Murder by Death's best music often sounds like the soundtrack to some unproduced film in which the denizens of a remote community wrestle with good and evil, and that's certainly the case with 2015's Big Dark Love, in which the eclectic Indiana quintet ponders the many aspects of love. Of course, this being Murder by Death, love isn't a fun experience in a significant majority of these songs, running from the dashed hopes of the opening track "I Shot an Arrow" and the unhealthy stalker's fantasy of "Dream in Red" to the jaunty meditation of parental affection in "Natural Pearl" and the snowbound longings of "Last Thing." The rich dynamics of the group's lineup, with cello, horns, steel guitar, banjo, and mandolin weaving themselves through the guitars and drums, certainly suits the wide emotional spectrum of Big Dark Love's songs, and Adam Turla's vocals are flexible enough to complement the many moods of the songs, though he fares best when the melodies allow him to make use of the subtle country twang that bubbles up on the album's rootsier numbers. And though Murder by Death are most known for music that sounds like a Midwestern gothic variation on alt-country, the electronic accents of "I Shot an Arrow" and the title track, the R&B undertow of "Solitary One" and the ominous echoes of "It Will Never Die" show that they're learning new tricks while still delivering music that is unmistakably their own. Big Dark Love may not make you feel good about the emotion that has driven pop music since the dawn of Tin Pan Alley, but Murder by Death bring a perspective that's honest and heartfelt, and it's a reminder why this group is still one of the most powerful Hoosier acts around.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming