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Just over a year after releasing their brilliant Source Tags & Codes, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead return with Secret of Elena's Tomb, five new songs that continue the band's creative winning streak. Paradoxically enough, the condensed EP form shows off the band's progress better than a full-length album might -- within 20 minutes, Secret of Elena's Tomb spans the experimental rock and pretty but still powerful ballads that made Source Tags one of 2002's best albums, as well as some new directions. "Mach Schau" explodes and then slowly pulls itself back together again; with its epic sweep and polished experimentalism, it comes the closest to the sound Trail of Dead explored on their previous album. "Crowning of a New Heart" and "Counting off the Days," meanwhile, are even prettier and more accessible than Source Tags' gentlest moments, mixing cellos, acoustic guitars, and breathy harmonies into their sound effortlessly. "All Saints' Day" might be the best song on Secret of Elena's Tomb, welding tribal drums, blazing guitars, and impassioned vocals to an anthemic melody; "Intelligence" is the most radical departure, boasting drum machines and dark electronics that suggest that the band could give the Liars and the Rapture a run for their money if they pursued a punk-funk direction. While Source Tags & Codes might be a more cohesive listen and feature slightly stronger songwriting, Secret of Elena's Tomb suggests some promising directions for the band's next album.
Review by Heather Phares
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