...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - 'Tao Of The Dead' (UK Release: 7 Feb '11)
I caught ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (from here on AYWKUBTTOD) live very early in their career (a compelling set which ended with the stage in utter chaos) and have been very much a fan ever since. I even have a signed copy of 'Source Tags & Codes', the album which is arguably their high water mark.
As well as being excellent, 'Source Tags & Codes' was also AYWKUBTTOD’s last "normal" album. Since then they have embarked on a series of concept albums (this is the third), each of which comes as a single and singular statement. Epic is the word that I think truly describes their work, but this chosen path has come at a price.
For most distribution channels these albums represent a difficult proposition and the lukewarm reception accorded the first one, 2005’s 'Worlds Apart' apparently almost persuaded the band to call it a day. Now, they are essentially a two-piece since Jason Reece and Conrad Keely are the only constant members and creative driving force.
'Tao Of The Dead' is their latest release and comes with a fully illustrated back-story (courtesy of Keely) that edges them ever closer to comparisons with the Genesis of Peter Gabriel era – I am thinking 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' and 'Supper's Ready'. This latest story even has a fox-headed major character – which except for a sex change could have come straight off the cover of Genesis’ 'Foxtrot' album.
Since no one else is really doing anything quite like them, the natural comparison for this album is the rest of the AYWKUBTTOD catalogue, and in those terms it can be considered a success. It's engaging, has cool melodic lines and a tremendous variety of instrumental approaches.
Elements such as 'Summer Of All Dead Souls' and 'Weight Of The Sun (Or The Post-Modern Prometheus)' have already been released as – albeit pretentiously titled – singles, and they stand alone quite well; but it has to be said that to appreciate the album you really have to listen to its entirety. For the uninitiated who may not feel up to that, there is always the sixteen minute 'Tao Of The Dead Pt. 2: Strange News From Another Planet' which is an excellent – in both senses – introduction to the world of AYWKUBTTOD.
I can't help feeling that AYWKUBTTOD have made their lives incredibly hard by choosing to make music like this, and I never imagined that the exciting, rebellious and destructive band I discovered would become post-rock prog rockers. For better or worse they have, and I respect them for it. I also rate their talent highly and this is an enjoyable album which deserves an audience it probably won’t get.
STREAM: Trail of Dead - Summer Of All Dead Souls
Purchase 'Tao Of The Dead' at amazon.co.uk, iTunes etc.