...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Century of Self
"The Century of Self" is the Austin, TX band ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's latest effort. Not being terribly familiar with their prior work, under the impression that they might have been part of the Vans Warped Tour (the largest punk rock tour in my native United States), and highly skeptical of their pretentiously long band name, I was expecting dissonant screaming about fighting the power accompanied by unoriginal guitar work. However, I was pleasantly surprised and underestimated the maturity of this band.
The album started with a bang and hit the ground running. The energy was nonstop throughout the album of lyrically complex songs that cover dark themes (plenty of Satan references) and fighting the power in more subtle ways. Musical technique is equally impressive; the piano and the drums together primarily were used in crescendos, building anticipation effortlessly and then crashing down. At times, Conrad Keely sounds like he's drowning in the wall of sound, but it totally works with the themes of inadequacy and possibility of becoming a monster.
I enjoyed most of the songs, although this album was not immune to the common syndrome of "most songs sound the same." However, my favorite tracks, and also the songs that don't sound like the others, are "Insatiable Pt 1" and "Insatiable Pt 2." In contrast to the other tracks, which sound like a competition between Keely and the rest of the band, these tracks are relatively placid and dominated by the piano, allowing me to finally hear what Keely's vocals actually sound like (surprisingly refined and capable of being dramatic without sounding whiny). The piano part sounds like the typical funhouse music, which complements the lyrics about general human depravity.
Overall, "The Century of Self" is a great effort from the band. It is interesting to note that it shares the same title as a documentary about consumerism and other human ills, which are themes that this album explores. Clearly, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead did their homework, which adds a nice touch to a strong album.