Local Wire

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

After making an indelible impression with 2002's seismic Source Tags and Codes, Trail of Dead appeared poised to deliver a pretentious follow-up. 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. Then a ringing riff dissolves the reverie, and the instrumentation begins a crescendo. The song abruptly reaches a churning climax in the midst of a melodic maelstrom. It's a spectacular six-minute cycle, one that flirts with extreme volume and brutal percussion without leaving the pop realm. Delicate chamber-pop ditties precede loud outbursts, and the stark contrast flatters both forms. Alternately alarming and enchanting, Worlds Apart turns out to be the antithesis of the willfully obtuse artistic statement -- it's an immediately accessible effort that proves catchiness and cacophony are not mutually exclusive.