Review Summary: Easily the best Trivium album since Shogun and quite possibly their strongest to date
Aside from 2008’s Shogun, I must admit that Trivium’s discography has always felt rather spotty. That album lived up to the potential and greatly expanded the scope set up by the band’s endearingly flawed early work. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by 2011’s In Waves at the time and the subsequent efforts ranged from good concepts with flat executions, blandly serviceable ventures, and identity crises that considered the advice of people who probably never should’ve been listened to in the first place.
That brings us to Trivium’s tenth full-length album, In The Court of the Dragon. Coming out just a year after 2020’s What the Dead Men Say is enough to raise an eyebrow but the prospect of venturing back to Shogun’s epic brand of thrashy metalcore makes for even greater intrigue. While it’s more realistic to view this album as a composite of that sound with supplementary cues from the band’s other eras, it’s far from the rushed conundrum that it could’ve been.
Trivium has maintained stellar musicianship over the course of their career, but I don’t think their playing has sounded this powerful since 2005’s Ascendancy. This is especially apparent with the guitars, which utilize the thick fiery crunch that I always loved about their earliest efforts and minimize the muddier aspects. On top of that, it’s hard to remember the last time that the drumming was this brutal and the vocals reflect a greater sense of maturity and conviction in both their cleans and screams.
These elements along with the return to a mythological aesthetic result in some of their most inspired songwriting in years. One can detect some prog metal influence in the borderline Nevermore-esque hooks on “Like a Sword Over Damocles” along with the brooding on “The Shadow of the Abbatoir” and the closing triumph of “The Phalanx.” There’s even room for some throwbacks as “A Crisis of Revelation” feels like a better revisit of “Ascendancy” and “Feast of Fire” makes for some solid radio rock.
At the risk of hyperbole, In the Court of the Dragon is easily the best Trivium album since Shogun and quite possibly their strongest to date. Its quality is commendable considering the circumstances, released on such a quick turnaround this far into the band’s career. Revisiting the band’s later albums has made me realize that some of them were better than I previously thought, but I still find myself wishing they had come with this degree of power. It’s amazing how much things can change in a year…
“Like a Sword Over Damocles”
“A Crisis of Revelation”
“The Shadow of the Abbatoir”
“No Way Back Just Through”
“From Dawn to Decadence”