Review Summary: 'Core' is a dirty word, a word never spoken in old-schooler soceity. But just listening to this fantastic album may just convert even the most entrenched NWOBHM fan...
The argument for and against metalcore is just another long and winding road to hell. To participate in such a heated debate is to only invite it to further continue, as when some smart alec develops a counter-argument to your own, it is inevitable that you will be suckered back into the vicious circle. It can be found all over the internet, if one cared to look. Countless souls rant and rage about excessive melody, others whine ever onwards over what they consider awkward pace changes, and others still declaim about the simple redundancy of the genre in this day and age. There is no visible end to it in sight. But, despite this ranked opposition, some bands still go on making records of it- with frankly mixed results. It's a wonder any positive side to the fight can be taken with the turgid blend of diabolical soundscapes being forged by today's aspiring metalcore artists, if such evil and clearly musically inept individuals can be called that. I myself have so far deigned to avoid the conflict, preferring to stick only to less harmful guns for fear of being encapsulated inextricably in it all. But it's now time for an exception to be made. For I do believe that, somehow, through some austere feat of chance (and a stroll through HMV) I have found an excellent metalcore album indeed.
Step fowards Trivium. Currently the target of boundless idolisation from the more youthful heavy metal community, it's a wonder us old-schoolers have never heard of them. When my son discovered their existance he just wouldn't stop playing the sole record he had purchased of theirs: the rather limp-wristed 'The Crusade'. And so I was exposed to Trivium day in, day out, without a hope of reprieve: I was forced ever onwards through the same tracks, over and over. He, of course, being one of the 'youth of today' was enthusiastic 24/7, filled with brimming energy, never quite relenting in his quest to convert me to another of the band's fanboys. But I stood strong, dismissing the music within the album to be just another dirty word ending in 'core', another ill-fated attempt to unnecessarily modernise an already superior genre. Eventually, the album found itself 'dismissed' straight into the bin (after one long night where the echoes of 'Anthem (We Are The Fire)' beligerently stuck in my cranium and began to niggle). In short, I hated the guts out of them all.
But, one Sunday afternoon, the wife was at a friend's house for tea and I was hampered with the boy for a jaunt in the nearest music store (HMV- surprise, surprise). I resigned myself to my fate: and so I emerged one album- 'Ascendancy'- heavier, and with a heavier heart. Later that night, when the child was asleep, I crept into his room, stole the CD and rammed it into my stereo. My plan was to shorten the time until the inevitable binning by dipping into the album, seeing if it was as bad as the first. Minutes later, I was pleasantly surprised.
The songs on 'Ascendancy' are vastly more dynamic, more powerful and more well-written than those I had previously heard by the band. Each hums with unconstrained energy during the technical thrashy riffs and breaks, and the purity of the vocals over the melodic sections is something special indeed. The screaming is tight and focused, with Matt Heafy showing his diversity through alternating brutal shrieks and clean lines, and the soloing antics of the lead guitarist, whilst not truly inspired, remain highlights of the album, alongside a selection of outstanding tunes: 'Pull Harder...', 'Rain' and 'Suffocating Sight' all had me in a sweat, so enjoyable they proved to be. On this album, Trivium seem to blend seamlessly all the elements of soaring melodies and savage guitar work into a delicious fusion of attack and gentle respite; it's like a masterful general conducting some grandiose battle plan. I can honestly say I really did adore my little preview, despite my afore-mentioned dislike for the band. That too was almost completely washed away!
Of course, the album was not perfect- no album ever can be in my opinion, no matter it's strength. Weaknesses my ears outlined were a lack of originality, similar-sounding songs (apart from the out-of-template 'Dying In Your Arms') and uninspired lyrical themes. After the first few tracks had passed, I did feel as if I was cycling through a time loop, reliving moments from alternate songs in others later on. And, after a while, the actual words written by Heafy do grate on you such is their generic standard. That's not to say he cannot sing- far from it- but I believe he could have done better to procure some newer, fresher things to scream of. After all, isn't new material what metalcore is all about?
Regardless of these misfortunes, I found myself listening to 'Ascendancy' again after the first play-through. I was a little boy again, just as enraptured as my son was in the spell the band could weave. In fact, it was a full three times later that my mother- sorry, my wife, pulled the plug with an awful sense of purpose and a scathing frown. So, to all those old-schoolers that disregard new material simply because it includes the word 'core', go and purchase this album and clear your ears out after all these years. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.