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...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Epic Rock

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 5, 2011 3:30PM

Photo by Boris Draschoff
It's weird to think of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead as being elder statesmen on rock and/or roll, but the band has been destroying their instruments and releasing dense thickets of music for over 15 years with no sign of slowing down. Their albums are energetic affairs, full of wild drums and guitars that dart this way and that before spinning around, knocking you down and reaching for the rafters. On their latest release, Tao Of The Dead, the band has brought some balance into their sound to create a work that, while no less a whirlwind, does offer more generous focal points with which to get your bearings.

It's funny that Tao Of The Dead feels more balanced since on the surface it's one of the group's more pretentious works, consisting of two suites designed to fill each side of the LP. While the songs that build up the album can be separated from each other and listened to independently, this is a meal best taken in one sitting. Driven by the primary architects and instrument switching duo of Jason Reece and Conrad Keely, Tao Of The Dead is indeed an ambitious work that, remarkably, never tests your patience. This might be that despite the music being broken up into two suites, this is not a concept album. Musical motifs recur, sure, but there is no cohesive thread binding the lyrics together into a single narrative. You're left with music that's allowed to wander where it wants to in order to find its natural resolution points instead of being forced into some singular story that might strip the songs of their inventiveness.

The result of this approach is an album that takes chances that work. The guitars are massive but so are the heights they reach for, and the choruses are epic but never feel cliched. And, oddly, for this being one the band's more ambitious efforts to date, the music is compact and precise; songs may run on for ten minutes or more but there's no filler in here. And the wildest thing might be that while the drum kit on each song feels like it's being smashed to bits and might not survive another thirty seconds, and the guitars build up wild crescendos before plummeting back into hard charging riffage, in the end these tunes are ones we've found ourselves humming under our breath on the L or singing to ourselves in the shower. The epic is condensed into the personal here. The songs may look like a raging sea from a distance but dive in; the waves will swirl around and chaos will nip at your suspended heels and pull at the tips of your hair while you hang there warmly suspended in the midst of it all. Sink in, give in, and let Tao Of The Dead surround you.

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead plays May 7 at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake, 9 p.m., $20, 17+