Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
Westerns get good when the fight scenes find their way into the pictures. The romantic side stories of winning the girl are tame and predictable, the town always needs saving from some no-good, lawless brutes and the sheriff is usually found in well over his head as it's all hitting the fan. But those fight scenes can be counted on for gratification - instant payoffs. The way the wooden stools crack so effortlessly against the bar, sending splinters loverly into the air like the seeds of dandelion flowers. The way the bartender knows a brouhaha is on the horizon and pulls himself down beneath the bar before the second bullet flies. The way some were bound to get messed up and others were bound to get killed. The way they amplified the shattering of beer mugs.
Brooklyn's O'Death shares some commonalities with a shootout that winds up leaving a saloon worse for wear and without a single glass capable of holding any liquid. The band is like the cry of a cougar and the sharp, invigorating pain that would be produced as a glass was smashed into your forehead. O'Death is more life than anything else, though the songwriting of Greg Jamie and Gabe Darling takes a more contemplative approach to back-alley country that gets freaky with folk and makes a collage of sound that sparkles like the prettiest knife. Jamie's voice squeaks as a deranged mystics would, Pycior, bassist Grabby, drummer David Rodgers-Berry and banjo player Gabe Darling play as if possession has already occurred and their bodies aren't being controlled by anyone except the dark spirits and their minions. They're possessed and soon enough, there you are too, sweaty with lunacy. Jamie sings about human hearts that are filled with bats, as he chews past his dark brown beard like a billy goat.
The band is full of authentic lightning and thunder clapping, dripping with a seediness that can only come from deep within. What they do cannot be cribbed or learned, but innate. For those of us who tend to our mundane lives as if there's no other option, O'Death graciously present an alternative to clean living and sweet dreams. Their heavens piercing wails could cause turbulence for all the airplanes soaring up in the friendly skies and turn the unflappables pale as death with fear. Catch these men in the oldest bar in Austin, a heap on the corner of a neighborhood that has horses and roosters running around in, with nary a thing in it but a modest wooden bar. The tiny room may as well have dirt floors and a haunted player piano in the corner getting all giddy. Watch them feel right at home.