Although you wouldn't know it from reading the trades or listening to your local commercial radio station, there is a folk revival going on in the early years of the new millennium. Old-time music bands, singer/songwriters, and acoustic bards are busy every night and day walkin' down the highway and filling the air with acoustic jubilation. Well, maybe not jubilation, at least not in the case of the Builders and the Butchers. The band came of age in Portland, OR, a town better known for its long rainy winters than its sunshine, and gloomy visions of winter, death, dissolution, and decay figure heavily into the lyrics of these songs. As the band's name, album title, and cover art — with its drunken clowns, hanging carnival workers, and a stage made out of human viscera — suggest, this is not an easy listen. The band, with the help of their invited guests, takes us on a harrowing trip to the edge of sanity to peer into the abyss without sugarcoating the bad news. "Vampire Lake" takes an abrasive romp through a bloodless landscape. It's a love song from to the undead to a warm body with wailing fiddle and thumping percussion complementing lead vocalist Ryan Sollee's banshee wail. "The Wind Has Come to Take My Love Away" deals with death in a more pastoral way, like an ancient mountain folk song, its mood is sustained by mandolin lines that sound like a chorus of insects and dark cello chords. Sollee's vocals here are quiet and somber. The anti-spiritual "The World Is a Top (Spinning on the Devils Fingers)" is almost an a cappella dirge accented only by banging guitar, and while it professes to believe in better times to come, it has the air of a song being sung from the bottom of a grave as the light begins to wink out. Most of the songs on the album deal with death or the knowledge of mortality, in fact, and while the trip isn't exactly uplifting, it does have its moments. "Devil Town" rocks out with clattering percussion, guitar, and percussion to shriek a challenge to the coming apocalypse with dark, cryptic poetry. Sollee sings "You're tied up to the cross cause your life ain't worth the nail" while the band wails on behind him. "The Short Way Home" is a Chicago blues played on acoustic instruments that suggests death is the only easy way out, but Sollee's aggressive vocals and the band's forceful playing suggest that they're not going down without a fight. "Barcelona" suggests an almost Biblical battle between good and evil; the music is cinematic in its sweep, and Sollee's vocals strike the proper balance between defiance and despair. The band obviously takes a lot of time crafting dense poetic lyrics and the arrangements show just as much care, layering up orchestral tracks that create a dark, driven ambiance. This music won't please everyone, but those who tend to lurk at the dark end of the street will find much to like.