Ambition. It makes the man and with a good amount of it and allows him to find his true calling with enough searching. It can be a good thing as ...Trail of Dead have shown us in the past, giving lush and active rock songs, mixing in the atmosphere taken from the post-rock side of the band and really making big albums, not in terms of sale or popularity, but big musical landscapes. Sure they have been great, but there's always that pondering of "Yes they took it far on this release, but can they take it too far?". In comes So Divided
which has been anticipated after the great release that was Worlds Apart
, molded with anticipation which was heightened when it was announced the band would be covering lo-fi and seemingly polar opposites Guided By Voices
and their song "Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory"
. The fan base was pumped and on their heels waiting for this release, but then something happened that changed their idea of what So Divided
would sound like.
They actually listened to the thing.
It started off as a normal album that has the Trail of Dead name attached to it is supposed to, starting with an intro in which this case it is titled "Intro: A Song of Fire and Wine"
which should have been a sign that this piece was going to be especially bombastic and lacking in substance, but the band played on. Indeed just a filler track playing bells and going along with the medieval theme that has always surrounded the band, crowd noises occur that fit the scene, and then the first notes are played. They're warm and even as they play the crowd starts to applaud, though the song is more fueled by their clapping and cheers than their own the music it still exists as a decent opener. The crowd sticks around for the beginning of "Stand in Silence"
which starts energetically, but then the vocals come in and everyone is left to wonder what happened to the tone of Conrad Keely's voice. It was once so driving and felt, but while it still sticks out there, its high sounding and frankly annoying. Those who have stuck up for him as an intelligent and vocally rich young man must now rely on the former of that statement following the release of this. Being at the height of their popularity, you would think the band would be able to keep together a formula for success while not being repetitive, they have done away with this formula and have brought in extended bridges that end up being the last thing heard from songs limiting their replay value. Stand in Silence
is a great example of this as while it start promising and ends up going back to the verse near the end, its too late though.
Alright maybe the first song is not enough to judge an entire album on, the next track, "Wasted State of Mind"
begins in a different way, banging tribal drums that sound like coconuts while remaining bananas. Piano joins this soon enough as does the rest of the band. By the first chorus you finally get an idea of what might come and its what you most fear. The band has pulled out all the creative stops but the result is just schmaltzy and dull. Schmaltzy is in the sense of the band giving the cabinet more of a window to perform, attempting to add the element of swing to their music, but when they do this they lose out on what put them where they are. Dull may be in the ear of the beholder, but if long drawn out passages are your thing this may be your new favorite disc. Sections of just the drums and more unnecessary effects come in to play. Eventually the drone-y croon of "caught in a wasted state of mind"
especially in such a high pitch (not super high but more than normal) just works against what the band is trying to accomplish. "Naked Sun"
on the other hand is actually one of the album's highlights, yeah its out there and yeah its long, but the orchestrated parts are actually pulled off well, also Keely finds the sense to tone his voice down as it helps out the band and their sound. The song can sound bluesy during the chorus and atmospheric during its designed break meant for the band plus keyboard, and plus wowie-wowwow, a decent guitar part. Its long but its probably the best moment on here.
Enough waiting, as after a while we finally stumble onto the cover many have been waiting to hear. "Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory"
starts with piano playing the opening melody and Keely coming in higher and more into the mix than Robert Pollard was in the original. This version is more toned down than the rest of the work, trying to emulate the Guided By Voices version until the final verse is broken into which sees the title being sung along and the piano playing until the end. Its a pretty meh cover really, but it isn't a bad cut. Has the band found their groove? "So Divided"
lists that as a possibility as with everything back to Earth it sounds like, this is really ready to rock and deliver. That is until, 1:35 in the song when things take a turn for space again; yeah they use buildup but it only leads to more of the same, quicker more snare oriented drum beats yeah but with all the buildup and no sweet stuff this is one blue balls of a track. The problem here is that it doesn't go bad necessarily, it just doesn't go good.
The last statement concerning the title track could very much be the theme of this review and So Divided
. Its good that they're trying new things but this new thing sounded unfocused and boring and will leave people not much to be happy with.