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Trail of Dead broadens its audience

MICHELE JEFFERS | Wednesday, February 2, 2005

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead may sound more like the name of a George Romero film than an Indie Rock band, but rather than amassing carnage with indomitable zombies, Trail of Dead unleashes its wrath through perspicacious lyrics and pulsating rhythms. Forming in 1995, this quintet from Austin, Texas (Jason Reece, Neil Busch, Conrad Keely, Doni Schroader and Kevin Allen) has just released its fourth album, “Worlds Apart,” on Interscope Records. One need only glance at the album cover’s convoluted depiction of bellicosity throughout the ages in order to attain a sense of the album’s intensity. “Worlds Apart” is ambitious and evocative, dealing with such issues as unguided materialism, consumption, and superficiality. It is not often that a band begins an album with an ode to the Egyptian goddess of fertility, but Trail of Dead has always been a tad outside of the box. The hypnotic chant in “Ode to Isis” builds up into a crescendo, creating carnal energy that underlies the rest of the album. This energy continues with the explosive introduction of “Will you smile again for me.” This track features dramatic tempo changes in which the heavy hitting guitars tag team with Conrad Keely’s sprawling, languid voice.The title track and first single, “Worlds Apart,” imposes a far less forceful sound. However, the seemingly merry-go-round melody belies the lyrics. An attack on the sad state of commercial rock devolves into invective about the shallowness of the American dream. Juxtaposing luxury and devastation, Keely ineffectively evinces that we will all eventually have to pay a price for the manner in which we live.The pace of “Worlds Apart” slows down with the reminiscent piano vignette, “The Summer of ’91.” One of the best songs on the album is “The Rest Will Follow,” an ethereal reflection on the inhumanity of humans in which Keely distressingly sings, “We are all of us so capable of the greatest acts of hate and the worst acts of love.”The album’s irrepressible energy resurfaces when drummer Jason Reece steps up on lead vocals in “Caterwaul,” a song that is especially nostalgic sounding of alternative music in the early nineties. Always evading predictability, “To Russia, My Homeland” is an instrumental waltz, featuring violinist Hilary Hahn. The album reaches a satisfying resolution with “The Lost City of Refuge.” Trail of Dead experienced modest success in 2002 with rotation of the single “Relative Ways” from the album “Source Tags and Codes,” but many people were turned off by the band’s seemingly initial inaccessibility. However, “Worlds Apart” has proven once again the error of prejudice. Having already received rave reviews, it appears that “Worlds Apart” is just what Trail of Dead needed to carve out a part in the popular alternative world.