Listening to the latest album from Austin’s Trail of Dead is almost physically demanding. The proggy keyboard fanfare of opener “Giants Causeway” announces a dense and intricate first half. “Far Pavilions”’ guttural call-and-response is an excellent reminder of why “emo” didn’t used to be an insult, and its grandiose lyrics and feedback-drowned choir lead perfectly into a thick but exhilarating almost-trilogy: “Isis Unveiled,” “Halcyon Days,” and “Bells of Creation.” These three tracks, each between five-and-a-half and six-and-a-half minutes long, combine layered instrumental complexity with tape-warped choral arrangements and mythological allusions for an 18-minute hunk of modernist art-rock. The following track, “Fields of Coal,” reaches the exultant payoff without so much work from the listener, redeeming whispery Chris Martin-ish wankery through incredible drum work and yet another choir. But before you accuse ToD of using the chorus as a crutch, check out the late ’60s Stones coda of “Luna Park,” the angry and deliberately artless burn of “Ascending,“ and the awesomely out of place cabaret vibe of “Insatiable” parts one and two.
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