There was once a band from El Paso, Texas known as At The Drive-In. At The Drive-In had a critically acclaimed album known as Relationship Of Command. With this album people began to speculate an oncoming change in the modern musical climate. Trying to predict and harness this brooding storm labels went out and tried to find their replicas of the "Texan" At The Drive-In force. And this is how ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, the Austin natives, came into the dark "mainstream" sky.
Endless comparisons were drawn between these two punk rock/post-rock/emo super groups, with each having loud and aggressive music coupled with insane live shows and performances. But in this Texas sized battle only one could be crowned the victor, and with At The Drive-In throwing up the white flag of feared pigeon hold The Trail Of Dead did something the El Paso boys couldn’t: release a follow up album to their ground breaking LP.
Released on April 1st of 2003, The Secret of Elena’s Tomb, an EP, is that follow up release to Source Tags and Codes, The Trails major label debut. However, The Trail Of Dead would not like anyone to view it as either an official follow up or a taste of things to come; rather they want it to be perceived as "a separate Arcadia, a land populated by melancholy figures and phantoms."
That is just fine, as The Secret of Elena’s Tomb works extremely well as its own little Dead island, but at the same time it is very easy to see a few of the songs as contending B-Sides from Source Tags and Codes and some other songs as possibilities in the glimpse of things to come.
This opening track is one of those songs that could easily be thrown onto Source Tags and Codes, fitting very snuggly with the other hard songs on that album. Mach Schau follows a typical Trail Of Dead structure with a building and explosive opening few minutes, a tom-tom middle breakdown, and then a reprisal of the explosive beginning. This track also has a little Slint feel to it as well, with some nice spoken lyrics accompanying the first moments of the song.
1. Mach Schau (3:48)
All St. Day is the standout track on the album, and it would seem like the band feels the same way as they attach a live video performance of this song onto this release with the enhanced CD feature. The song is very jerky, and at the same time very smooth, making your head methodically nod up and down in a steady rhythm. With addition of the very melodic vocals by Jason Reece, instead of Conrad, the song is guaranteed to put you into a trance of sorts.
2. All St. Day (3:54)
Like Mach Schau this song could also be placed in the B-side category, as it feels like it would be a good candidate to be paired with the stellar opening tracks of Source Tags and Codes, It Was There That I Saw You and Another Morning Stoner. Crowning of a Heart is possibly the most difficult song to describe off of The Secret Of Elena’s Tomb, but if you’re familiar with the two aforementioned songs you should be able to predict what the song sounds and feel like. The vocal harmonies thrown down in the middle section are very sublime.
3. Crowning of a Heart (3:29)
This song comes right out of nowhere. Counting Off the Days is comprised solely of Conrad’s vocals and an acoustic guitar for the first two minutes of its existence, a real out of place thing for the Trail Of Dead. Then once Conrad fades out a cello and what sounds like a puff organ takes his place with a very low and mellow melody. Although it is not a traditional Trail Of Dead song it seems to fit perfectly on this album and this album alone, as it would be so out of place on any of their other records.
4. Counting Off the Days (3:11)
Starting off with a typical Trail Of Dead guitar line and a reprise of the Slint-esque spoken word vocals, this song takes a drastic turn when the electronic drums and handclaps jump out of no where. Fuzzed out guitars and a running bass join the mix and a full on techno journey begins, with a very Trail Of Dead touch to it. At one point some heavily, heavily distorted and noisey drums fly into the scene but they only stay for thirty seconds before they crash, with the rest of the song joining in the fall a few moments later.
5. Intelligence (4:54)
The Secret Of Elena’s Tomb is not just a musical compact disc, but also an enhanced compact disc for usage with your computer. When slipped into your CD-ROM drive you can view two music videos, for Relative Ways and Another Morning Stoner, and a live performance of All St. Day. In addition to the videos there is also a sketch gallery containing original artwork and an interactive website as well.