(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CD review - And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, The Century of Self (2009)

I saw Trail of Dead earlier this year and was quite impressed. I don't often do a separate CD review when I've just covered the show, but, in this case, it's been overdue. The Century of Self has a classic concept album feel, where the songs all fit together into a greater whole. The album has a complex, rich theme. It deals with having no control over the fates and the loss that it entails, then covers the idea of moving past all of that -- and what effect your choices will have on the person you become. Maybe I'm reading more into this than I should, but it's a moving collection of songs. Don't get the wrong idea, though, This isn't a pity party. There's plenty of frustration and rage, all in service to the album as a whole.

Musically, it's quite interesting. There are two main thrusts. On the one hand, the songs mostly follow a progressive rock aesthetic, ignoring simple chord progressions and tight repetition. On the other hand, the vocals and instrumentation assert a punk/hard rock vibe that is emotional and cathartic. It's a bit like Green Day forming a supergroup with Jane's Addiction, playing Porcupine Tree material. There's also a strong element of Who's Next era Who, which seems to be a common prog rock influence.

The songs themselves are all fairly strong. Favorite standout moments include Bells of Creation, Pictures of an Only Child, and Ascending. Each has their own role and strengths.
The lyrics on Bells of Creation are beautiful; there's a sense of dawning opportunity. Musically, it's a bit like a slower version of Oceansize by Jane's Addiction, with a nice percussive groove and a huge sense of openness.

Pictures of an Only Child
is a deeply biographical song, sad with a sense of loss. They build the energy perfectly, dropping out to underscore the impact of the lyrics.

Finally, Ascending is amazing. The song is a hard rocker, with some of that Green Day feel. The vocals interlock and relate, but neither quite echoes or leads. What should be the background voice often precedes the narrative voice. Driving and bombastic, this song whipsaws the ears, but it's not noise...

Warm a little brandy by the fire and visit The Century of Self.

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