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…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: Festival Thyme

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: Festival Thyme

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…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

Festival Thyme EP

Rating 2.5

Label: Justice Records

If Trail of Dead were jocks, it would not be hard to imagine their motto being “Go Big or Go Home.” Without employing the Boston Symphony Orchestra or assigning 10 auxiliary percussionists to 10 frivolous booming drums, Trail of Dead attempt epics every time their producer hits the switch. The result is never Bat Out Of Hell or Physical Graffiti, but simple, intense guitar lines set up massive gaps for the perfectly syncopated double percussionists to fill. The music is not nearly as frantic as they would like you to believe, but with the emphasis of Festival Thyme leaning stronger on structure than noise, Trail of Dead prove there still might be room for talent in bands that are mostly known for being loud.

This four-track EP starts with “Bells of Creation,” composed of a textbook classic-rock verse and a standard Trail of Dead chorus. The song hardly reinvents the wheel for the band and could easily become background music. But a sharp change at the end provides an interlocked drum arrangement that makes the listener immediately forget how dull the previous two minutes have been.

The second track, “Inland Sea,” provides a noticeable change in the direction Trail of Dead is taking on this EP. It begins with a flickering piano line, followed by Euro-aping synthesizers; if there ever was such thing as an ’80s synth-pop epic, this song would be comparable. It swells and crests like all Trail of Dead songs do but stays true to the unique idea it began with. And after all the heavy guitars and drums crashes ring out, it is still that simple piano line paired with the unlikely keyboard tones that makes the song interesting.

Nothing Trail of Dead has ever done though can hold a candle to the EP’s title track. A whimsical bass gives a brief introduction before rolling snares and lush acoustic guitars open the track to a panoramic sound. A friendly vocal melody fits the tone and keyboards take on the sound of skipping string instruments. The ample percussion is present but not abrasive and for the first time Trail of Dead find the difference between full and loud. The track clocks in under three minutes but is the most ambitious step forward this band steeped in epics has ever taken.

The final song, “The Betrayal of Roger Casement and the Irish Brigade,” is an instrumental wall of sound that fails to do anything but reaffirm that Trail of Dead can make a lot of noise over fast drumming. If the first track (and all albums before Festival Thyme) hadn’t already showcased Trail of Dead’s big sound, this would be a remarkable achievement, but this near-six-minute song is a lot more of the same thing, which is never a winning strategy for a four track collection.

This teaser makes a strong argument that the full-length to come will make for worthwhile listening. The headbangers will be pleased the meathead noise has only gotten louder and the indie kids won’t fail to notice how nicely “Festival Thyme” goes with a brown scarf. And even if the full-length fails to come alive like “Inland Sea” and “Festival Thyme” do on this EP, you can at least rest assured that everything will kick ass live.

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