Album Review: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - X: The Godless Void And Other Stories
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
The Austin art-rock outfit reach a quarter of a century this year and tenth album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories confirms that whilst the band may have stopped trashing their equipment on stage, little else has changed with all their creative fire and passion still raging. Five years since IX was released, the opening four songs are expansive yet concise. The eerie, synth heavy Opening Crescendos provides the curtain raiser, before All Who Wander kicks in, descending guitar patterns and a simmering underlying despondence contrast with the emerging soaring sections. Something Like This with its ethereal feel follows, whilst second single Into the Godless Void echoes those early angst filled anthems, a raging fiery full pelt piece which reflect the “existential woe that all humans tend to go through – feeling that weight that plagues the mind”.
Having lived in Cambodia for five years, founder, singer and multi-instrumentalist Conrad Keely returned to Austin in 2018 and began work on X: The Godless Void and Other Stories with fellow founder member Jason Reece. The themes of the album are varied, Keely detailing “the sadness of moving away from a place that I’d loved,” while also taking inspiration from Steven Pressfield’s book The War Of Art to face his own demons regarding the creative process. “I feel like I’m writing pop music,” he says, “it’s just not Top 20 pop. It’s the pop music I wish was on the radio, the pop music I would’ve grown up with.” With Reece agreeing, the influences of Talk Talk, Killing Joke and Laurie Anderson are evident.
Don’t Look Down and Gone share emotion and tension, yet are diverse in style, the latter much slower, but with more intensity in the build-up, shimmering guitars and jagged chords juxtaposed with echoing synthesisers. Throughout the album there is a feeling of freshness, as Reece explained. “When Conrad moved to Cambodia, we both had time to live our lives and do different things. Coming back to the band, there was a new vigour to it. It all feels exciting still.” This is very much encapsulated in Children of the Sky, powerful drumming underpinning a spiralling anthemic track. Distinction in their sound continues with the brooding Who Haunts the Haunter, followed by the soundscapes of Eyes of the Overworld before the final quarter of this intensely enjoyable and thoughtful release arrives with Gravity, another anthemic track in Blades of Wind (the longest track on the album) and the edgy semi-industrial conclusion of Through The Sunlight Door.
Having played their first show in 1995, Trail of Dead has maintained an impressive work ethic over the past 25 years, and with a new line-up having recently toured the 20th anniversary of Madonna, the band have reverted to the live format of their earlier years, with Reece and Keely alternating between drums and frontman duties. The band are touring Europe with several UK dates scheduled in early March.
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories is released on 17th January through Insideout Music