Review Summary: trivial
In a recent interview with Steroboard, Trivium guitarist Corey Beaulieu took to defending the band's "newfound" melodic approach on their most recent album, Silence in the Snow. "We've done screaming on every record and we don't want to write the same thing over and over again," he says. "When I think 'heavy,' it's not all about tuning down and screaming gutturally. That's one type of heavy." Though this point is redundant, he's not wrong; plenty of bands have gone throughout the years with nary a scream and remained undeniably "heavy". However, I very much believe he missed the point of the recent criticisms levied against the band. The screamed vocals aren't missed because of any lack of heaviness - there is still plenty of that here - but because vocalist Matt Heafy's clean singing has always been inconsistent at best.
Trivium has always been a band insecure with their sound and status in the metal community. After the enormously positive response to their sophomore album Ascendancy, the group made the infamous decision to ditch their metalcore sound in favor of forging the thrashing disaster that became The Crusade. Failing to meet expectations both critically and commercially, Trivium's fourth album Shogun was a surprisingly excellent return to form. It captured the brutality of their earlier years while remaining ambitious, pushing Trivium to finally create a sound that they could proudly call their own. However, this is where things started to go wrong; though Shogun was hailed by fans and critics alike, sales didn't reflect this success. That brings us to In Waves, the band's decision to make clean vocals a full-time priority, and the root of the issues that follow Trivium to this day.
Continuing the trend of their previous two efforts, Silence in the Snow sees Trivium trading in their artistic ambitions for pursuit of commercial success. The switch in vocals are a symptom of this change and the genesis for the myriad of other problems that now plague the band. Simply put, Heafy is not a good singer. He just can't create enough memorable hooks to sustain a full album's worth of material. As always he has his moments; namely the album's first two singles. Both "Silence In The Snow" and "Blind Leading The Blind" are excellent tunes, capitalizing on powerful, soaring choruses that successfully embody all of what Trivium aim to achieve with their simplified, mainstream-catering approach. Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks don't quite live up this standard. Songs like "The Thing That's Killing Me" suffer from a pitchy performance, and "Rise Above The Tides" is just irredeemably nasal. Though the screaming of past albums may have been used solely as a crutch, it worked
; without them Heafy spreads himself too thin, coming up with melodies that are weak and generally unrecognizable from each other.
Now as a more vocally dominated band, the instrumental work has also taken a noticeable dip in quality. There's nothing inherently wrong with crafting your music around singing, but in this case, Trivium have failed. Simplifying their technical talent under the lazy of guise of attempting a "classic metal" approach, the majority of the songwriting here is defined by insipid breakdowns a la "In Waves" ("Dead and Gone"), simplistic chugging, and harmonized leads. Though the latter is actually quite good most of the time - the opening of "Pull Me From the Void" being the best example- the rest sounds confused and incohesive. By poorly bridging the modern and classic metal scenes in their attempt to gain mainstream success through creating a nostalgic sound, they have completely lost their identity, joining the wave of bands who have fallen into the same trap. The only redeeming factor musically is their lead/solo work, which is just as exciting as ever. In songs like the aforementioned "Pull Me From The Void" and "Breathe In The Flames" Heafy and Beaulieu's tastefully flashy solo work prove they can still shred with the best of them.
As a longtime fan of Trivium, what disappoints me most about Silence in the Snow is not the lack of heaviness that appeared throughout their past, but rather their inability to successfully shift their sound towards something new that could compensate for its loss. Likewise, I'm not upset they would pursue more commercial recognition, but just how poorly they did it. What previously made Trivium great wasn't their heaviness, but the blend of classic and modern metal tendencies that came naturally when they weren't aiming to please a greater audience, and played to pushed themselves further. Then, their balance of the two was perfect. With Silence in the Snow Trivium have succumbed to overthinking, allowing aspirations of mainstream acceptance to strangle their creativity and create their most disappointing album yet. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.