Review Summary: Polarizing, yet satisfying.
Vengeance certainly did fall on Florida metal act Trivium in 2013, as they released what is now seen as Vengeance Falls,
as it was marked as a disappointment in the eyes of the average fan. It seemed though as they were doomed to fail stylistically, as they had largely replaced the thrashy metalcore that albums like In Waves
were drenched in with a glossy cut of mainstream alternative metal. Not to mention, the fact that none other than Disturbed’s David Draiman was to handle its production was sure to leave some fans with a bad taste in their mouth. Prospects were certainly dismal for the quartet’s sixth studio release from a reception standpoint, which was ultimately proven once they unleashed this album to the public.
From a purely technical perspective, Vengeance Falls
is a step back from its predecessor In Waves,
and surely a far cry from Shogun
’s sheer mastery of its craft. What it lacks in progressive soundscapes and technical riffage from both Matt Heafy and Cory Beaulieu, it makes up for in emotionally engaging songwriting; closer “Wake (The End Is Nigh)” and “Incineration: The Broken World” both display a very bleak outlook on life, as the writer showcases his emotional downturn, accelerated by various mental health issues including depression. The instrumentation still serves its intended purpose despite being somewhat simplified compared to prior fare; lead work on tracks such as “Through Blood and Dirt and Bone”, “No Way to Heal”, “To Believe”, and the aforementioned “Incineration: The Broken World” still prove Beaulieu’s strength as a guitarist and that the increased focus on Matt Heafy’s vocals certainly did not eat away at the other musicians’ abilities as such a move had done for other bands ala In Flames.
David Draiman’s influence on the band was not as significant as many may have feared, sans expanding lead singer Matt Heafy’s vocal range by over half an octave. “To Believe” is about as Disturbed as Vengeance Falls
gets, and even that track is a far cry from anything on The Sickness
or Ten Thousand Fists.
In other words, despite Draiman handling the production and helping with Matt’s vocals, the album manages to retain the Trivium identity even with its many stylistic shifts. One could note that the shift to more first-person-driven personal lyricism is a result of Draiman’s influence, but it’s more likely that the band had seeked to follow up In Waves
with an even more emotive experience. “Villainy Thrives” takes on the subject of abuse in a rather confrontational manner, explaining his desires to “exact reprisal” on those who would harm another human being, and “Strife” references the old idiom in which troubles strengthen a man along with expressing frustration with his anxiety.
While some may prefer the more mythological subjects of Shogun,
or even the serial-killer influenced writing on The Crusade,
the more personal spin is not dissimilar from that of In Waves,
and is ultimately the driving force that moves the record along. The guitar-work still carries the signature Trivium flare that led other albums to their respective greatness, albeit in a slightly more minimalist form. Not every track hits the mark fully, as “To Believe” still ends up feeling like a Ten Thousand Fists
B-side that was filtered through Trivium’s established melodic metal lens, and for all its strengths, lead single “Strife” is all too restrained by the shift in sound. Although imperfect, and certainly not one of their best, Vengeance Falls
is a solid melodic metal album with a glossy alternative sheen mixed within. Despite its forty-seven minute runtime spanned across ten songs, the band does not overstay their welcome by much. While it certainly has proved polarizing, they have done worse. Does anyone else remember how Silence In the Snow
was marred by its overly clean production？