It takes decades before we ever know who we truly are. Our lives are filled with moments of adversity that define us, and even when we look past middle age, we will still wonder if this is truly who we were meant to be. For Austin, Texas And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, a rediscovery has only just begun. Life after 2002s Source, Tags & Codes had been a bit of a challenge as they attempted to live up to the success of that record. The follow ups left fans disappointed as Interscope attempted to move them into the grave digging radio friendly territory. But now, independent from the major label, the bands latest effort, The Century of Self, has signaled a return to the Trail of Dead that we once knew and loved with a few big label production tips in tow.
Simple or stripped down have never been words in this band repertoire. They have made a name for themselves blowing rock out of the water with larger than life sound-scapes and songs that move from peaks to valleys as walls of sound give way for intricate breakdowns and orchestral segways. The tracks are long and seemingly endless as they move effortlessly from one to the next as we hear on the opening firestorm of Far Pavilions and following with Isis Unveiled. The latter track is one more opus for the down and suffering, as it is not the first time they have showed their respects to the ancient goddess (Ode to Isis off Worlds Apart).
Themes continue to play a big part on this album, as they always have with a band with no shortage of theatrics. Love, death, self-discovery, and the inevitable judgment day all make their way on to the record with allusions to god and the devil littered everywhere. This becomes more evident in the meat of the record as tracks like Fields of Coal and Inland Sea offer up personal warnings in an operatic manner. Emotions begin to take a heavier toll as the tracks move from one to the next with little breathing room. As with all Trail Of Dead records, a break is needed. The production and musical quality is incredible, but it becomes overwhelming especially when played straight through. Songs that seem to offer a slower pace quickly build into yet another adrenalin rush, as on Pictures Of An Only Child. Only Insatiable One offers an auditory break with a simple piano ballad that is all too quick, and an obvious build up into the next rock epic.
No over blown rock record would be complete without a two part song and credit has to be given here with placement and creativity in regards to these songs. The song Insatiable Two caps off the record by starting with the same vaudeville piano introduction that its predecessor (Insatiable One) does a few songs beforehand. The lyrics are kept simple yet powerful as the band sings, I am the Monster and I exist, on this summit I am lost, on these slopes I have seen the world as she was meant to be seen. Once it’s over, you are left with deep and profound thoughts as you try and decipher what this all means.
…Trail of Dead records have never been the kind to just give one listen to. Even when they were not at their best, the songs still offered much to mull over every time they took a spin. This round is no different, and in some ways, it needs even more time to digest. It seems as though the band has walked away from their major label experience with the upper hand picking up some of the polishing techniques along the way. This, combined with a return to what got them there in the first place, has made this record one of their best. You have to hand it to a band that stops and makes you think, not only about the music but also about life in general.