… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
It’s not unusual for artists to get increasingly ambitious and expand their scope as they create more music. What can be difficult is striking an appropriate balance between pretension and simplicity.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead thought they had their magnum opus with last year’s Worlds Apart. Even so, the CD failed to light up the charts. Rather than break up, the Austin, Texas, band quickly regrouped to record an EP, which turned into the full-length So Divided.
The new CD still shows Trail of Dead’s desire and penchant for grandeur and excess, but those traits are somewhat reined in for a leaner, more focused composition.
“Stand in Silence” is a simple, chasmic rocker, albeit with a triumphant-sounding interlude. While epic, the title track and closing number, “Sunken Dreams,” hit hard.
Other parts are more complicated. With its exotic percussion and bounding piano, “Wasted State of Mind” sounds as if it’s traveling at two speeds. The saxophone wails on the slow, stomping “Naked Sun” give it a noir vibe. The cynically sunny ’50s style of “Eight Day Hell” contrasts sharply with the touring woes chronicled within.
If Trail of Dead has kept its elevations in check, its dark lyricism is another matter. Wasted life is a common thread throughout So Divided; at one point, the band reveals “Venom you can’t conceive / Is pouring out of the depths of me.”
Whatever ghosts they’re dealing with, they continue to make for great music.