Review Summary: Forever Unwound!!
When it comes to 90s post-hardcore, almost nobody compares to the level on finesse that Unwound brought to the sound. Starting as a scrappy noise band with catchy, dangerous songs, and eventually ending with the emotionally devastating Leaves Turn Inside You
, Unwound truly etched their name into the punk world as the pinnacle of a non-existent genre. Equal parts ugliness and prettiness, groove and noise, despondency and screaming in yr ears, truly no one did it better than these guys. However, a few notable bands came close to this, one of them being ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead; specifically, their 1999 effort, Madonna
All that Unwound-hyperbole might make more sense if you know me; no band is as superb as Unwound in my eyes, so the comparison is one of intense praise, to say the least. Trail of Dead have always sorta been on my radar, especially their 2002 album, Source Tags & Codes
. Whilst that album is certainly an astounding piece of work on its own, people tend to write Trail of Dead off as being little more than a one-album-wonder. This is quite a shame, as their two albums prior are both excellent pieces of crazy-noise-cum-post-hardcore that kick you right in the teeth, often harder than Source Tags & Codes
You'll know exactly what I mean by this right when you push play, as you are greeted by a creepy interlude of chanting "You will know them by the trail of dead!" before eventually getting stuck on "dead." Then, you're suddenly drawn in with a simple guitar riff, that hits you like a fu
cking truck. "Mistakes & Regrets" sets quite a high standard for the rest of the album, and somehow, the band never really slows down. Throughout this sprawling piece of work, you are almost never allowed to breathe; whether this be the accident-on-purpose drumming on "Totally Natural," the nervous energy of "Mark David Chapman," the entirely different explosions in "Aged Dolls," or the broken E-string jam that is "A Perfect Teenhood," which ends in Conrad repeatedly screaming "*** you!" One of the greatest moments on this whole album is when Jason(?) suddenly screams "I am a mother-fu
cking ghost!" on "Aged Dolls," which perfectly manages to not feel cheesy or forced. This really nice sense of confidence that flows throughout Madonna
is part of what makes it so enjoyable; while they're obviously taking this all every seriously and trying to craft something great, there's also a healthy amount of joy that resonates from the speakers when you play it at the right volume.
By balancing the art, with all its relentlessness intact, Madonna
might actually be the most-well-defined Trail of Dead album. This might be hard to admit, seeing as Source Tags & Codes
is one of those rare albums, but this really is it as far as this band goes. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only Trail of Dead album without an obvious weak track ("Baudelaire" comes to mind first, sorry!). Very few post-hardcore bands are legitimately comparable to Unwound, and of those that are, it's rare to be more than just acting; thank god it's influence here. So yeah, I guess it is only an act; best act so far.