"You are one twisted fuck." So goes the final line of "The Messenger," one of 12 intoxicating tracks on A Murder of Crows, the second album from the modern progressive-metal outfit Deadsoul Tribe. That description just about sums up front man Devon Graves, who based this thematic record's songs on the following question: "If it's true that crows are carrying the souls of dead people into the beyond, then what happens with the souls of those people whom the crows didn't manage to get there?"
Trying to describe A Murder of Crows is as difficult as making sense of that question. And that's the point. Poetic lyrics mix with musical devices ranging from acoustic guitars and multiple vocals to aggressive metal that wouldn't sound out of place on college radio. (Indeed, anxiety-ridden opening track "Feed Part I: Stone By Stone" is already garnering airplay in some cities.) "I'm Not Waving" boasts chunky King's X-style riffing and arrangements while "Black Smoke and Mirrors" and "Feed Part II: The Awakening" come alive with Jethro Tull-caliber flute passages. One of the album's most accessible tracks, "Regret," mingles a tinkling piano and crushing power chords with distant yet warm voices.
Less schizophrenic and more mature than Deadsoul Tribe's self-titled 2002 debut, A Murder of Crows finds Graves – the alter ego of Buddy Lackey, former leader of the progressive band Psychotic Waltz – holding listeners captive by creating atmospheric tension that dances with uncommon melodies and surreal imagery that will provoke all kinds of bizarre thoughts.
At the time of its release, I considered Deadsoul Tribe's debut an advancement of the prog-metal genre. But A Murder of Crows stands as a musical monument to creativity without pretentiousness, a masterpiece of sorts that transcends mere genre categorization and enters an indescribable realm occupied by precious few artists.