By Death rocked it harder, better, faster, and stronger, delivering a hypnotic, energy driven performance. Even the gruffest metal-heads in the crowd were rocking out to a band that has an electric cello as one of the lead instruments.

Speaking of the cello, Sarah Bailliet makes her home at the left side of the stage. With her keyboard and electric cello, she is the most captivating member of the group. Not to discredit the rest of the band’s onstage personas, but Bailliet’s constant writhing and swaying makes it near impossible to tear your eyes away from her.

Drummer Dagan Thogerson plays with an intensity that is almost startling. By the end of MBD’s set, his newsboy cap is completely soaked through with sweat. The tuning of his kit is so precise, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I imagine he would fit in just as well with any hardcore metal act as he does with the post-punk Americana sound he is currently dominating.

Frontman Adam Turla is a charismatic leader, his voice not losing any part of the Johnny Cash-esque tone he’s become known for. He, however, adds a fierce edge to his vocals that can’t be captured in a recording studio. His multiple instrument changes display an impressive artillery of guitars, while his onstage demeanor keeps the audience entertained with references to “sweet, sweet zombies.”

Matt Armstrong rounds out the group on bass. He remains strong and focused throughout Murder By Death’s set, letting the crowd take in his skilled playing. Now, we’re all familiar with the classic trick of playing your electric guitar with a glass beer bottle, but Armstrong gives us a new take on it by applying it to his bass as opposed to a regular six-string.

By the time they were through, Mr. Small’s was packed to the gills with Murder By Death fans, old and new alike. Their rousing performance is one that will take them far, provided they keep up a vigorous touring schedule. Catch them in a city near you on their headlining tour, which runs through the end of May. Find dates on Murder By Death’s MySpace page.

Murder By Death: website | myspace

~Sara~

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