…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have endured for decades, and so has their love of extremes. Where 2020's X: The Godless Void and Other Stories was a concise, fiery, and bittersweet dispatch, with XI: Bleed Here Now the band swings back to the grandiose. When the Godless Void tour was canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Conrad Keely and Jason Reece went into songwriting mode; being holed up at home during lockdowns called to mind how their favorite classic rock albums from the 1970s, like Pink Floyd's The Wall, could take listeners on journeys without leaving their wood-paneled basements or shag-carpeted bedrooms. Those '70s roots have never been far from the band's music, but on XI: Bleed Here Now, they're the focus, right down to the quadraphonic sound Trail of Dead used to record the album (thanks to 21st century digital sound, the technology was easier and more affordable to use than it was back in the day). Coming in at a generous 73 minutes, XI: Bleed Here Now gives the group plenty of time to experiment with sound design as well as the different styles at which they've excelled over the years. In its first few songs alone, the album spans the Beatlesque pop of "Field Song," the psychedelic swagger of "No Coincidence," and "Kill Everyone," a piece of thrashing hardcore that reaches deep into Trail of Dead's back pages. At its best, the record carries on their tradition of soaring anthems, as on "Penny Candle," a striding throwback to Source Tags and Codes, and channels that intensity into songs with the immediacy of live performances, as on the transporting "Golden Sail" and hypnotic centerpiece "Taken by the Hand." There's also room for cameos by friends that make for two more of the album's highlights: Spoon's Britt Daniel appears on "Growing Divide," one of the few acoustic respites, while Amanda Palmer lends her voice to "Millennium Actress," a brooding, string-driven reflection that makes the most of the quadraphonic sound. As on some of the band's rangier efforts, not all of the tracks connect and not all of its interludes are necessary. While a trimmed-down version of the album might have been more consistent, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are going for dream-spinning pageantry, and XI: Bleed Here Now is more proof they'll always be true believers in rock's power of spectacle.
XI: Bleed Here Now Review
by Heather Phares