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Album Review
Tao Of The Dead

Tao Of The Dead
by ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Superball Music

Review Date
23rd February 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

A band’s name is their calling card and ‘… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’ (whom I shall referred to as just Trail of Dead) is certainly a mouthful, guaranteed to grab one’s interest when read. As it stands they are industry darlings perfectly willing and able to divide opinions. Some love their bold genre-bending style while others question their originality. You have to take your hat off to any band with the audacity to marry punk’s explosive tempos with progressive rock’s eccentricity a la Coheed and Cambria. But do all the bold moves on display add up to more than a curiosity? That lingering question is bandied around yet again for the band’s seventh album ‘Tao of the Dead’.

All bombast aside, Trail of Dead play a familiar brand of modern hard rock music with a cinematic edge and a turbulent, proggy undercurrent. Singer Conrad Keeley generally sits between Mike Patton’s harsh sneer and Maynard James Keenan’s weighty bellow. The result is recognizable without ever standing too far out in front of the music although he does toy with gang vocals and psychedelic harmonies for extra flavour. The guitars tend do the same, just filling the space afforded to them (sometimes to the point of suffocation) rather than strike out on their won. When they actually are given a chance to shine (check out the strangled David Gilmour-esque outro on ‘Spiral Jetty’) they add considerable character to proceedings so it is a wonder why they don’t do so more often.

“Hey, let’s experiment then” is a strange thing to hear on a record as those who intend to experiment rarely announce it. Yet the album’s intro track does just that before breaking into a long and uplifting post-rock vamp. What we are hearing is a band with a cult following drawing from some of their cult heroes. First proper song (and future single) ‘Pure Radio Cosplay’ has sweaty British rock written all over it. The song’s coda is even reminiscent of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again in its interplay between hypnotic synths and sinister bass throb. Even the band must have known that it was their strongest track on the album as they reprise it later in the set. The major attention grabber on display is album closer, the 16 minute plus ‘Strange News from another Planet’. The band had epic on their mind but it ends up more ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ than ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’; that is to say overly long but with moments of brilliance to be unearthed.

Trail of Dead has certainly delivered an album to rock out to and ponder. Their style is fun but ultimately too similar to the bands on their mind when pressing the record button. Sure, we know what sort of music they are into but for all their loving performance I am left with little lasting impression. They have yet to learn from their heroes that good songs need room to breathe and impress rather than be caged up in a small, defined space. After seven albums it is a little worrying that it is still hard to pinpoint the band’s “sound” but I am looking forward to album number eight proving me wrong.


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