...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Sunday 29 September 2019, 7pm - 10:30pm
The Waterfront Studio
Five years on from the release of their previous record, Austin’s beloved art-rock heroes …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead return with their tenth album – The Godless Void is set for release in September of 2019 via Superball Music in Europe and Dine Alone Records in North America.
Expansive yet concise, The Godless Void nods to the band’s traditional touchstones – the feral scree of Sonic Youth, Rush’s symphonic anthems, the textured bliss of My Bloody Valentine – while morphing effortlessly into newer forms. The synth-orchestral swell of curtain-raiser Opening Crescendoes recalls Hans Zimmer and Tangerine Dream, before All Who Wander descends from guitar-soaked high drama into simmering, murky psych.
Next up, Something Like This offers nods to the ethereal songcraft that defined the sound of the legendary 4AD label, before everything kicks in at full pelt with Into The Godless Void, as noisy and thrilling an existential anthem as the band have ever put their name to. And this is just the first four songs – it’s hard to imagine this eclecticism is anything other than deliberate, but as founder, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Conrad Keely says of their music, “Songs have a life of its own. If you listen to them, they’ll tell you how they want to manifest.”
When Trail of Dead released their self-titled debut back in 1997, they swiftly became as well known for trashing their instruments as for the giddy thrill of their wide-eyed noise-rock. Since then they’ve toned down the carnage at their live shows (for the most part), absorbing the chaos and reckless abandon back into their music through the iconic alt-rock diptych of Madonna (1999) and Source Tags And Codes (2002), right through to 2011’s triumphant Tao Of The Dead and its jagged follow-up Lost Songs (2012).
Work on Godless Void began in earnest in 2018, after Keely returned to the band’s hometown of Austin following five years in Cambodia. That also marked a return to action for Trail Of Dead, with previous album IX having dropped in 2014 – in that time, fellow founder member Jason Reece put time into other musical projects back in Texas while Keely released his solo record Original Machines (2016) and continued to spend time on his illustration work, as well as his long-gestating science fantasy novel Strange News From Another Planet.
As a result, the album sees Keely detailing “the sadness of moving away from a place that I’d loved”, while also taking inspiration from Steven Pressfield’s book The War Of Art to face his own demons regarding the creative process. “I feel like I’m writing pop music,” he says, “it’s just not Top 20 pop. It’s the pop music I wish was on the radio, the pop music I would’ve grown up with.”
Reece agrees, citing Talk Talk, Killing Joke and Laurie Anderson as inspiration. “There’s definitely the idea of loss, leaving someone or something important in your life, but it’s more abstract,” he explains, adding that the track Into The Godless Void in particular deals with “this existential woe that all humans tend to go through – feeling that weight that plagues the mind.”
Keely’s novel-in-progress also has a part to play, with some songs inspired by episodes in the book. Its stories echo across the band’s albums dating back to Tao Of The Dead, . It’s a fantasy world his lyrics continuously return to, and a guarded secret that fans will have to wait for in order to see how both lyrics and artwork play into his grand scheme.
With a new line-up having recently toured the 20th anniversary of Madonna, they’re also reverted to the live format of their earlier years, with Reece and Keely alternating between drums and frontman duties – a musical partnership that dates back to their high school days. Appropriately, it all feels fresh.
“When Conrad moved to Cambodia, we both had time to live our lives and do different things,” Reece explains. “Coming back to the band, there was a new vigour to it. It all feels exciting still.”