Murder Ballads is a three-CD set reissuing the trilogy of Drift, Passages and Incest Songs previously put out by Harris (Scorn) and Martyn Bates (Eyeless in Gaza). The three albums naturally belong together for their highly stylized content. Each one is a set of original compositions inspired by, and closely following, the patterns of the West European/American folk murder ballad. While gory stories on the TV news may seem to indicate a dark curiosity pandering to contemporary man, Harris and Bates' work reminds us that such stories have always found an audience and gained life in frequent retelling. Mick Harris provides the forlorn, desolate soundscapes that have caused this music to be termed isolationist, or even post-isolationist. These attenuated pieces average about 20 minutes each. Over this cold, abandoned, synthesizer soundscape Bates intones a morbid, chilling, blue-eyed soul of syllables stretched out a gallow's length. The combination of this sanguine poetry and chilling ambient darkwave is intensely fascinating to the point of being disturbing. Harris and Bates deserve high praise for so totally incorporating this blood-drenched footnote on music history as to create such a worthy body of work to add to and continue the murderous game. The set, in an understated gold and black package, includes fittingly antique artwork and complete lyrics.
AllMusic Review by Tom Schulte