... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
The Century of Self (Richter Scale)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Feb. 27, 2009
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of DeadThe Century of Self (Richter Scale)
Trail of Dead's post-major label debut, The Century of Self, may be the Austin institution's most conceptually complete work to date, a post-prog cathedral of mythical mini-epics, though it's by no means the band's masterpiece. Whereas 2005's Worlds Apart and the following year's So Divided fractured beneath the weight of TOD's disillusioned angst and grandiose ambitions, this sixth LP marks a welcome return to the destructive urgency of the group's 2002 triumph, Source Tags and Codes. Cornerstone "Far Pavilions" finds strength somewhere in between, balancing not only mood with movement but also multi-instrumentalist Jason Reece's brute force with singer/guitarist Conrad Keely's moody blues, the pendulous push and pull between the band founders adding further momentum to the metallic march. The shimmering "Inland Sea" and "Bells of Creation" remedy the Renaissance flair of last year's Festival Thyme EP, while the sentimentalism of "Pictures of an Only Child" and Reece's mellow "Luna Park" allow a bit of breathing room and reflection. The quicksilver rush of "Isis Unveiled" gives way to a jarring wall of staccato stabs, like cold steel on steel, only to return in full force. The near-constant song cycle of birth and decay does grow a bit tiresome, especially in the chamber rock symphony "Halcyon Days," but then Trail of Dead has made a career out of destroying its own beautiful creations.