Pioneering Austin-based rock band And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead return with their third and most compelling full-length yet. So Divided packs a hook-laden punch, as equal parts anthemic guitar, layered orchestration, and bitingly introspective lyrics crash and interweave.
This Austin quintet's metamorphosis from scrappy art-punks to great American rock band is complete with these 11 tunes, even if the layered harmonies, blithe melodies, and textured hooks of numbers like the gig-gone-wrong tale "Eight Days of Hell" owe as much to the Beatles as to the Beach Boys. The lyrics remain as opaque and allusive--of personal trauma, cultural unease, assertive rebirth, and disconnection--as they were in the days Trail of Dead were known for literally shedding blood on stage during savage performances. But the group's far more sophisticated on their fourth major-label release. Their range and ability to create grand soundscapes have grown thanks in part to smart casting. King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, slide guitarist Daniel Wilcox, and Dresden Dolls pianist-vocalist Amanda Palmer are among the guest who add color to some of this disc's most emotionally vibrant arrangements. Nonetheless, it's the core group's now-fully-realized flexibility that makes the galloping polyrhythms of "Wasted State of Mind" rub comfortably against the bull-in-a-china-shop guitar-rock of "Stand in Silence" and the staggering T. Rex riffery of "Naked Sun." The album closes with the epic, two-part "Sunken Dreams," which wraps the group's muscular guitar-driven nucleus in a vocal choir, waves of reverb, and elements of musique concrete to create a sweeping backdrop for a tale of love among the ruins of a post-nuclear world--or a barren soul. It's captivating. --Ted Drozdowski