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…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead “So Divided” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Was it only last year when the boys in Trail of Dead released the critically snubbed Worlds Apart? An album that startled with waves of both brilliance and drudged self-mockery? Since the album’s release fans wondered where their Texas sized heroes had gone and if there would ever be a sincere conclusion to Source Tags & Codes. Fans also wondered when they would again have the opportunity to challenge the band’s increasingly evident limits all the while hoping that they would again be overcome with Trail of Dead’s remote vigor and dramatics. With So Divided the opportunity arises and again the band’s listener is approached with a quandary, to approach the new material believing it to be washed up before ever really given a chance, or rather to listen with open ears. Much of the listener’s direction depends on their personal history with the band, and, as the situation lends itself, history from my point of view begins with a television show by the name of Farm Club.

It was a weekly musical showcase, where bands played before a live studio audience, blossoming at a time when nü-metal was flourishing and rap, not hip hop, had infiltrated even the most outlying Midwestern suburbs. Acts such Primus were standouts and blooming bands such as At the Drive-In were not simply given air-time but the show’s prime slot. One band landed miles ahead of the rest in terms of showmanship and musical intensity however, that being …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Introduced with a video montage that visually depicted its narration, playing up to the bands excesses. Excessive amounts of damaged equipment at the end of each show. Excessive amounts of blood and sweat leached from the band’s members during their performances. But most importantly, the excessive amount of energy showcased on stage, something that was unreal at the time when considering the groups peers to be by-products of the UKs frustratingly calm patriarchs. The introduction slowly gave way to a performance that proved everything once said about them to be correct.

It is reasons such as these that anything released cannot live up to expectation. This becomes more evident as the budgets become wider and the band’s fan base becomes fatigued by anticipation.

It’s not that So Divided is a poor album, it’s as strong at moments as Worlds Apart, but it sounds like what listeners have come to expect. It makes sense for the band to approach pop songs when they’ve attempted to slice through harder emotions for years. It makes sense to give (what is essentially So Divided’s opener) “Stand in Silence” a keen riff that serving as the album’s arena rock moment. So Divided makes perfect sense, precisely its self-damaging downfall. At times it takes unconventional sound, such as the opening percussions of “Wasted State of Mind” and melds it with rock modernism; but in doing so the band stays safe, not pursuing music that serves itself or its listener. Layered pop moans and anti-dramatic ballads are fine and would be reconsidered as such under the context of a band lacking historical flashes of brilliance, but with Trail of Dead it’s hard to forget that there was once so much more. Not to say that re-releasing Source Tags & Codes would fulfill anything either, but it might be a step in the right direction.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]