Murder by Death address a number of themes on Red of Tooth and Claw, none of them particularly uplifting -- consuming passion, dark romance, longing, revenge, death, and destruction. It may sound at first like the makings of a mediocre goth album, but the band's combination of a taut, tense, elegant delivery and poetic lyrics breathes life into each of Red of Tooth and Claw's songs. Like 16 Horsepower, Murder by Death explore a darker side of country-rock, and there are two important influences in evidence here -- vocalist Adam Turla owes much of his sound to Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, but doesn't cross the line into mimicry. Instead, he leads the rest of the band in creating a mood and atmosphere that could be described as "country gothic," a sound whose dark romanticism and rustic overtones manage to be both bleak and warm. It's not unfamiliar territory for the band, which first began experimenting with it on In Bocca al Lupo. Red of Tooth and Claw carries over some of the Old West outlaw feel of its predecessor, but it's more aggressive and freewheeling here. Murder by Death are steadier on this album, and consequently more willing (or perhaps more able) to expand their sound. Cellist Sarah Balliet continues to be the most dynamic element of the band, though Turla is a very close second. His baritone meshes nicely with each of the songs as he infuses the lyrics with weariness -- at the beginning of the album, he growls grimly through "I'm Comin' Home"; in "Fuego!," he switches from a smooth croon to an impassioned wail with ease. Turla is not even above dark humor, as displayed in his deadpan delivery of the first half of "Spring Break 1899." Red of Tooth and Claw isn't a departure for Murder by Death, but their ability to keep their sound fresh and vibrant speaks well of their musical abilities.
AllMusic Review by Katherine Fulton