Review Summary: A swing and a miss.
*Note: I am reviewing the complete Trivium discography. This is part 3.
Shortly before the release of The Crusade, frontman Matt Heafy had this to say about the album:
"If 'Ember to Inferno' is five steps behind 'Ascendancy', then 'Ascendancy' is about twenty steps behind 'The Crusade'. 'The Crusade' is such a huge evolutionary step for this band in terms of sound, songwriting and the musicianship. This was just the next step; it still sounds like Trivium, it's just much ***ing better."
Of course, we all know what really happened. The Crusade didn’t end up twenty steps ahead of Ascendancy, but rather about five hundred steps to the side. In other words, Trivium didn’t build on their sound at all, but instead chose to do something entirely different. This is pretty much where most people have a problem with Trivium: after promising a “huge evolutionary step,” the band completely failed to do so. This in itself wouldn’t even be so bad, if only their new sound wasn’t a lot less enjoyable than it used to be.
For example, take the album’s lead single, “Anthem (We Are the Fire).” Aside from not sounding like it was even written by Trivium at all, most of the song is boring and repetitive. The lyrics are extremely repetitive as well, with only 16 lines being written for the song. Granted, a lot of Ascendancy had the same problem with repetition, but that album was so energetic that it was often possible to ignore that issue and just enjoy the music. It’s hard to do this in The Crusade, because the energy and potential that dominated Ascendancy are now almost completely gone. In addition, most of the songs are incredibly similar to one another, an additional problem that carries over from Ascendancy. To make matters worse, several of the songs that deviate from this similarity – “And Sadness Will Sear,” “This World Can’t Tear Us Apart,” and “The Rising” – are the weakest tracks on the album. So we have to contend with the fact The Crusade’s stronger material (by comparison) lies in the songs that sound just like each other.
Hurting the album even more is the vocal work of Matt Heafy. Like most material on the album, his voice hardly varies at all. If he had continued to scream like he did in earlier albums, his voice might have been more tolerable, if only because it would have had more variety. To explain why he was dropping the screaming, Heafy offered this explanation (I swear this is a real quote): “The only reason I started screaming in the first place was because I sucked at singing and wanted to be the frontman of a band.” Ignoring whatever else might be wrong with this statement, however, this is actually a reasonable explanation for the lack of screaming inasmuch as the singing in Ascendancy was honestly pretty good. On The Crusade, however, Heafy’s singing becomes worse instead of better, and the dropping of his screaming takes him from mediocre to almost unbearable.
Those who particularly hate the vocal work on The Crusade will be pleased to know that there is one instrumental track, sharing its title with the album. The song is over eight minutes long – longer than any of Trivium’s previous work, surpassing even their cover of “Master of Puppets.” It’s easy to draw a comparison to Dream Theater’s “The Dance of Eternity”; each song lacks any sort of structure, instead consisting of a collection of musical ideas. However, whereas Dream Theater’s song is interesting and complex (with over a hundred time signature changes throughout the track), Trivium once again show that they are incapable of being interesting at all, with boring, repetitive riffs appearing throughout the song.
There’s a bonus edition of the album with a couple of additional tracks, but neither of them have anything else to offer. Aside from a couple of catchy choruses and some nice soloing, there’s really nothing particularly interesting on this album at all. Unless you like Trivium’s other three albums and you’re the type of person who likes to collect complete discographies, don’t bother with The Crusade. In closing, let us recall some more words of wisdom by Matt Heafy:
“I think everyone will be really happy with it and those that aren't can go listen to any of those dime a dozen bands that are all doing the same thing.”
Oh, Matt. Will you ever learn?
Recommended Tracks: None, but “Ignition” and the title track suck slightly less than the rest of the album.
FINAL VERDICT: 1.5/5