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...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Tao Of Dead Steph Kretowicz , February 22nd, 2011 07:26

In hitting an early creative peak with their first major label release Source Tags and Codes in 2002, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead emerged as a distinctive voice in alternative music, combining creative dynamism and pure volume with critiques of modern culture. An inevitable trough in over-produced and comparatively unsuccessful albums followed, leaving disillusionment in their wake. Forsaken but not forgotten, they announced a return to form in 2009 with the independent release of The Century of Self and haven’t looked back since.

Stripped back, away from the overdubs and click-tracks, inflated line-ups and superfluous noise of a major label budget, Trail of Dead retreat to where it all began with their latest independent release TAO of the Dead. As a tribute to their progressive rock roots, the album offers a nod to the 70s with a two-part epic. The track listing includes 11 songs within a unified concept on Part I: Let’s Experiment and another pompous 16-minute tribute to classical composition in Part II: Strange News From Another Planet. There are the obvious comparisons with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in the cosmic clichés of Spiral Jetty, as well as the rhythmic continuity of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn –especially through the seamless segues between tracks. There are shades of the prog-rock forebears Yes and Rush, which Keely no doubt grew up on, while his vocal outbursts of philosophical speculation sometimes sits uncomfortably in the realms of nu-metal megalomania. Restraining the rage that made them the post-hardcore icons, it is the progressive rock princes and not the noise-metal paupers that fan the flames of this less violent but no less aggressive piece. The slow-burning amble of the album opener is broken by Keely announcing, “Ok, let’s experiment then” – as if that’s something the band had forgotten about – before breaking into another roiling build-up and grandiose guitar-riffage.

Whether a reaction to the stultifying effects of having had a record label more concerned with turnover than creativity, or a response to the limitations of self-finance, TAO of the Dead results in even more cut-backs than that mid-career Phoenix The Century of Self,. Recording the album in 10 days with an original four-piece model, this album goes some way in explaining what happened during those Interscope wilderness years. In 'Pure Radio Cosplay' Keely roars, “now we’ve lost our way/ it’s killed our sense of real time” before conceding “’just need another album to save my soul”. It’s here, that…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead presents their thesis on why the band – and progressive rock – isn’t over. They might just have us convinced.