...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have always been an ambitious, and difficult to place, band. They're too earnest and fond of grand gestures to fit in with most of the indie rock world, but too arty and obscure to jell with most emo's heart-on-sleeve directness. On Worlds Apart, they remain hard to classify, except on their own terms. Though the Trail of Dead sound as angry, regretful, and hopeful as they did when they started, this is a much more polished album than their breakthrough, Source Tags & Codes, and their fiery sound is tempered by nods to '70s prog and album rock. The band deserves some credit for attempting to work on such a grand scale -- it's all too easy for this kind of big, passionate statement to fall on its face -- but while Worlds Apart doesn't work entirely, enough of it is too compelling to dismiss. Granted, it doesn't have the most promising beginning: "Ode to Isis," with its Wagnerian choral vocals, pianos, violins, screaming, and crying, is equally worrying and intriguing, and "Will You Smile Again?" doesn't really take off until the six-and-a-half-minute mark. However, the next four tracks rank among the Trail of Dead's best work: despite railing against vacuous celebrities, soccer moms, indie rock, and, of course, post-9/11 fallout and the war on terrorism, the emotions behind "Worlds Apart" are timeless; along with the frustrated idealism of "The Rest Will Follow," it's one of the band's finest anthems. "The Summer of '91"'s thundering timpani rolls and slow-building majesty use Worlds Apart's massive-sounding productions and arrangements artfully; it's been a long time -- possibly since Smashing Pumpkins' heyday -- since a band has attempted this kind of epic-scale, orchestrated rock. Speaking of the Pumpkins, "Caterwaul"'s beautifully droning guitar grind is more than a little reminiscent of that band's best rockers. Worlds Apart's second half dives deeper into prog, with mixed results: "A Classic Arts Showcase" and "All White" both feature soulful choirs that sound like they were transplanted directly from The Wall, but while they feel tacked onto the former song, they fit -- in a retro kind of way -- the latter song's excesses. "To Russia My Homeland," a theatrical, string-based waltz, isn't bad at all, but it seems more suited to a soundtrack than this album. It's tempting to want to hear some of these songs, particularly "The Best" and "Lost City of Refuge," delivered in a less grandiose manner; too often, it feels like ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's undeniable power gets lost and scattered among Worlds Apart's preludes and interludes. But the band's attack on complacency extends to their own music: Worlds Apart might be a noble failure, but it would probably be worse if it just revisited previous successes.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares