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|1. Intro: A Song Of Fire And Wine|
|2. Stand In Silence|
|3. Wasted State Of Mind|
|4. Naked Sun|
|5. Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory|
|6. So Divided|
|8. Eight Day Hell|
|9. Witches Web|
|10. Segue: In The Realms Of The Unreal|
|11. Sunken Dreams|
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
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A)Completely new listeners: Probably the first thing that should be cleared up is what to expect from a band called ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. The answer? Not what you'd expect. It's not death metal. It's not thrash, or hardcore, or even really punk (past fans look at section "C"). If you've been reading reviews and have seen references to Oasis, or the Beatles...those would certainly be closer comparisons than their name would imply. Why go over this? Because you'll probably land in two categories. If you like hardcore or death metal exclusively, then you'll listen for a minute and want to throw it out. Others who are just curious will probably be pleasantly surprised...because that's what Trail of Dead has become. Pleasant. For you this album is: *** three stars.
B) Those that discovered Trail of Dead through their last album, Worlds Apart. As it's been said a thousand times, if you like that album, this is the best of that album, honed, and magnified. You'll probably appreciate the melody, the knack for creating surprising easy to swallow alt rock. ***** five stars
C) If you've known Trail of Dead since the beginning...or at least since Source Tags and Codes... I hate to say it but this is not the same band. Gone is the explosiveness, the ferocity, the coursing crashing power. If somehow you skipped worlds apart and went straight to this...you'd be shocked, and probably a little saddened. * one star
Summary: Trail of Dead have proven to be a tidal wave...all power and commotion...then suddenly peace. If you can appreciate both, awed by a sunset over the water as easy as the crashing storm, Then you'll appreciate Trail of Dead's transformation.
Overall, three stars, because ultimately, the power is what forced you to listen. This album is nice. It's a great listen. But will it last? Will you feel compelled to go back again and again. No. Not really. A sunset is nice if you happen to be there...but you don't go out of your way to find it.
Let's just hope the coming night brings a storm.
The rocking, psychedelic, fuzzed out sound that everyone loved on `Source Tags' has returned, but it's now melded perfectly with the anthemic quality introduced on `World's Apart'. This new style works magnificently on standouts like "Wasted State of Mind" and the title track. I can already envision entire audiences singing along and blazing lighters to "Wasted State of Mind". "So Divided" is just an instant classic. It starts out pretty laid back, but before the second verse, the tempo doubles, racing along through the next two verses as if some amphetamines had just kicked in. It all culminates in the long, crashing third verse with Conrad screaming some great lyrics:
"You think your future is warm and bright,
But it is death and I'm your destiny.
You think you'll be protected by God,
I'll put you out of your misery."
If you haven't already figured it out, by the time you get to the end of this song you will know that the Trail of Dead have definitely got the groove back.
On "Naked Sun" Keely seems like he's begging for Oasis comparisons until a minute and a half in when you think the next verse is gonna start and instead you get a jazz breakdown with Conrad playing one of the sax's himself. The song picks back up again and kicks along like normal for another couple minutes before trailing off into a typical ToD style musical buildup, with a group singing the final lyrics ("I'll burn a way out") over and over, louder every time. Eventually you begin to hear this amazing guitar solo kind of playing way back in the mix, but it's so good you will strain to hear it. The Trail of Dead aren't known for their solos, but this one sounds like Neil Young in his prime, shredding the sh#t out of Old Black.
"Life", "Eight Days of Hell", and "Witch's Web" are three kind of "pop" songs in a row. "Life" is similar to the Beatlesque songs from `World's Apart' but better. It has an interesting piano-backed coda sung by Lily Courtney, ending in the oh-so-true line "it`s hard getting older all the same." "Witch's Web" is - are you ready for this? - an acoustic song with not only country slide guitar, but also a chorus where Conrad finally shows us he can slip into a haunting falsetto.
So, it`s a month since this has been released and I`m still listening to it regularly and still finding it amazing and that begs the question: Is this better than `Source Tags & Code?' Well...no it's not. `Source Tags' was perfect in everyway, it had moments like the title track which I would place alongside the likes of even `Sticky Fingers' era Rolling Stones, or "Days of Being Wild" which is the aural equivalent of trashing a hotel room. `So Divided' does come damn close though, it deserves at least four and a half stars.
I find it hilarious when long time fans gripe that Trail of Dead doesn't continually reproduce the murky noise rock of Source Tags and Codes. Why would a band not want to keep exploring music and growing and evolving? That album sounded like a self-indulgent garage band to me at first listen. Music critics loved it because it was very anti-melodic and noisy, and didn't sound like the radio schlock they were sick of listening to every day. It was like you've been eating plain crackers for a year, and someone hands you a steaming pizza. Of COURSE you're going to love it. Even if that pizza is only half-baked, it's still going to light up your taste buds after eating crackers for a year. That's what Source Tags was I think. Not necessarily great in and of itself, but just VERY different than the music that other bands were making at that time. I find it boring when bands reproduce the same old sound over and over again on every album.
In my opinion, Trail of Dead started getting better with World's Apart, even though it did have it's hits and misses. I liked the vast variation in style and genres explored from song to song, and the segues were very good transitions. Especially "To Russia, My Homeland", which was just PURE AWESOMENESS, and so very unexpected. When's the last time you've EVER heard something so incongruous and yet BEAUTIFUL inserted between two songs on an album. For myself, I can't think of anything that compares.
So Divided was a big step forward musically, especially in terms of orchestration (which some critics don't like just as a principle, but I can't see why when it's done well), sampling, and songcraft. To me, listening to this album is an awesome experience, especially cranked up LOUD. I played it for a friend of mine one night and he was blown away. So Divided is inspired, passionate, and very melodic without sounding like an attempt at conformity or to achieve popularity. GREAT album.