Trivium

What The Dead Men Say

Written by: AP on 15/06/2020 21:17:19

There was a time not too long ago when Trivium still felt like an unstoppable force. Each one of the records released by the Orlando, FL-born quartet between 2003 and 2011 was more propellant for their rapid ascent toward stardom and revealed a new aspect of their style, convincing fans and critics alike that here was a band refusing to tread water at last. Metalcore was already on the decline when, in 2005, Trivium issued a landmark of the genre with “Ascendancy”, and so the four musicians set their sights on neo-thrash on the subsequent “Crusade” in 2006. It was a bold step and mixedly received, but I am sure I am not the only one who still returns to many of those tracks, especially now that the band’s heyday is long gone and one is left wondering what the hell happened to all the creative energy that produced the progressive behemoth that is “Shogun” in 2008. That spark has been missing for more than a decade if you ask me, and as a result, the band has been stuck in a rut, unable to combine their plethora of influences into anything meaningful let alone striking. And sadly, this ninth and latest offering “What the Dead Men Say” is not one to break that spell despite the clean spate opportunity afforded by the dawn of a new decade.

Trivium have the advantage of housing musicians who are both experienced and talented, and as such, even when the band seems to be running on fumes like here, it is nonetheless difficult to let the hammer fall on the end product. “Not great, not terrible” — as a certain Anatoly Dyatlov might have phrased it; there is little wrong with this album from a technical perspective, but one would be hard pressed to find material on it that measures up to the Floridian quintet’s past triumphs. The singles are presented in quick succession after a characteristic, neoclassical intro piece, but while they all deliver the sort of mass sing-songs one has come to expect from this band, it is really only “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones” that leaves a striking impression thanks to its more aggressive stance. It is one of the rare occasions here opening the valves for the undercurrent of thrash that has always been at the heart of Trivium’s sound, and by shifting the onus of the track onto the growls of guitarist Corey Beaulieu in the pre-chorus, it introduces some much needed variety to the otherwise quite bland dynamics of the record. The other two singles, “What the Dead Men Say” and “Catastrophist”, are not so victorious, even if the band’s musicianship is on point. Frankly their choruses are downright grating, with frontman Matt Heafy attempting to drill them into your memory in that most uninspired of ways: repeating the title of the song until it sticks.

In general, the record leaves the impression that Heafy’s reservoir of fantastic vocal melodies is in a dry season, and instead of deploying a new strategy in which his clean voice is not leading the way, the band continue unabated in churning out dime-a-dozen metalcore aimed at pleasing the masses rather than the connoisseurs. And as you can imagine, the result neither makes you feel nor think about very much. Ironically, one of the tracks that does stand out is precisely that sort of composition… namely the power ballad “Bleed into Me”, which overcomes its somewhat prosaic metaphor on empathy with a grandiose, lights-in-the-air kind of chorus housing a strong vocal performance by Heafy. Its thematic companion and musical counterweight “Sickness unto You” is another contender for the top recommendation from “What the Dead Men Say”, its dark and heavy tone, bursts of blastbeats, and progressive structure recalling some of Trivium’s best work on the aforementioned 2008 album “Shogun”. And while the closing piece “The Ones We Leave Behind” finds Trivium elbow deep in the cookie jar of Killswitch Engage, its classic heavy metal histrionics — complete with harmonised dual leads and blazing guitar solos of course — render it nigh impossible to dislike.

But those glimmers of hope are not enough to steer this boat away from the looming anonymity. The band has been moored in familiar and safe waters for so long it seems captain Heafy forgot to pull the anchor when he set his eyes on the horizon, and so it dredged up a wealth of generic residue to obscure the nuggets of gold. That might sound harsh, but considering the quality of the records Trivium has released in the past, it is not unreasonable to hold the four musicians to a high standard — certainly a higher standard that what is kept here. I have had very little affinity for the band’s output since 2011’s “In Waves”, and if “What the Dead Men Say” is representative of their albums still to come, then perhaps Trivium simply isn’t a band catering to my taste anymore.

6

Download: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones, Bleed into Me, Sickness unto You, The Ones We Leave Behind
For the fans of: All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Rise to Remain, Sylosis
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.04.2020
Roadrunner Records

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