Review Summary: As a whole, Ascendancy suffers from too much repetition, but good musicianship and production make it more enjoyable than its predecessor.
*Note: I am reviewing the complete Trivium discography. This is part 2.
Okay, imagine seeing a movie like this. It’s one of those detective/secret agent films where the main characters are trying to track down the bad guy. In the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie, you find out everything about the villain – his name, what he looks like, where he is, the reasons behind his crimes, and how to take him down. The rest of the movie consists of a two-hour long final showdown. I probably wouldn’t watch this movie, and neither would you. Right? Well, to an extent, that’s what it’s like to listen to Trivium’s sophomore album, Ascendancy. After two or three songs, we know exactly what the rest of the album is going to sound like, and it’s hard to listen all the way through. However, this movie does have good special effects – the album is well produced, and the musicianship can be quite impressive.
In 2005, Trivium is:
Matt Heafy – vocals, guitars
Corey Beaulieu – guitars
Paolo Gregoletto – bass
Travis Smith – drums, percussion
Actually, it’s a shame that this album is so repetitive, because some of the individual songs can be great to listen to. For example, “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” is the obvious standout; it’s quite heavy in many places while still managing to be catchy throughout. By listening to any of the album’s twelve tracks (with the exception of opener “The End of Everything”), it’s clear that Trivium possesses an extraordinary amount of energy. This begs the question: Why couldn’t this energy have been put to better use? Many of the songs on the album – “Rain,” “Drowned and Torn Asunder,” “Ascendancy,” “The Deceived,” and “Suffocating Sight” – sound very similar, all containing an abundance of the same fast-paced drum beat, as well as having riffs that sound very much alike. Without more creativity, what is truly communicated ends up being nothing more than potential. “Dying in Your Arms” and the first half of “Departure” break the trend for a while, but in each case the all-too-familiar sound returns quite quickly.
And it’s not just the album as a whole that suffers from too much repetition; this problem sometimes occurs within separate songs as well. Within the first thirty seconds of “Rain,” for instance, we hear the verse riff AND the chorus riff. The song does change a couple of minutes later, but the damage has already been done. What reason do we have to keep listening for those two more minutes? Matt Heafy’s vocals? Actually, he’s not that bad of a vocalist – he’s just mediocre. As a screamer, while he’s not Alex Varkatzas, he’s still unable to produce anything more than a single, medium-pitched tone. His singing is somewhat better; he has a good amount of control over how much distortion he puts into his clean vocals (listen to closing track “Declaration” for a good example of this), although his range is fairly unimpressive. But maybe it’s possible to forgive Heafy for his mediocrity – after all, he also plays the guitar, and he does it well.
Which leads me to my next point: all four musicians are quite good at what they do. Drummer Travis Smith is fast and energetic, and his playing sounds much smoother than it did on Trivium’s previous album, Ember to Inferno. Guitarists Heafy and Corey Beaulieu also shine, playing fast and technical (if sometimes uninspired) riffs and solos throughout the entire album. Bassist Paolo Gregoletto also performs well, but he’s drowned out by the guitars. It’s been said before, but this is a very big problem. It’s not just Trivium – I’m going to go ahead and criticize the entire metalcore genre for this. But whatever the case, the band members are certainly good musicians, and this is ultimately what makes the album somewhat entertaining. In addition, the production – handled by Jason Suecof – is much better than it was on Ember to Inferno.
The bonus version of the album contains four extra tracks. One is a re-recording of a song from Ember to Inferno, one is an original song, and one is a remix of “Dying in Your Arms.” This leaves one track – a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Personally, I enjoy the cover and I think it’s well-executed, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide how much you like it. I’ve heard both positive and negative reviews of the cover, and since I’m not exactly a huge Metallica fan, it’s not up to me to judge.
Overall, if you can look past the fact that many of the songs sound similar, and you don’t mind the fact that the screaming is mediocre at best, you’ll find that Ascendancy is a decent album with lots of energy and tons of potential. In particular, I believe that this is a good album for newcomers to the metal genre to listen to.
Recommended Tracks: “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr,” “Dying in Your Arms,” “Departure,” “Declaration”
FINAL VERDICT: 3/5