What were/are my most anticipated albums of 2006? Off the top of my head there is Motorhead's Kiss of Death, Into Eternity's The Scattering of the Ashes, Cellador's Enter Deception, Blind Guardian's A Twist in the Myth, and of course, Iron Maiden's A Matter of Life and Death. After that, there were/are bands that, though I am not a fan of them, I wanted to check out anyways, just to see where the band would take their careers next. Some of these would be Strapping Young Lad's The New Black, Falconer's Northwind, and quite obviously Trivium's The Crusade.
Now, Trivium was never a band that really impressed me. Sure they've got a couple good songs (I've always been partial to The Deceived off of Ascendancy), but up until now they haven't done anything spectacular enough to warrant the praise and hype leading up to The Crusade. Yet for some reason, I was really looking forward to this album. Perhaps it was the prospect of vocalist Matt Heafy ditching the screaming that plagued the band's first two albums. It worked for Avenged Sevenfold, I thought. Perhaps it was silly for me to expect the exact same results from Trivium, but as soon as I got it around my head I fell victim to the hype machine as well. Oh well. When I first heard The Crusade, naturally, I was pretty disappointed. That happens with most of the music I listen to. But still, after countless listens, the album still does nothing for me. Quite the disappointment, I must say.
With The Crusade, Trivium promised their fans balls out thrash metal. They promised an album on par with Metallica's legendary Master of Puppets. Unfortunately, they band doesn't come within a country mile of an album such as that. From the album's opener to the second last track, The Rising, every track sounds exactly the same as the one before. Listening to it over and over again, I would not have realized that the song had changed without looking at the song list. Plain riff after plain riff; Hetfield-esque vocal line after Hetfield-esque vocal line; the album rarely ever changes its formula. It doesn't help when their rehashed efforts are completely boring either. The only occasion where the band escapes this apparent routine is on the very last track, the 8 minute instrumental, The Crusade. In a way, it sort of reminds me of Orion. Maybe not in structure or sound, but the fact that it will undoubtedly be praised as a masterpiece as Orion is. Perhaps I will be in the minority, but I am unable to enjoy either. As with Orion, The Crusade is much too long for its own good. Shave a good 2-4 minutes off, and you'd have a much better song. The song is very messy, and the riffs do not flow very well at all. This song in particular was probably the biggest disappointment off of The Crusade, and I feel they could have done a much better job with it. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the album is the soloing, yet even this element does not save the band this time around. The excitement level does not rise above the bare minimum required to retain the listener's interest. For a band whose centerpiece is the guitarists and their performances, this is not a very good thing at all.
However, one positive change that The Crusade brought Trivium was the swapping of vocal styles. As I mentioned earlier, gone is the screaming which plagued their first two releases. That's not to say I hate screaming, but when you do it as badly as Matty did on Ember to Inferno and Ascendancy, change is welcome. Instead, he employs a rougher, James Hetfield-esque, style. Despite being unoriginal, he sounds great on the first two songs, Ignition and Detonation. Unfortunately, just as nearly everything else on the album, there is little to no variety in his singing, and it gets rather old after the fifth track. With sub-par musicianship, it is certainly disappointing that Heafy's vocals are not up to snuff either. Still, it is an improvement on past releases, and that's got to count for something.
The Crusade is at its best when you do not listen to the whole thing in one sitting. Instead, the best way to enjoy the album is in (very) little bits and parts. Listening to, saaay, Detonation or Tread the Floods on its own and they aren't necessarily bad tracks. What really brings the album down, as I mentioned earlier, is the sameness of pretty much every song. Each song (with the exception of the title track) is much more interesting to listen to in a playlist of several different artists, in your Ipod or MP3 player. The songs are much easier to digest, because you aren't listening to the same song over and over and over. But this is the only way I got anything out of the songs, and I shouldn't have to do this to enjoy the material. As an all around album, The Crusade totally fails in this aspect.
Is The Crusade the disappointment of the year? Possibly. Though I foresee plenty (read, dozens) of reviews claiming quite the opposite, I just can't get into the album. The entire album could be the opener, Ignition, twelve times in a row, followed by the title track, and you seriously wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Forget the musicianship which is lacking and the monotonous vocals; this is my biggest irk with the album. Before I may have claimed that Trivium can do better, but now I don't even know anymore. Matty, your band is running out of time…