Outside is the third album from O'Death and, for fans and followers, brings to an end what must have been a difficult wait. Since mid-2009, the group have been working their way back towards recording after drummer David Rogers-Berry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
His shoulder replacement surgery seems to have had no lasting negative effect on his drumming, thankfully, while the experience for all of the O'Death cohort may go some way to explaining the renewed introspection and philosophical approach to their music since returning to the recording studio.
As Rogers-Berry says, "I think we were interested in making something more personal, and trying to write songs that are melodically engaging and not just the crazed ravings of mad men."
The moody third track, Alamar, is a glorious mash-up of modern Mumford & Sons-style banjo-country music and an early, disturbingly haunting Tom Waits treatment. It might not be to everyone's taste, but if you're up for a bit of instrumental adventure and unpredictability, it's a great example of how to mess with the listener's head while leaving them thanking you for the experience.
Ourselves, track five on the album, shows all the signs of being short, sweet and simple as the vocals begin to draw to a close at less than three minutes. However - and unusually for Outside - there follows almost a full minute of instrumental crescendo. It's an attention-grabbing moment on a disc that tends to keep the instruments to an ever-present but supporting role alongside the voice performances.
The Tom Waits-Mumford & Sons style of O'Death's third album is remarkably pleasing, as Outside seems to combine the disturbing discord of Waits with Mumford & Sons' accessibility, emotion and round-the-campfire familiarity. I'm a fan of artist comparisons, although I don't always think they're fair - in this instance, I can't help but wonder whether O'Death might be where Mumford & Sons are now, if they hadn't been forced to take a full year out from their music careers.
Putting that to one side, Outside is acoustically pleasing without becoming either boring or invasive. It's a fine line between the two, and O'Death tread it well here. There's little courtesy given to the usual expectations of music, too - you should be prepared to hear songs that, rather than 'ending' or fading out, simply break down, each instrument played until the lyrics end and then simply cast aside.
All in all it's commitment to the heart of the music, without feeling the need to give it the traditional coat of high-gloss. It's what the modern wave of country-style music, inspired by banjo and broken hearts, is all about, so if you're a fan of the emerging genre you're likely to find Outside to your tastes.
Final Score: 79%