After three solid albums of smoldering bliss, post hardcore/art/prog-rockers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead experimented further, receiving mixed responses to their next five albums. The distinguished sound on IX feels like a combination of those latter albums — it's good, but it doesn't astound.
The band's predilection for the eclectic is apparent on the 20-minute "Tao of the Dead part III" and "Sound of Silk," with its tribal-meets-Celtic breakdown, which transitions abruptly into a spoken word rant (a tactic employed far more successfully on "Days of Being Wild"). The rumbling wall of guitars on "A Million Random Digits" seems promising, since epic is what the band does best, but this track (and several others) feels too subdued by Trail of Dead standards. The listener waits for that impending explosion, but it doesn't come. Instead, an erratic bridge tears the fabric of this track, but doesn't rip it to shreds like one might hope.
The strongest moments on IX, like on any of the band's albums, are those that manage to create a vast rock sound by building elements up to impressive climaxes before bringing them crashing down. Doing so in such a pummelling manner is rarely the case now, but when it is, it's satisfying, as on the powerful "Lost in the Grand Scheme" and instrumental "How to Avoid Huge Ships." (Superball Music)