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…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: Tao Of The Dead

As exciting as …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead often is, the band’s ambition can be downright exhausting. At some point, to really blow some minds, Conrad Keely and his Austin-based brethren will have to release an all-acoustic record, but until then, they’ll keep attempting to create their own Dark Side Of The Moon every couple of years. The band has packed two such lofty endeavors into its seventh album, Tao Of The Dead. One is so-so, and the other… well, it’s fucking fantastic. The first 11 tracks make up the former. The meat of the release, it simply doesn’t satisfy. Cheesy synthesizers and hammy guitar effects abound, though the band’s baseline grind often remains furious, and Keely’s vocals are rightly snarling, as on “Summer Of All Dead Souls.” The twin songs “Spiral Jetty” and “Weight Of The Sun” show off the group’s keen ear for bright melodicism offset by careening Queens Of The Stone Age-like metal, but Tao’s first 35 minutes mostly shuffle between two distinct modes: claustrophobic, we’re-all-going-to-die pre-apocalypse, and airy, let-the-light-in post-apocalypse. Which brings us to the actual apocalypse, the 16-minute closing track, “Tao Of The Dead Part Two: Strange News From Another Planet.” Here, Trail Of Dead lets it all happen at once, finally returning to the epic, messy genius of 2002’s Source Tags And Codes. It’s a black monolith of a song, whipping the album’s earlier spacey sounds and sludgy distortion into an unpredictable, blues-tinged froth. At last, the band sounds breathless and unbound again, and as punk-prog as it wants to be. On second thought, forget the acoustic release—just give us this as a standalone EP.


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