Texan group …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead transgress a variety of genres with their latest release IX, once again showcasing the bands ability to remain an enigmatic force. IX, the follow up to 2012’s Lost Songs, presents the listener with a jigsaw of melody and harmony, indicative of Trail of Dead’s ability to challenge all genres.
Opening track ‘The Doomsday Book’ is uplifting, repetitive rock with no set vocal structure, which fans will certainly be accustomed to. The transition between ‘The Doomsday Book’ and second track ‘Jaded Apostles’ is a strange one, perfectly illustrating the bands unsettled nature. Uplifting quickly becomes gloomy, with ‘Jaded Apostles’ setting the tone for the rest of the album. It is quickly apparent that IX is somewhat subdued when compared to previous releases.
Trail of Dead’s predilection for messy distorted punk-esque song writing has been nullified and we are left with what can only be described as their most mature release yet. One of the band’s most endearing qualities is their ability to contort our expectations with every new release. You are never quite certain what you are going to get with Trail of Dead and expectations are usually ambivalent. Each album offers a range of tracks that seem unconnected and discordant and IX is no different. True to form, there isn’t a single track on the album that can be described as outstanding or mind-altering with possibly the exception of standout track ‘How To Avoid Huge Ships’, which is an eloquent crescendo of orchestral enchantment. The anthemic instrumental breaks up the album nicely, acting as an interlude that offers something different whilst satisfying the senses. The album’s second half begins with ‘Bus Lines’ and ‘Lost In The Grand Scheme’, which teeter the line of pop but stop just short before returning for a second instrumental, ‘Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears’. This second attempt at orchestral greatness doesn’t really fit in and comes across as a desperate attempt to add a sense of grandeur to the album.
Conrad Keely’s distinct yet unusual melodic vocal style is prevalent throughout IX and can draw comparisons to Michael Stipe with a hint of Chino Moreno (yes…really). Keely uses his voice effectively as an instrument to augment and capture the mood of each lyric-heavy track. His vocal style can however become tiresome and at times irritating, taking away from the seductive artistry of each song. Perhaps what keeps this album from becoming a tedious mesh of monotony is drummer Jamie Miller’s ability to single-handedly take each song to the next level. He gives IX a sense of impetus and purpose and without this, interest would almost certainly wane early on.
This is a typical Trail of Dead album; uncertain and at times chaotic in its execution, yet an evolution of their sound is evident despite this being their ninth studio album. Trail of Dead are a musical hook away from achieving something special, but that isn’t their style. Long may it continue. Adam Young