It has masterpiece written all over it...
Laura Davies
14:11 23rd February 2009

They’re back. The Texan band with arguably the greatest name in music return to the fray following their experimental, wandering fifth album So Divided. And what a damn fine return it is. Soaring from apocalyptic drama to romantic melancholy, The Century of Self could well be the best rock album you'll hear this year.

Trail of Dead are ever expanding members and morale, this time around the line-up consists of founding members Conrad Keely, Jason Reece and Kevin Allen, second drummer Aaron Ford, bassist Jay Phillips and pianist Clay Morris. The classical overture that defines each record is an impressive tale of intent with a theatrical blast of raucous rock. For those who felt So Divided lacked power, 'Giants Causeway' kicks the cobwebs out of the back catalogue.

Seamlessly thrashing kicking and screaming into second track 'Far Pavilions', Trail prove they are back producing their extraordinary sound that they would be wise to copyright. Not that fourth and fifth LPs, Worlds Apart and So Divided respectively, muddied the path, just that the critical acclaim that surrounded third LP Source, Tags and Codes, was so great – and rightly so – that the troubled follow up album curse was ever present.

And then comes 'Isis Unveiled'. Six-and-a-half minutes of music so important that budding musos should just give up now. Of course that is not what it will do. Isis Unveiled will plant little seeds of passion and percussion into all who hear. And force them to imitate, be inspired by, influence and downright copy this almost impossible balance of loud/quiet rock that Trail have dominated for the past ten years.

Conrad’s intimate lyrics jar beautifully against the layers of drums and synthesisers, none more so than on 'Halycon Days' with its French sounding harpsichord tail off. The records’ middle eight takes a page out of fellow Texans Lift to Experience's book with softer, post-rock sing-alongs such as 'Fields of Coal' and the romantic(!) 'Luna Park', before launching right back into 'Ascending' which does just that. Piano led two-parter 'Insatiable One' and 'Insatiable Two' hints back to the heady days of 'Baudelaire' on Source, Tags and Codes with its Parisian connotations and ends the record with just as much intent as it began.

Unlike almost anything on the current musical horizon, The Century of Self is an epic and, dare I say it, prog record that seemingly defines our time without sounding like it comes from any era at all. It has masterpiece written all over it.