…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead @ O2 Academy Oxford – 27/06/11

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are a band that started at a meagre two-piece, who then swelled to a 6-member two-drum-kit behemoth, but now have shrunk down to a core four-piece – focused, tight and open to let lead man Conrad Keely’s mind to run free. Before the boys from Austin, TX take to the upstairs stage, the unfortunately sparse audience are treated to a supporting set from local instrumental band The Rock of Travolta.

They come on stage to a distorted screech, and continue to make them. The scope of their songs brings in the prog-opera is structures and riffs of Opeth, along with a bit of Post-Rock and some early Metallica. In addition to their two-guitar and rhythm standard rock setup, they have another bass, two keyboardists and electric cello, all with only five people. To me it strikes me that there are just too many ideas lying on top of a solid core. The riffs, leads and rhythm section is well honed, but then the additional timbres and backing instrumentation just seem too much. Perhaps it’s just me, considering this band were endorsed by Radiohead only a year into their career, but it doesn’t quite click. They claim they’re entering a new stage of their career with recent album Fine Lines, and maybe they just needed a producer with a little more clout to hone their material.

After the locals, the Americans take to the stage. The 90min set is a beautiful barrage of intricately structured guitar, bursts of intense vocal and percussion (played by three of the four members, over the course of the set) that underpins the drama and quick tempo changes, that populate …Trail Of Dead’s back catalogue. Vocalist, artwork designer, creative leader and guitarist, Conrad Keely seemed to be really enjoying performing songs from all over their career. Despite the fact that they (inexplicably) haven’t sold out the Academy 2, the band thrive with energy and enthusiasm for the simple pleasure of playing music they’ve written for a willing audience.

…Trail Of Dead are a band who have been together for 17 years, having released seven full length album over that time. Despite critical acclaim and a strong fan base they have never really gained commercial success. However, with performances like this and consistently good album releases, I will never really understand why they haven’t reaped their due rewards. Though it does raise a complete sense of respect from that they haven’t given up on their dreams yet, and hopefully it’ll be quite some time until that sad day comes.