... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead 

The Century of Self

After one richly praised classic (2002's Source Tags & Codes) and one dud (2005's Worlds Apart), Texas' Trail of Dead settles into a nice groove somewhere between the two on its sixth album. It still sounds like Drive like Jehu meets Yes, and its specialty continues to be intense songs that could double as the soundtrack to an epic film featuring demons and elves. The song titles reflect this: "Halcyon Days," "Fields of Coal," "Bells of Creation." Conrad Keeley is still not what you might call a gifted vocalist, but he stays within his limits, except for that odd falsetto on "Inland Sea."

The band also pays more attention to sequencing than most outfits in this Internet age; the individual tracks sound as if they couldn't work anywhere but alongside one another. Yet whereas Trail of Dead at first was hailed for the way it held nothing back, it could now perhaps benefit from some restraint — its foray into Weillian waltz-time piano weirdness (the two-part "Insatiable") is ill-considered. I'm tempted to say it should stick to what it does best; then again, its power ballad, "Luna Park," isn't half bad. (Richter Scale)

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