Review Summary: Not the classic that it was hailed to be. This album stood the test of time rather poorly after only a year after the release date.
According to most metal fans, thrash died about 20 years ago. After Seasons in the Abyss, there hasn't been a real band trying to make thrash without sounding either dated, derivative, or just plain terrible. Yeah, Machine Head tried it with a good slab of Pantera-influenced groove metal and injected some thrash influences on Burn My Eyes, but even that isn't really thrash metal anymore. The old dogs that brought the style to the mainstream succumbed to the rise of grunge and alternative rock, or just started sucking. As Nirvana and the "rockstair-against-his-own-will" Kurt Cobain took over the music elite that craved power chords and energy, mainstream metal dwindled.
Come 2006 and what has changed" Almost nothing. Slayer are doing what they did 20 years ago, making many many riffs and sounding like they always did, but they lack the massive fire and spunk with their new efforts. Metallica are a joke and a shadow of their former selves. Anthrax is more interesting to the crowd that follows series like the O.C. Megadeth didn't become as terrible as Metallica, but nonetheless the quality of their albums went downhill faster than a snowboarder on a steep mountain chase. Pantera were gone thanks to the idiot that got the idea in his head to shoot Dimebag Darrell. Yeah, long live thrash metal.
But the media, who were now giving the newest trends in heavy metal land their attention, turned their focus to a band who had been previously lumped in with the metalcore genre (a trend that surfaced a couple of years before the release of this disc), and had suddenly turned on the Metallica fanboyism like we were back in 1986, headbanging to ye olde Master of Puppets. Trivium got saturated with the metalcore genre (or did the metalcore genre get saturated with them") and released this album after years of touring and promoting their last album, Ascendancy. The Crusade was being hailed upon its time of release as the new big thing in thrash metal, a powerful successor to Metallica of old, and maybe even could eclipse the mighty Iron Maiden.
A year after those statements that this could well be a classic in the making, we've hit that point in the road where we look back on the achievements of such a disc and the validity of the statement. And the truth is, The Crusade is an album that, when viewed closely, reveals all the gaping flaws of a newcomer band who tried to do too much in too little time. In short, you could well pose the statement that anyone calling this record a classic shot off their mouths too soon.
Because this record contains some of the most derivative "thrash metal" the world has ever seen. The songwriting is common, simple, relies very much on tried and tested formulas, such as the whole verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus 2x thing. To add to that, Mr Heafy and Mr Beaulieu feel the need to underscore their admiration of the old metal bands a little too much. Metallica's better material is graciously pilfered and used on the album, with Detonation implementing parts of Master of Puppets and Unrepentant's main riff just reeks of Through the Never. Lars shouldn't be suing Napster, he should be suing these guys!
When Metallica isn't being ripped off, Iron Maiden gets their fair share of the deal, with twin guitar melodies (and none as memorable as Murray/Smith's, mind), or even riffs being aped. Obviously Heafy and Beaulieu could play a circle around Hetfield (maybe even Hammett!) but despite their technique their solos lack memorability, power, and energy. There is nothing here that is decidedly new, fresh, or that we haven't heard before. Someone took Master of Puppets/Number of the Beast, updated the production sound, mixed some of the riffs through each other, and that is one half of the album, ready to market and sell for the corporate music industry! I'm betting they got a laugh out of the sales figures, too.
Even in the vocals department, Heafy has decided Hetfield must be worshipped as a hero, apparently unaware of the tragedy that befell Metallica's later musical forays. He continues to use the same gruff vocal stylings James introduced on the early Metallica works, except he sounds nowhere near as convincing, and whatever he's singing about is either dated and irrelevant (come on, those murders happened ages ago), worthy of being on a DragonForce album (Becoming The Dragon), derivative, misplaced teenage love affairs (This World Can't Tear Us Apart), or just plain ludicrous "look at us trying to be cool and get the crowd going" macho posturing such as on Anthem (We Are The Fire) (hasn't that got to be the worst chorus you've ever heard) or The Rising.
No wonder the best track is an instrumental. Closing track The Crusade proves that the band can actually play their instruments in a proper fashion. As high speed guitar wizardry is traded with bass pummeling, and monstrous riffs, finally there is a moment on the album we can come to respect why the media tried to hail this band for their skills. However, one out of thirteen is a ludicrously bad score, and the prospect of the fact that the band had to leave it to the end to first make listeners sit through all the drivel is, quite frankly, terrifying.
What is most frustrating about this album, however, is not the ripping off or the repetivity and the ability to not sound original. It's the fact that this band is good enough to rise above that and be original. Instead Trivium took the easy route out. Semi-catchy choruses, dated and obsolete thrash riffs, unimaginative songwriting, and superfluous guitar solos, not to mention the liberal dose of cheese bring this album down three notches below par.
On "And Sadness Will Sear" Heafy tells us the tale of a man who was crucified by the people for being different. Ever lyric and note of the song reminds us of how Trivium, with their ability to sound exactly like other bands, display what has to be the metal scene's biggest outing of hypocrisy in years. And for a scene that condemns hypocrisy like almost nothing else, the sad conclusion is that the pseudo-inclusion of Trivium in this genre has become more ironic than the notion that thrash has risen from the ashes by means of this band.