Texas noise-rock act …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead has always excelled at buffeting listeners with surging sound, though over the course of its last couple of albums, it’s made earnest yet largely unsuccessful efforts at broadening that attack. Worlds Apart and So Divided dabbled in psych-pop, stoner-funk, twangy folk, and electronica, while continuing to expand upon the proggy elements that were always part of the Trail Of Dead method. Now newly released from Interscope, the band goes back to basics, recording an album that’s all about generating tension by pulling constantly between grandeur and violence.
The Century Of Self still shoots for arena-filling bigness—at times it recalls mid-period U2, or Phil Collins-era Genesis—but the arrangements are much less fussy or actively experimental than the band’s recent major-label records. Most of Century follows the model of “Isis Unveiled,” moving organically from anthemic swell to monotone dissonance before exploding out again. Sometimes the rigid pattern of power-murk-power gets a little too predictable, but the pleasure of having a Trail Of Dead album that contains mostly good parts and no blind alleys more than makes up for any reduction in ambition. When the band roars through “Fields Of Coal” (a candidate for “Song most likely to be accompanied by the USC Marching Band at next year’s Grammys”) or the Pink-Floyd-meets-Wagner epic “Halcyon Days” (the perfect soundtrack for a fighter-jet strafing run), they sound exactly like Trail Of Dead should.