Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, September 21

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Clear Skies Ahead Congress Theater Hosts First Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival Saturday »

Review Sun Nov 16 2008

O'Death: A Flailing of the Heart


If you're looking for a view of death in Chicago the industrial corridor that is Elston Avenue is a good place to start. If you're looking to see O'Death you'd be on the right track as well. Just a bit too late.

Rolling up to The Hideout is always a bit of a leap down the rabbit hole. Wandering into the back room for O'Death's set was an introduction to a stage worth of mad hatters. This is not mellow music to fall asleep to. These are not musicians gently caressing songs from precious instruments. This band plays as though possessed by particularly unsavory demons with no regards to how much their strings or vocal cords can withstand.

Only the lead singer remains still through the set. This serves to make the contortions, swaying and thrashings of the rest of the band all the more pronounced. As the fiddle player said of his lead singer "He has to be still to sing like that. For him all the flailing's in his heart." Still, bets could certainly be placed on how many strings will be left on the fiddle player's bow at the end of a set.

Even on a Sunday night the crowd O'Death draws still dances til the band plays no more. They look more like they're attending a heavy metal show than some alt country gig. This music whips people into a frenzy. It goes beyond toe tapping, demanding concentration to keep the body still. The lead singer's slightly eerie voice, nasal and wining but in an inhuman and entreating way, is backed by insistent drums. Perhaps it's not a genre yet, but O'Death is as Appalachian Punk as you can get.

It's music that isn't meant to sound nice or sweet. It's dissonant, on the verge of breaking down. The whole band was adamant about this talking to them after the set. Or at least most of them, as the bass player had completely lost his voice and could do no more than nod and pack up his gear. The fiddle player put it best: "We aren't looking for a vibrant sound. When you're playing like this, with so much going on at once, it's better for each instrument to have a thin sound instead." Or as the banjo and ukelele player put it "a boxy plunky sound." They want each instrument to be heard, not blend together.

In choosing their instruments O'Death is careful to find ones that fit their tone. They've swapped ukeleles with other bands, only to find that they sound too sweet. Certainly, having them stay in tune for more than one song at a time is a perk. But when their player has a habit of dropping them off boats into say . . . the Atlantic Ocean, maybe a less than top of the line ukelele really is a better choice.

One way or another, O'Death knows the sound they're after, and what it will take to deliver it. On stage they are madmen. Listening later to their new album Broken Limbs, Hymns and Skin, it keeps the feet tapping. It is still not relaxing music. It's music to get the house cleaned up fast, music to get to work on time when you jump on your bike 15 minutes late, music to play late into a dance party.

And should you be inspired by their music it should be mentioned that you have the chance right now to show it. O'Death is teaming up with Murder By Death to release a split 7" with each band covering one of the other's songs. Murder By Death will cover "Home" and O'Death will cover "Brother." Murder By Death has started a contest for artists to submit art for the cover. So be inspired by one Death or the other and see where it takes you.

More on the 7" by Murder By Death after they play next week . . .

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15