Plumbiferous Media

The Century of Self – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Feb 22nd 2009
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The Century of Self - ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Century of Self
Score: 87

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is not a noise-rock band. It is not a punk nor hard-rock band, and it is neither a post-rock band nor an alt-rock band. It does, however, maintain influences from all the above, and the unconventional, deep, fully formed, well constructed sounds that are not always pleasant, and not always meant to be, in The Century of Self, which was released last Tuesday, make for a great album.

One of the things you notice almost immediately is that this band never shies away from anything in order to produce the exact sound they want. And more importantly, they do not let the cacophony of guitar, effects, synth, piano, heavy drums, etc. take control of the album in doing so. Really, the only thing we can ask is that Trail of Dead consider using more bass to balance out the often shrill sounds.

On The Century of Self, Trail of Dead’s vocals are in great form, reminiscent of their excellence on Source Tags and Codes with a bit of the punkish anger of Worlds Apart. Trail of Dead masterfully shapes the direction of their tracks with their vocals, especially on tracks such as “Halcyon Days,” where each peak and ebb of the music is met by the rich vocals, and where the vocals serve as an excellent melodic accompaniment to the cymbal-laden drum line. The shifts between Keely’s and Reece’s vocals are refreshingly well-timed – Trail of Dead obviously knows which singer to feature on which track. But even more rewarding is Trail of Dead’s realization that some tracks have no need for vocals at all. “Giants Causeway” and the interlude “An August Theme” are both excellent musically in their own rights with no vocals whatsoever.

Still, when Trail of Dead does sing, it’s good, and the lyrics are both interesting and well-suited to the music. The entire album reads lyrically like a study of the thought-provoking title, and through each track it seems that Trail of Dead is telling more of the story of The Century of Self itself. The album is imbued with deep meaning – though the chorus of “Insatiable Two”: “I’m the monster, and I exist,” according to Keely, refers to a mythical creature of Sumatra, it is obviously a line meriting further metaphorical consideration. Trail of Dead knows not only how to write lyrics that go far beyond banal references to life, but how to make them musical.

With so many great competing elements on The Century of Self, extra care is essential in ensuring that nothing becomes overwhelming, and no sound begins to compete with another. Trail of Dead has clearly provided this level of care: each sound is dense, but quite obviously carefully constructed, and each transition (see “Isis Unveiled”) is incredibly well done and clear. Indeed, the album is never mushy. Sure, some of the tracks in the middle of the album are not at the musical level of, say, “An August Theme,” but the album never devolves into generic loudness. Each track is as individually crafted as possible on this slightly large album, and even though a few tracks are a tad long, your fingers never think to stray towards the skip button.

With Century of Self, Trail of Dead has triumphed. Combining excellent instrumentals and vocal elements, Century of Self is an example of their great versatility, taking its influences from completely disparate parts of the wide range of music that is rock. Century of Self is not only interesting, but innovative and well done. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, as always, knows how to put together an album – and that makes for one hell of a Century.

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