...and you will know us by the trail of dead tao of the dead
    • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2011

    • Posted by: Derrick Wiest

    If the album has died, then somebody forgot to tell ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. The Austin rockers, best known for their heavy, neo-progressive Source Tags And Codes, released almost a decade ago, have been stuck in a bit of a rut ever since. Paradoxically aspiring to refine a sound that was best characterized by its dissonance, Trail Of Dead has spent the last nine years polishing Source Tags into oblivion. Finally, on Tao Of The Dead, the band has recaptured its energy by traveling forward instead of inward. The result is one of their most engaging albums to date.

    As major influences for Trail Of Dead's latest release, Conrad Keely has cited Rush's Hemisphere, Yes's Relayer and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, and while the sonic influences of Trail Of Dead's 70's progressive rock influences can clearly be heard throughout the record, the most notable similarity lies in the structure itself: songs flow effortlessly into one another, rising and falling, but without interruption of the underlying pulse. In the era of iPods and the jukebox DJ, a concept album seems anachronistic, but that hasn't deterred bands like the Decemberists, The Streets, Titus Andronicus, and now Trail Of Dead from trying their hand.

    The album opens with quiet, spaced out synths, developing tension as they quiver and pulse, until the guitars and pounding drums kick in. The wave breaks, and rushes back on "Pure Radio Cosplay", whose sound contains traces of progressive, 90's hard rock, and punk. The album develops a driving momentum that lets up only on brief occasions, such as the beginning of "Ebb Away", when the adrenaline haze of layered instruments and ambient fuzz lifts long enough for the vocals to take front stage.

    Tao Of The Dead, predictably, in themes of mortality — a glimpse into the afterlife, if the afterlife looked like a Dethklok show — and while it doesn't hold a candle to Modest Mouse's Moon And Antarctica, in this regard, the vocals serve primarily as an outlet for record's abundance of energy. It's enough, when Keely shouts, on "Summer Of All Dead Souls", "We're the dead souls, and we'll pull you down!", if you can't help but want to shout along. Despite the album's richly layered, progressive rock arrangement and nods to virtually every guitar-driven genre from the last forty years, Tao Of The Dead is one of Trail Of Dead's least pretentious album's since Source Tags And Code, and their most epic, by far.

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    MP3: "Pure Radio Cosplay"
    Trail Of Dead on Myspace

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