Plumbiferous Media

Tao of the Dead - …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Feb 13th 2011
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Tao of the Dead - ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Tao of the Dead
Score: 68

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead released its newest album, Tao of the Dead, this past week, com­posed of two parts: “Tao of the Dead,” and “Strange News from Anoth­er Plan­et.” While both dis­play AYWKUT­D’s gen­er­al­ly fas­ci­nat­ing mix­ture of punk, prog, and post-rock, Tao of the Dead falls quite a bit short of the mark set by Trail of Dead­’s pre­vi­ous releases.

Tao of the Dead opens with a well-com­posed instru­men­tal intro­duc­tion, sim­i­lar to Trail of Dead­’s last album, Cen­tu­ry of Self, but the two albums quick­ly diverge. While Cen­tu­ry of Self fol­lowed with an almost over­whelm­ing­ly pow­er­ful wave of aggres­sion, Tao of the Dead sim­ply stops. The major­i­ty of the album is near-for­get­table in all sens­es. The instru­men­tals are not quite as cre­ative as Trail of Dead has many times over proven them­selves capa­ble of per­form­ing, the vocals are some­what weak, and the mood of any giv­en track is sim­ply bland. Although the sec­ond part of the album, released as a sin­gle, 16 minute long track, is sur­pris­ing­ly dynam­ic and entire­ly wel­come, it is an excep­tion on the album. Trail of Dead has always had a very force­ful style of play­ing, and that is sim­ply not present on Tao of the Dead. Such a style might be entire­ly intend­ed, but it can’t be said to do any­thing oth­er than weak­en the album.

The vocals pro­vid­ed by front­men Con­rad Keely and Jason Reece on Tao of the Dead are as rich as ever - good news, as that’s been a strong point of Trail of Dead­’s music since the band’s incep­tion. How­ev­er, on the group’s lat­est album, they’re a bit less var­ied than usu­al. That’s not to say that they’ve start­ed to blend into the back­ground or that Keely and Reece’s vocals have sud­den­ly become indis­tin­guish­able - far from it. Instead, it’s that Tao of the Dead seems to, more than any of Trail of Dead­’s oth­er work, choose a vocal style - name­ly, the band’s more punk-inspired tone - and stick with it. That sin­gle style is dealt with well enough, but it was that vari­a­tion in tone that helped some of the band’s longest and most com­plex tracks stay on course, and so it often feels like Tao of the Dead isn’t, per­haps, as cohe­sive and inter­est­ing as it could be.

Lyri­cal­ly, Tao of the Dead is decent but fails to reach the lev­el of suc­cess of some of Trail of Dead­’s ear­li­er work, most notably The Cen­tu­ry of Self. The album is made up of decent imagery and sto­ry­telling, such as “The Waste­land“ ‘s “Keep on think­ing that you’ve found the track / On your way out of the waste­land / Each direc­tion means no turn­ing back / To the gar­den,” but it’s lack­ing the sort of gems that made tracks like Cen­tu­ry’s “Fields of Coal” excellent.

As a whole, Tao of the Dead is a decent album, but a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment com­ing from Trail of Dead. After 2009’s excel­lent The Cen­tu­ry of Self it does­n’t seem unfair to expect a good degree of excel­lence from the group, and Tao of the Dead does­n’t quite hit that high mark. It’s cer­tain­ly nei­ther a musi­cal fail­ure nor Trail of Dead­’s worst album - but it’s not a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to Cen­tu­ry of Self.

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