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The painting on the cover of O'Death's latest album depicts a boy and a girl, with the spaces where their faces should be replaced with black sky and lightning. It's all a bit creepy, but it gives the listener some insight into what's inside the American gothic band's third release, Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin, which is filled with haunting lyrical imagery, especially in "Fire on Peshtigo," a song based on the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871, in which people jumped into the water trying to escape the flames, only to burn to death when the wind spread the fire over the water.
Despite the record's inherent darkness, drummer David Rogers-Berry says it's really about overcoming hardship. "I know a lot of people don't necessarily see it that way because our shit is really dark," he admits. "We're dealing with some dark shit, too, but this is how we do it: Try to turn something that's painful into something positive."
Rogers-Berry speaks from experience: Just before recording Broken Hymns, his fiancée, Eliza Sudol, suffered a fatal aneurysm. Making the album was a cathartic experience for the drummer, who says it saved his life.
"I would've been drunk for months if we hadn't made that record, like falling into a pit," Rogers-Berry says. "I'm glad that didn't happen."
All the same, heavy drinking ensued over the course of two weeks while the band recorded and mixed Broken Hymns. Rogers-Berry, vocalist/guitarist Greg Jamie, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Gabe Darling, fiddle player Bob Pycior and bassist Jesse Newman set out to capture some of the frenetic energy of the band's live shows. Rogers-Berry says producer Alex Newman approached the session almost as a documentarian would, essentially setting up the mikes and capturing the aggressive edge of the band's sets.
"For us, music is a physical thing," Rogers-Barry points out. "We like to get the crowds dancing and jumping around; getting people to sing along with us is what we're there to do. It doesn't always happen, because we play a lot of towns we've never been to before. We were constantly on tour for the last two years. A lot of eyes are on us for the first time; people don't know what to expect. We catch people off guard very often."
That kind of thing is bound to happen with a band that shares common ground with everyone from Nick Cave and Tom Waits to Black Sabbath and the Misfits. O'Death also digs Ol' Dirty Bastard and Dirt, by Alice in Chains, which has been in heavy rotation on the last couple of tours. All of that makes for a heady mixture of goth punk, which at times has gotten crowds frothed up and moshing to a point that reminds Rogers-Barry of video footage he's seen of Bad Brains at CBGB in 1982.