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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