The album art for folk-rock outfit O'Death's upcoming release Outside is the most complementary selection I've seen in months. A painting portraying a saddled horse ambling through an ominous, fog-shrouded Western town, the image is a better summation of the album's content than anything I could write. This is music heavy with coming storms and a vague sense of impending doom.
O'Death uses a blend of banjo-heavy folk and high energy similar to the style that won Mumford and Sons so much popularity. But if Mumford and Sons is the high school extrovert showboating on a cafeteria table, then O'Death is the quiet kid in the corner with a perpetually grim expression and an affinity for the color black. Sure, Outside contains moments of levity and loveliness—album-opener "Bugs," for example, builds on brisk guitar picking for a sensibly poppy single. But once the gothic Americana aesthetic kicks in, it quickly defines the record.
Those ingredients build an album that usually broods and sometimes snarls. While Outside could stand to lighten up the aesthetics a bit more often, it still contains moments of evocative power. It's effective enough to position O'Death as the shadowy alternative in an often sunshiny genre.
O'Death plays the Palace Friday, April 1, for KBGA Fools Night Out at 9 PM with Strange Boys and Natural Child. $8 includes bands playing the Badlander.