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Texas art-rockers successfully
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...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -
The Century of Self

(Mosley Music / Interscope Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 7, 2009
Trail of Dead

Review by Tony Bonyata

First off, let's simplify things from here on out by referring to Austin art-rockers ...and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, simply by Trail of Dead - if only to save me from having to type in this laborious name repeatedly for this review.

On their sixth album, The Century of Self, Trail of Dead [yes...much better] apparently have taken some of the criticism of their last two records (So Divided from 2006 and Worlds Apart the year before) to heart. Many claimed these two previous efforts documented the band's music becoming more bloated, bombastic and confused in scope. But now the Texas rock trio have tapped into the essence of what made their 2002 breakthrough album, Source Tags & Codes, so magical. Utilizing apocalyptic rock dynamics, blissful melodies, gargantuan guitars and songs that seem to follow a path towards the same goal, this is a record that fans of the band have surely been waiting for.

While there's no denying that there are still some moments of inflated excess on these 13 tracks, the overall feel is that of a brilliant prog-rock album from the early '70s - most notably Genesis' 1975 masterpiece The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway...which, not so surprisingly, Trail of Dead brilliantly covered a song from ("Back In New York City") for their limited Worlds Apart EP in 2005.

Rock brilliance abounds on the melodic and shimmering anthem "Bells Of Creation" and the propulsive rockers "Far Pavillions," "Isis Unveiled" and the call-to-arms harmonies throughout the majestic "Fields Of Coal."

And like any good art rock/prog band before them (perhaps closest to early King Crimson), Trail of Dead temper some of their monstrous heaviness with moments of necessary solitude on numbers such as the piano-driven "Luna Park," "Picutres Of An Only Child" and "Insatiable One & Two," even though a couple of these manage to slowly swell into crashing crescendos.

The epic body and soul of this sprawling effort is expertly cloaked by intricate blue ballpoint pen illustrations created by singer Conrad Keely for the album's cover art; blending a sense of ancient East Indian religion, with J.R.R. Tolkien-meets-Gary Gygax mythology along with the eclectic imagination of Monty Python alum-turned-film director Terry Gilliam. Now if that ain't prog-rock on paper, I don't know what is.

Related articles:

Motor City Music Conference (MC2) - Detroit, MI - Apr. 2005
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Oct. 2004
Source Tags & Codes - CD review

Watch ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -
"Bells Of Creation (live)"

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