Artist: ...And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead
Album: So Divided
Comments: Here’s the story so far for Trail of Dead; Texas boys start a band with very long name and an affinity aggressive rock and orchestral, epic arrangements. Band releases critically acclimated and universally loved major label debut. Band releases follow-up album that is widely ignored. Primary song writer gets depressed. Primary song writer gets bitter, but not angry. Band releases “So Divided”, an album that is good, but not lasting in the way their major label debut was.
Trail of Dead has always made long songs, but on “So Divided” two of the best tracks are under 2:30. Their cover of Sonic Youth’s “Gold Hard Mountain Top Queen Directory” starts as a quiet epic anchored in a piano melody before swelling into a Queen-like chorus of triumph. The other short success on the album is “Eight Day Hell” which once again uses a piano, but this time to record a Beatle’s influenced pop song. This is an unusual move for the band, as their motif has always been punk influenced long rockers, not quick blasts of upbeat pop. For whatever reason, the song works, despite some questionable backup vocals from the rest of the band.
The other major success on the album comes in the form of the title track. The six and a half minute track starts out as slow alternative song before exploding into the kind of epic instrumentation the band has not touched upon since “Source Codes and Tags”. Suddenly, the song changes from a laid back song to an urgent rocker with thumping drums and driving guitars. The song is able to balance the grand feel and urgent delivery of the older Trail of Dead, while maintaining the mature instrumentation and polished sound of the new Trail of Dead. The song is like the last scenes of the first act of a play; it serves to remind the audience of what just happened, and hint at what is to come. It provides a climactic feel despite its placement in the middle of the record.
After those standouts, the rest of the album provides good, if not particularly memorable songs. “Stand in Silence” is the most straightforward rock song on the album, and is the closest thing to the all or nothing rock intensity of the band’s earliest work. “Wasted State of Mind” is a percussion driven track that is only really memorable for its eastern feel, which sets it apart from the rest of the record. Most of the songs 5 minutes or more and the only place the length really doesn’t work is on the Pink Floyidan “Life” which sags under its six minutes.
Overall, this is a good album that showcases Trail of Dead’s maturity as artists without forgetting their rowdy, violent punk roots. Not many tracks here have the same intensity of the early stuff, but there are no snoozers on here. Most of all, it sounds like …And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead are beginning to come to terms with their sound. I cannot imagine how it would feel to release an album that was so universally loved so early in a career. The problem with that is that there is only one place to go from there, and that is down. On “So Divided”, Trail of Dead sound like they have not lost their ambition, but that they are ready to just start making records that sound good without trying to reinvent the wheel.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Key Tracks: “So Divided” “Gold Hard Mountain Top Queen Directory” “Eight Day Hell”
Worth The Money: Yeah