Like teenagers discovering the munchies, My Chemical Romance and the Killers have realized the power of the classic-rock anthem, with its grandiose swagger and bulging chord progressions. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead ascended this stairway to heaven years ago, and they have spent their last two albums fine-tuning a prog-punk mix of melodramatic melody and punishing intensity.
Their fifth LP features ten musically triumphant but lyrically bleak anthems. “Stand in Silence” (LISTEN) merges ’90s alt rock and a marching band while Conrad Keely muses, “Where’s my vision gone?” On “Wasted State of Mind,” (LISTEN) a busy tabla sample gives way to a wondrous, Beatles-esque chorus that washes over the track like an acid baptism. After wandering into sunny ELO territory on “8 Day Hell,” they close with their most righteous high: “Sunken Dreams,” an orchestrated spazz-out that has guitarist Jason Reece affixing a new-wave wail to a buzzy PJ Harvey riff.
Unlike 2005’s beautiful, thrashy mess Worlds Apart, So Divided is built less on brute force and more on hyperdetailed songwriting. And while it’s hard not to be nostalgic for the days when Trail of Dead pointed their violence outward rather than in, it’s a welcome sign of maturity that they’re now flinging around inventive arrangements instead of splintered instruments.