...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Worlds Apart


First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2005, Volume 12, #1

Written by John Metzger


Since its inception, the Texas-based ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead has clung tightly to its lofty art-rock aspirations, but until the release of its latest effort Worlds Apart, one truly had to have a desire to find them. Known for the carnage and mayhem it customarily unleashed upon its audiences’ ears as well as its own equipment, Trail of Dead’s music was a nearly inaccessible blast of abrasive howls and blistering feedback that turned off more people than it turned on. Something happened, however, when the band signed a major label deal. Fueled by a bigger budget and a desire to make the most of its opportunities, the ensemble began to peel back the layers of its boisterous blitzkrieg of sound to reveal a dramatic suite of grand plans and big ideas worthy of its brash and bold moniker. Some of its most fanatical followers might be inclined to accuse the band of being a sellout, but in truth, the group merely has experienced that strangely missing element of the modern rock world: artistic growth.

Trail of Dead’s first outing for Interscope was Source Tags & Codes, an uneven and largely transitional affair that provided insight into the group’s ambitiously creative pursuits. In essence, it was the collective’s first stab at concocting a punk rock symphony, and not surprisingly, its subsequent endeavor Worlds Apart continues down a similar path. Although Trail of Dead’s penchant for pinning throbbing rhythms and torrential guitar bursts upon wildly explosive anthems lingers within its songs, the band not only has developed a mastery over its crash-and-burn inclinations, but it also has learned how to concoct a more perfect blend of frenetic noise and majestic beauty.

Further shedding its Sonic Youth impulses in favor of the wide-sweeping visions of progressive rock, Trail of Dead opens its new album with the slow-building chorus of Ode to Isis. A choir chants the names of ancient Egyptian gods, and just as the tune reaches its apex, there’s a shriek, the band’s name is spoken, and, with all the authority of a locomotive possessing a full-head of steam as it chugs its way around a perilous curve, the thunderous, blues-based roar of Will You Smile Again? emerges. In time, this, too, shifts gears as a muted trumpet places a quieter, jazz-tinged ambience upon the proceedings, but in total, these early moments offer a cunning entrée into the capacious dynamics of the ensemble’s expansive and multi-hued universe. Elsewhere, the title track — which sneers at America’s celebrity culture as well as its religious fervor and, last fall, served as the album’s first single — dabbles in Pogues-infused pop. Caterwaul merges Genesis with Wilco, and The Summer of '91 fuses Pink Floyd with The Polyphonic Spree, while Let It Dive and All White traverse the history of glam, from the Smashing Pumpkins back to T-Rex and David Bowie. All in all, Worlds Apart is a towering achievement that is sure to propel Trail of Dead into the very mainstream that, ironically enough, the band had long sought to alienate. How’s that for changing the world or at the very least, the landscape of the music business? starstarstar ½

Worlds Apart is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2005 The Music Box