…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead The Secret of Elena’s Tomb

[Interscope; 2003]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: indie rock, punk rock, post-punk rock opera, thrash
Others: At The Drive-In, Les Savy Fav, Explosions In The Sky, Sonic Youth


Artists seem to enjoy following up their pivotal LPs with EPs. Ice Cube followed up his remarkable Amerikkka's Most Wanted with a strong Kill at Will; GY!BE followed F# A# (Infinity) with Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, Les Savy Fav followed 3/5 with Emor, and Jim O'Rourke followed Eureka with Halfway to a Threeway. So with this success in mind, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has followed their dazzling and spectacular Source Tags & Codes with a five song EP named The Secret of Elena's Tomb.

So success is at hand again, right? Not quite. What made the EPs of the aforementioned artists successful is that they all retained the same musical formula but built a bolder, more impressive sound from the original foundation. What we encounter from The Secret of Elena's Tomb is that Trail of Dead seems to be searching for a new sound by exploring several different musical approaches. Through this, they have completely forgotten to include on this EP the elements that made Source Tags & Codes so successful. Pure, raw emotion was what elevated the album to many music critics' top 10 of 2002 (including a number three spot on mine), but without building upon this solid foundation, The Secret of Elena's Tomb is less convincing.

The album opens with "Mach Schau", perhaps the perfect dupe of any track on Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. Sorry, but even Sonic Youth has graciously moved on from that sound. The song only reminds me that grunge will be arriving in the next three years. "All St. Day" only confirms my previous statement by sounding like it belongs on a Foo Fighter's album. So far, 0 for 2. "Crowning of a Heart" shows us a glimpse of where Trail of Dead should be going, taking the basic elements of their previous album and developing a gentle ballad showing that Trail of Dead has evolved as a band. The remaining two songs show us more growth but are not as fundamental as the middle track "Crowning of a Heart."

With this release, Trail of Dead leaves you wondering what their full-length follow up to Source Tags & Codes will sound like. The only certainty is that this album signifies a fork in the road. Because they have set the bar so high, choosing the one-way may lead to a career disaster, but if Trail of Dead expand and build on the formula of Source Tags & Codes, they will have a bright future ahead. It is all up to them. All we can do is wait and hope for the best.

1. Mach Schau
2. All St. Day
3. Crowning of a Heart
4. Counting of the Days
5. Intelligence

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