9 November 2014

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - IX


I love it when artists and bands which you had not heard for an awfully long time peak out of the woods and turn up with an new album, it is slightly embarrassing when you realise that you have missed a few releases as well; but that just means you have a little bit of catching up to do. This is the case in point for me and Texas born ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead.  These guys have always seemed to be on the cusp of greatness and their albums have always been interesting; yet they always seem to be an also ran, an afterthought and forgotten (something I am guilty of doing with them myself).  The last thing I hear from them was the 'Festival Thyme' EP which was their first release outside their major label heyday with Interscope.  It was something I really enjoyed and have always been gutted that it was half-inched from my place (for those who do not know what half-inched means - pinched).  At present the band are acting as a four piece and in the midst of a European tour to support the album, sadly I am not able to attend any of the UK shows; so I will have to make do with reviewing this album instead.

Opening the album is "The Doomsday Book", this starts like a Smashing Pumpkins number before it morphs into a folk/prog/indie hybrid.  There is an air of the Waterboys about this song and that is very high praise indeed, as it has a story telling vibe and a sense of the theatrical about the performance as well.  I love it when albums have that perception of a band playing for their collective souls, as if every note might be their last and this song delivers that in style.  The song then merges into "Jaded Apostles", somehow it sounds like The Pogues have gone prog and this is not a bad thing at all.  The flair for the epic is something that you expect from AYWKUBTTOTD, the name itself indicates that they are big on ideas; the more I listened to the song, the more surprises it revealed.  Next is "A Million Random Digits" which for some reasons give me the impression of a ship at sea in a storm, I have no idea which this is the case but that is the image that I have had in my head ever since I have heard the song.  The drumming and guitar work are so fast that a few metal bands out there will feel slow and dull in comparison; that said the singing is a jarring contrast which distracts a bit from the music on offer.  "Lie Without A Liar" is the fourth track here, it has that American alternative charm that made me fall under the spell of this band to begin with, mixed in with a sense of drama and showmanship that is very rare these days.

"The Ghost Within" begins with a slow piano lead, you would be forgiven to think that they are slowing the mood of the album down; this is not the case, the emotion on this number is just different to the first four songs.  The passion of the band is evident through this number, it is also one of the most rewarding songs of the album; the texture between the instruments is wonderful and it shows the growth of this band and how they have matured over the years.  "The Dragonfly Queen" is another example of this growth that the band has gone through.  The album seems to be heading towards a moody middle section, keeping the mood apprehensive and solemn.  But this song is just an introduction song for me; this is the song that merges into "How To Avoid Huge Ships" which is an instrumental track that builds up slowly until you are submerged under an ocean of sound.  This is the moment when the band delivers the good and unleashes a song that matches the name in terms of ambition - simply stunning.

After this we have "Bus Lines" which slips seamlessly next to "How To Avoid Huge Ships", but without trying to match the previous number in terms of sound.  As a song, this is more akin to the Brit-pop indie sound which came out of the UK in the 90's.  Considering that most of this album has been more forward thinking that most alternative music I have heard for a while, it was strange for this little time warp to appear.  It is not a band number, just a little unsettling to my musical tastes.  After this we are launched into a sea of feedback which breaks for "Lost In The Grand Scheme", this is the longest song of the album and also takes the most time to get a grips with; the familiar themes of the album start to mesh into one with this song and deliver a song which could have easily ended the album.  But to use a reference to the world of film - like the third Lord Of The Rings film "The Return Of The King", it seems to have so many endings that by the time you actually get to the end of the song you have lost the initial enthusiasm for the track.  "Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears" which is another instrumental song, this time with lavish stings, pounding drums, soaring guitars and keyboard work which sounds like it could have been written by Roxy Music.  This track merges into the final song of the album - "Sound Of The Silk".  After a certain point it changes into an Arabic sounding tune with sounds of North African strings and tones drifting over the middle section of the tune.  This section is wonderful, and then it goes into some sort of grunge attack which detracts from the rest of the song. 

Overall, this album is a pleasant surprise in a day and age when bands are supposed to fade away into the either without much of a fight.  This album does a good job at starting to redress that balance, it is a good album, but it could have been cut down by numbers or trimmed by a few minutes and it would have been a killer record.  The beginning is brilliant and it seems to peak around "How To Avoid Huge Ships", but after that track it just delivers good songs which do not quite met the standard of the opening section of the album.  It does not know when to end and that is a shame.  It is great that they are still going and it is a very good record, it just could have been a great record.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - How To Avoid Huge Ships

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead website here

But their Facebook seems to be a better place to find up to date information

They also have a Tumblr....

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you

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