After three albums chronicling the concept and adolescence of The Murder City Devils as a band, the release of their newest, Thelema, signals their radiant and assured maturation.
A departure of sorts, Thelema finds the six-piece exploring musical terrain that is as informed by the obstacles of their past as it is by an ambitious quest for the unconquered. It's a sound that can't be compared to the influences constantly referenced in early reviews of the band. Having served their purpose, those influences and markers have crumbled away and with Thelema The Murder City Devils have honed a vitality and style entirely their own, one that is elastic in structure, profound in its lyrical content, and melodic-yes, melodic-in tone.
The album is big and full-sounding, despite its short running time, and the band members constantly reel out surprising musical twists. At times, as on album opener "That's What You Get," guitars barrel alongside Leslie Hardy's distinctive keyboards, matching each step, before taking an alternate, route to the explosive finish. In more subdued moments, as on the gorgeous, string-laden "364 Days," vocalist Spencer Moody comes awfully close to ballad-like sentiment with a song that heaves and spills with nostalgic longing and bitter truth. But fans of The Murder City Devils know from experience that the singer's dark take on anything remotely emotional ensures the listener is about to embark on a soul-shaking ride. The band's trademark turbulence and bluster is still very much in evidence, as are the biting, unflinching lyrics. But this is a Devils album that inspires renewed devotion with its personal and validated tone.
Thelema clearly represents The Murder City Devils as a band that has no interest in sticking within any confines, be they dictated by genre, influences, or even their fans. The album is a resplendent accomplishment, and the bright announcement of an exciting future.