You’d be forgiven if you wrote off …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead at some point after World’s Apart, their rather lacklustre follow-up to the critically acclaimed Source Tags and Codes. You’re probably smart if you wrote them off after they slipped further with So Divided, and so again, you can be forgiven if you didn’t realize that their latest album, The Century of Self, isn’t half bad. Somehow, the band still manages to be one of the finest live acts around, and on their latest Vancouver visit, they reminded those in attendance that regardless of what record they’re supporting, a Trail of Dead show is always worth attending.
Now boasting an expanded line-up that boosts their numbers from four to six with the addition of keys and another drummer, the band’s already big sound got a kick in the rear, breathing new life into some of their recent studio efforts. “Caterwaul” featured a sweaty Jason Reece making his way through the audience to the back of the club. “Fields of Coal” saw openers Midnight Masses (who I actually missed) playing back-up choir. But it was, unsurprisingly, the points in the setlist where the Trail of Dead reached back a little further that made the night truly special.
“Homage”—noisy and sloppy in the best kind of way—was an early highlight, but when they launched into a one-two punch from 2002’s Madonna, pairing the soothing “Clair de Lune” with a blistering version of “A Perfect Teenhood,” things really took off. The main set culminated with frontman Conrad Keely mentioning that the band was once again independent, before they fittingly played their first single, “Richter Scale Madness,” and left the stage for the first time.
Anyone familiar with the band knows that Trail of Dead tends to go out with a bang in the most literal sense. And, while you could neatly describe the encore performance of “Totally Natural” as explosive, the real fireworks came once the song had descended into a buzz of feedback: guitars (and their cases) were sent skyward, amps were slammed on their sides and an entire drum kit was spilled into the audience.
When it comes to studio output, the baddest band in Texas is certainly starting to show their collective age, but in the flesh, you’ll still know them by the trail of busted instruments.