Relative Ways/Homage Ep
By: Eric Greenwood
If this EP is any indication, the major label debut full-length from this Austin quartet will be its most stunning yet. The mark of adolescent influences is much more distant this time, so the Sonic Youth references will be fewer and fewer when the flood of reviews commences. The band"s urgency is its greatest weapon, and its flashy dynamics pave the way. Conrad Keely"s voice is smallish and nasally but when he screams he takes no prisoners. The guitar work is particularly beautiful. Melodic and harsh in the same instant.
Relative Ways exemplifies the band"s growth in songwriting. The loud/soft dynamic has blurred into a complex beast that could burst in either direction without jarring the listener. That is not to say that the band has smoothed over its edges- far from it; it"s just grown by leaps and bounds musically. That"s typically a death knell for a punk band, but the Trail Of Dead has never lumped itself in such a limiting category. These guys are serious about their music, which always carries with it a trace of pretension, but the Trail Of Dead wears it well.
"Homage" is far more terrifying, musically. Ripping into a shredded wall of guitars, Jason Reece shrieks with a gruff, scratchy voice that sounds strained and abused just the way it should. The build-up is backwards, moving from loud to soft and back again into a climax that should have you punching a hole in the wall. There"s no faking the desperation in his voice when Reece screams "do you believe what I say?" like his life depends upon the answer. All the feedback and all the noise is ferocious. Reece"s songs are usually much tamer than this, but I"m certainly not complaining.
"Blood Rites" is Keely"s turn to scare the shit out of the listener. His scream has never known such depths. The blood lust recalls Kurt Cobain"s possessed shriek on Bleach. The untamable guitars are charged and churning in your ears recklessly, leaving you thirsty for more. "The Blade Runner" is an experimental throwaway, like the interludes from the band"s previous two albums. Minimal and textured- it wilts numbingly for four minutes, which is just the amount of time you need to come down from the three songs prior. Bring on the full-length.