Review Summary: The Sin and the Snow part two.
For years now, Florida-based Trivium has had a bit of an identity issue. Since debuting a thrash-centric Ember To Inferno
seventeen years ago that launched them into metal’s mainstream, the four piece has moved through a rigid evolution of sounds. Whether it be the obvious Metallica-esque nature of The Crusade
, the unbridled angst of Ascendancy
or the borrowing of styles that led to the immersive Shogun
, Trivium have moved from one to sound to another. Shogun
became the band’s stylistic tipping point, and achieved critical acclaim due to its technicality and focus on seven-stringed guitars. In light of the album’s success, In Waves
, and the David Draiman produced Vengeance Falls
, simply didn’t live up to the hype created by the albums that came before them. Take into consideration the group’s seemingly revolving door of drummers (“drummer out, drum tech in”) and it’s no wonder that Trivium’s creative juices would be inconsistent in the very least. It seemed that this “new Metallica” was caught in a musical slump of sorts. Despite the more mainstream and notably ‘back to roots’ albums a la In Waves
, Trivium evolved again
. In taking the more melodic and cleaner route on Silence In The Snow
(which was met with a mixed reception from fans) the band lost some of its edge - but it’s here that What The Dead Men Say
really starts to take shape.
What The Dead Men Say
is largely a combination of the two records before it - but its triumphs only slightly outweigh the record’s missteps. At the album’s core is a hook led, catchy, and somewhat diverse showcase of Trivium’s songwriting ability. However, it’s bassist Paolo Gregoletto who handles most of the album’s lyrical creation. While talking with Apple Music, Gregoletto directly references media such as Total Recall
and The Shock Doctrine
, and then ties those moods into current circumstances such as Coronavirus and the inevitable profiteering made by corporations during similar, trying times. The album’s contextual lyric base however, takes a back seat to the group’s instrumental prowess. This is especially noticeable in “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones”, - which pummels away at the listener with breakneck grooves, pummeling bass lines, and Heafy’s signature harsh tones - and “Catastrophist” which takes on an all too similar vibe - drawing the listener away from less than stellar lyrics. Yet, the record suffers slightly from clinically flat production. Alex Bent’s second effort with the quintet isn’t quite as punchy in its mixing as the Heafy and Beaulieu riff party, nor is it really diminished by the often flamboyant dual guitars. The record’s mixing simply works
; it is versatile enough to carry each of the band’s elements evenly into the mix. His natural tendency to slip in cheeky fills and clean blast beats is particularly commendable during “Sickness Unto You”, and it’s largely Bent’s efforts here that lift this whole endeavour. Instead, it’s the overall quality of songs that hit or miss in equal measure.
The album’s title track, “Catastrophist” and “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones” (which are the album’s leading singles) are sure to be new Trivium anthems adapted to their live shows, but when the record dips into tracks like “Scattering the Ashes” or the lyrically lacklustre “Bleed Into Me”, momentum falters. While there’s little point denying Heafy’s harsh vocal talents, Trivium's new album is still marred by some inconsistent clean vocals. Take the verse and chorus cheese of Bleed Into Me” for example: As it bleeds into me/Let it sink in for you/Tell them the story/Tell them the truth
. The lyrics themselves aren’t offensive, but Heafy’s delivery is forced, hampering the track’s reception and is all too reliant on hooks to relate them to their listeners. It’s these features all too prevalent, akin to patches of yellow snow in a field: and to be avoided at all costs. When taking into account that some of these tracks sound too similar to the band’s “Silence In The Snow
”and lack a lot of the diversity seen by the singles - it’s no wonder the record lacks impact. “The Defiant” also seems blasé when compared to the singles - it’s rather formulaic, relying on clean sung chorus lines and obvious hooks without causing real offense. Tracks such as “The Defiant” are fine enough on their own, but not up to the same standards as the singles that came before them. What Trivium’s newest offering lacks in substance it tries to make up for in hooks, minus the bait.
Thankfully, Trivium’s latest studio effort leans towards a briefer and more digestible overall length. This leaner songwriting allows What The Dead Men Say
to remain accessible, especially for those who may not have been enchanted by the group’s earlier efforts. Trivium has [finally] found some measure of identity after nine full-lengths by combining their previous efforts into a concise, if not mind-blowing, display of the band’s achievements. However, What The Dead Men Say
fails to showcase a band moving from strength to strength, maintaining an inconsistency in the band’s music. With that said, they have found a measure of identity in their latest sounds. Trivium’s sounds may have some deep roots in the 80s thrash scene, but it's unmistakably modern metal is made for almost any audience - which is not such a bad thing for an act entrenched so deeply in what defines "mainstream" metal music.