Trail Of Dead album doomed to live in the shadow of its predecessor

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s breakthrough album was 2002’s “Source Codes and Tags,” an unlikely masterpiece of seamless transitions, inspired songwriting and desperately emphatic musicianship. Since then, the uneasy silence of their absence, punctuated only by 2003’s largely forgettable “Secrets of Elena’s Tomb” EP has had many waiting with bated breath for the bands follow-up to that seemingly insurmountable song cycle.

Well, if “Source Codes and Tags” was an independent film that scored mainstream acclaim, “Worlds Apart” is the big budget sequel, full of bluster and computer graphics effects, if not the out-of-nowhere scruffy brilliance of its predecessor. Seemingly in an effort to make this new album live up to the epic expectations that await it, the tracks are peppered with skits and choirs; widescreen images of trudging hobbit armies and scorched fields. The effect walks the line between endearing and hilariously misguided, but it mostly serves to cement the impression that Trail Of Dead is really just clever, stoner “Dungeon and Dragons” masters who, one fateful day, turned their dangerously obsessive minds from dice rolling to guitar playing.

Nervous posturing aside, “Worlds Apart” shows that Trail of Dead really is a great rock band. The titular first single is an angry, righteous indictment of current popular trends, more in the spirit of The Sex Pistols than anything Trail of Dead has done up to now. Frontman Conrad Keely has become a much more confidant singer, relying less on breathless rasp and more on his newfound ability to really nail his own melodies. The biggest difference, however, is where “Source Codes and Tags” revealed itself as great through repeated hearings, “Worlds Apart” comes on pretty strong right away. Whether it will go down as being as great an album is still up in the air.