Thursday, March 19, 2009

...Trail of Dead album review

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
The Century of Self
(Justice/Richter Scale)

Starting in the mid-‘90s, ...Trail of Dead gained a reputation for destructive live shows and frontman Conrad Keely’s autobiographical lyrics sung in a Billy Corgan manner. The Austin alt-rock band didn’t have the best experience on a major label, which tried to make their prog rock-leaning music palatable to the masses. Now the group is back on an indie with intriguing sixth album The Century of Self.

Instrumental “Giants Causeway” leads off with a noisy barrage, like some demented version of Disney theme parks’ Main Street Electrical Parade song. From there, it’s straight into the frantic “Far Pavilions.” Epic melodic maelstrom “Isis Unveiled” simultaneously recalls Muse and early ‘90s British shoegazer rock before concluding with gang vocals. The cold gloom of 6 1/2-minute long “Halcyon Days” utilizes a chorale and organ coda. Pop-inflected “Fields of Coal” finds Keely concerned about a fatal prophesy, dreaming about aliens and losing his soul amid chants.

Laid back, melodic ballad “Luna Park” finally allows some breathing room with acoustic guitar and piano leading the way. There’s a woozy, early morning vibe as Keely describes pyromaniac tendencies on this album’s standout. The energetic “Ascending,” another highlight, has dense guitars, counterpoint vocals and some Spanish lyrics.

Finally, ...Trail of Dead caps it off with the dramatic cabaret of “Insatiable Two” and another gang-styled chant (Yeasayer and Dragons of Zynth lend their pipes). All told, Self unveils more subtleties after repeated listenings.

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