Artist: O’ Brother
Album: The Death of Day
Label: Favorite Gentlemen Recordings
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Review by: Eric Pettersson
2. The Great Release
4. Division of Man
5. Oh, Charitable Thief
I get into the car with my younger brother and insert this CD for the first time, not knowing what to expect. Halfway through the opening 30 seconds of feedback, he asks me, “What kind of music is this?” Not having heard the band before, I gave the usual older brother response and said, “Just listen and you’ll find out.” This was not satisfying for him, and he demanded I name a genre since it was not the type of rock he was used to hearing during all those hours of Guitar Hero. As I listened closely, my embarrassing admission was that I had no answer. It was good music, certainly, but what to label it was just beyond my grasp.
Were it 2003, I would have instantly called this screamo without hesitation, but the fact is there’s actually no screaming. The vocals are clean and strong (think recent Thrice or As Cities Burn), and the music is more pensive than angsty. I’ve thought about calling this “melodic post-hardcore,” perhaps adding the phrase “with a hint of emo,” but that description is more bland than helpful, so as is usually the case with creative artists, it seems describing the music itself will provide a better review than just trying to label it.
The music is somewhat heavy, somewhat dark, but at the same time melodic and artistic. Guitars feel powerful without a lot of distortion, and they are often muddy in a way that actually sounds good with the overall feel of the songs. Some of the more complex arrangements remind me of certain Further Seems Forever songs, even while maintaining a heavier and more mature sound. The vocals are as close to Thrice as possible without being a rip-off. The singer not only has a good voice, he also knows how to use it best within the context of this type of music. Occasional bells enhance the sound to create a more avant-garde style, and the increasingly-popular Timbre lends her talents to play the harp.
The lyrics are poetic and well-written, usually dealing with darker themes like loneliness, death, doubt, despair, and broken friendships. “Providence” ends with the vocalist softly singing, “If pride is a kingly crown, then on my head it’s overturned. I hear the simple swells of grace falling down like rain.” It is an album about dealing with the struggles of life and looking for that scrap of hope at the other end, which is ultimately found in God. It reminds me of a lot of the questions that show up on Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging inside Me (or the Psalms, for that matter). It’s sure to connect with a lot of people who have realized that there are no easy answers in this life and who are living in the confusing and complexities that such a realization creates.
Overall: O’ Brother’s The Death of Day is an album that digs deeper than the average. The music rocks in an intricately-crafted way, and the lyrics are the poetry that develops out of looking for God while living in a world full of darkness.