Texan rockers’ seventh album will be remembered as another high point.
Stephanie Burkett 2011
Seventeen years (!) and seven albums (!!) down the line and …Trail of Dead are producing some of their most consistent – and best – work yet. That’s not merely noteworthy in this day and age, that’s staggering – and considering Tao of the Dead was written and recorded faster than any of their previous albums by some distance, the only logical conclusion is that, when placed next to 2009’s wonderful The Century of Self, it represents one of rock’s most beloved bands hitting as rich a seam of form as we’ve seen before.
As revered as Source Tags & Codes (their calling card and still the go-to album for noise-rock newbies, with good reason) still is, there are moments on Tao… that surpass it for sheer joyous racket-making. Summer of All Dead Souls and Weight of the Sun (Or the Post-Modern Prometheus), for example, burn with firestorm guitars and air-punching choruses and mix melody and squalls of noise with the deft touch you’d expect from a band this accomplished. The core of the band, Jason Reece and Conrad Keely, might have chosen to switch up their supporting cast but in staying true to their ineffableness they’ve updated their sound without leaving anything behind.
But what makes Tao… feel so fluid is the fact the likes of Cover the Days Like a Tidal Wave, the sunny The Wasteland and Ebb Away, as happily woozy a song as …Trail of Dead have ever written, are so restrained. There’s more of a rhythm and cadence to the record as a whole than we’re used to, and it succeeds in making Tao… arguably more of a complete journey than even Source Tags….
And closing the album with the 16-minute Strange News From Another Planet only accentuates this as it’s like a microcosm of the entire record – fluid, liquid grooves rushing into thudding passages of chunky aggression and back again, all in what feels like the blink of an eye.
The conclusion, then, is clear: both as a standalone record and part of …Trail of Dead’s considerable canon, Tao of the Dead will be remembered as a high point.