. . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Worlds Apart (Interscope)

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After making an indelible impression with 2002's seismic Source Tags and Codes, Trail of Dead appeared poised to deliver a profoundly pretentious follow-up. Interscope issued a photo of the band members wearing Ye Olde Renaissance Faire garb and brandishing woodland-minstrel stringed instruments. When Worlds Apart opens with an "Overture" that includes an operatic choir and an ostentatiously ominous piano melody, it seems as if this track will be the first float in a pompous parade of three-part suites, flute solos, and odes to Stonehenge.

Suddenly, a ringing riff dissolves the reverie, drum taps escalate to car-crash volume, and the instruments reach a chaotic crescendo. With whiplash-inducing abruptness, the song reaches a churning climax, thrusting Allen's defiantly tuneful vocals into the melodic maelstrom. It's a spectacular six-minute cycle, one that flirts with extreme volume and brutal percussive violence without ever leaving the pop-realm spectrum.

Worlds Apart's jarring track-sequencing is startling. Delicate chamber-pop ditties precede impossibly loud outbursts, and the stark contrast flatters both forms. Some of Trail of Dead's repetitive patterns can be so mesmerizing that they conjure dreamlike states, from which listeners will awake with a start, amazed that only a few seconds have elapsed.

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