Tao Of The Dead is the best thing the group …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have recorded in nearly 10 years. For a band that I had just about completely written off, it is an amazing achievement. Although this is only February, I have a very strong feeling this album will be high on many Top 10 lists at the end of 2011. By going back to their roots (or their Tao, if you will), Trail Of Dead have made the strongest statement of their entire career.
In 2002, the Austin, Texas group released their major label debut Source Tags & Codes on Interscope Records. For many of us fans, it was not only album of the year, but one of the finest records of the decade. Worlds Apart (2005) and So Divided (2006) followed, with an expanded lineup. I must admit that this version of the group was not really for me, or for Interscope either as it turned out. They were dropped from the label, and The Century Of Self (2009) was released independently.
When word started leaking out that the band had scaled back to a four-piece and were working on songs for some sort of “epic,” I was intrigued. On the one hand, getting back to basics was exactly what I was hoping they would do. On the other, I had some definite concerns about this “epic” business.
Main songwriter and vocalist Conrad Keely conceived of Tao as a tribute to classic prog albums of the '70s. In the vinyl days, you got two separate suites when you bought albums such as Close To The Edge by Yes, or Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. Such was his idea for Tao. The first 11 cuts segue together seamlessly, and constitute "Part I." "Tao Of The Dead Part II: Strange News From Another Planet" is a 16:32 track made up of five “movements.” These segments refer back to each other throughout the piece.
One of the things Trail Of Dead have always specialized in is the art of the slowly-building song. The introduction can go on seemingly forever, while the tension is gradually increased. Then comes the incredible guitar-fueled release.