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Old 08-31-2011, 04:05 PM   #194 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Tao of the dead --- … And you will know us by the trail of dead ---2011 (Richter Scale)


Unofficial winners of both the Award for Most Enigmatic Band and also Longest Band Name, ...And you will know us by the trail of dead were completely unknown to me until I read about them in Classic Rock presents Prog, a magazine I get regularly, and which exposes me to bands I would not otherwise have heard or, or thought to listen to. Sometimes this knowledge is beneficial to me, sometimes not, but in the case of (look, let's just call them “Trail of dead”, ok? My typing fingers are just not up to this!) Trail of Dead, the experience looks to be positive, at least for this album.

Their seventh, the album is broken into two parts called, not surprisingly, “Tao of the dead part one: Tao of the dead” and “Tao of the dead part two: Strange news from another planet”. The second part is taken up by one sixteen-minute composition, while the first part comprises eleven tracks, almost all of which are short. The album opens with an instrumental, “Introduction: let's experiment”, which begins as a barely audible piano melody which is suddenly upstaged by heavy guitar, leading into the first real track, “Pure radio cosplay”. It's a heavy track, relying again mostly on guitar, with sometimes hard to make out vocals, but it does get your attention.

It's followed by the first single from the album, the post-punk “Summer of all dead souls”, with a lot of feedback guitar, frenetic drumming and mostly shouted vocals, but some good synth parts too. Near the end of the song it goes all acoustic, slowing down completely. It, and the previous track, are the only two long tracks on the first part of the album, save the closer, and every other track on this part is no more than three minutes long, some less than two. “Cover the days like a tidal wave” has a sort of mechanised vocal, and more feedback guitar, thumping drumming and some weird effects that add to the track. The end of it sounds like the opening to Pink Floyd's “On the run” from “Dark side of the moon”...

Trail of dead is the brainchild of longtime friends Conrad Keely and Jason Reece, each of whom play guitar, drums and also sing on this album, with Keely also playing the piano. “Fall of the empire” is a slower song, but not without those heavy guitars (get the feeling there will be no ballads on this album!), and some more cool effects. Very atmospheric. To be fair to Keely, or whoever is doing vocals on this track, since they both sing, though the guitars are very loud, he has no problem not only being heard above them, but understood. That's a powerful voice right there.

Still not too sure what to make of this album. I've never heard anything close to it before. It's almost as if a punk band had got fed up bashing out the same chords and started fiddling with keyboards and complex arrangements. A punk prog rock band? It really does sound that close. There are elements of Tears For Fears around the “Seeds of love” era, or a really sophisticated Clash. I'm sure there are many influences coming to bear on Trail of Dead here, and it ends up being a real hybrid sound, hard to pin down.

“Spiral jetty” is almost an interlude, so short is it, then “Weight of the sun (or the post-modern Prometheus)” is an acoustic start which turns into another heavy number --- those crashing guitars are never too far away! --- with some pretty frantic piano work from Keely. “Pure radio cosplay (reprise)” is essentially a guitar workout with some lyrics thrown in, then “Ebb away” is the slowest and most restrained track so far, not a ballad but close to one. Sort of. Part one ends with “The Fairlight pedant”, the only other long track other than the two already mentioned, at just under six minutes. It's an instrumental, but more than that. It's a full-fledged jam where the guys get to try out their best moves and really show what they're capable of. Speeding up to almost unthinkable pace, slowing back down, speeding up again... it takes your breath away.

And so ends part 1, and we're into “Strange news from another planet”, which is broken into five separate parts, though I think I'll have to guess where one ends and another begins. It starts off with a heavy rocker, this being the first movement, as it were, called “Know your honour”, where even Keely struggles to be heard above the roar of the guitars and the pounding of the drums. What I take to be the second movement, “Rule by being just”, features a slowing down of the tempo, a more introspective (for these guys!) mood with picked guitar and backing tracks a la Pink Floyd, and an almost bluesy air.

A keyboard passage and a speeding up of the tempo introduces the third movement, “The ship impossible”, an instrumental passage, with a Rush-style bridge (circa “Caress of steel”) to the fourth movement, “Strange epiphany”, a sort of boogie rocker with a really odd Santana-ish ending. And so to the closer, and final and fifth movement, “Racing and hunting”, a big and brash finale that takes this huge track to an immensely satisfying conclusion.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a little shellshocked by this album. I knew it was going to be different, just didn't realise how different! It's kind of hard to judge it properly on one listen (Probably should have spun it a few times before trying to review it then, eh? ---- Shut up, Ghost Who Never Lies: you're no help at all!) --- I'm pretty sure I don't dislike it, but whether I love it or not is something I can't say at this point. I've just never heard anything like this at all. Ever.

Probably the only way you'll be able to judge for yourself is to listen to it. To paraphrase “The Matrix”: you can't be told what “Tao of the dead” sounds like. You have to hear it for yourself.

TRACKLISTING

Tao of the dead part I: the tao of the dead
1. Introduction: let's experiment
2. Pure radio cosplay
3.Summer of all dead souls
4. Cover the days like a tidal wave
5. Fall of the empire
6. The wasteland
7. The spiral jetty
8. Weight of the sun (or the post-modern Prometheus)
9. Pure radio cosplay (reprise)
10. Ebb away
11. The Fairlight pedant
Tao of the dead part II: Strange news from another planet
(i) Know your honour
(ii) Rule by being just
(iii) The ship impossible
(iv) Strange epiphany
(v) Racing and hunting
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