Artist: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Our Verdict: 7/10
Release date: Out now
Find it at: …Trail Of Dead’s merch store
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“The band have delved deep and dug out their strongest set of songs in a decade.”
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead first appeared on our music radar in 2002 with the release of their excellent album, Source Tags and Codes. It was the band’s third full length effort and their third record deal. It seemed to all concerned as though the group were finally ‘crossing over’ having built an already formidable following in indie music circles.
Theirs was a refreshing brand of expansive post-rock, bolted to more progressive tendencies, that built to a thoroughly satisfying whole. But despite critical acclaim, album sales started to suffer in the middle of the new millennium’s first decade. By the band’s own admission, they nearly called it a day.
Fortunately the quartet now return with a bold and brilliant new album, IX, that sees the band sounding fresh and reinvigorated. It’s true to say that their ninth LP sees the judicious reigning in of those mid-career progressive and experimental flourishes, but it results in a more lean and powerful beast that’s pumped and ready to go.
Opener “The Doomsday Book” delivers a pounding volley of drums and guitars carried in on the strength of the song’s melody, soon giving way to the rumble and roll of “Jaded Apostles.” Things take a turn for the epic and emotive a little later on with the self-lacerating “The Ghost Within” delving in to some heavy inner personal angst, nevertheless set to the life-giving heartbeat of an enchanting guitar and piano refrain.
IX’s second half sees the …Trail Of Dead sound expanding, opening up and stretching out into that beloved post-rock territory, with “Lost In The Grand Scheme” in particular providing thrilling tension and release across its seven and a half minute running time. In fact the song titles prove to be just as poetic as the sounds, with “Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears” and “Sound Of The Silk” drawing proceedings to a close with stories of “…the terraces where we used to run.”
Lyrically and musically, IX feels as though it is perhaps the most personal work of …Trail Of Dead to date. In the album’s mid-section “Bus Lines” proves to be a seemingly simple tale of globe-trotting with a back pack, a very human story of travel and homesickness. Throughout “The Dragonfly Queen” too, Conrad Keely acts as accomplished storyteller, singing “We were singing and drinking and wanted to let go…” Let go of what he might not explicitly say, but there is an overarching sense of loss and acceptance throughout the song and the album as a whole.
Whether or not IX sees …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s sales figures soar remains to be seen. Whether or not you care probably depends on how you define success. Fortunately, for the rest of us, the band have delved deep and dug out their strongest set of songs in a decade. IX sees the Austin stalwarts refine their sound to come up with an energetic and highly entertaining album that is deserving of both time and attention. Seek it out.