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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