Half-Life: Trivium

Trivium are a band in a unique position. They exploded onto the scene very early on, accruing a lot of fans and haters simultaneously. After putting out an album that helped define a generation, they stepped back from the spotlight a bit, but their most interesting material actually came out after that. They’re a complex band that’s very dear to me, and I enlisted the help of Karlo, who loves them just as much as I do, to talk about their works together. Being a Trivium fan has been a roller-coaster of emotions, and we’re going to try to convey all of this to you, and show you why some of their more underrated albums have a lot of value. One thing to note is that the definitive way of listening to a Trivium album is to listen to the Special Edition, as the bonus tracks are always top notch.

Ember to Inferno (2003)

When talking about Trivium, their debut is oft-forgotten. It wasn’t released on Roadrunner like the rest of their material, and it doesn’t have the same level of polish that the band is known for. It’s also before they hit the big leagues, so it gets overshadowed. Finally, it’s missing a key part of the Trivium trio: bassist Paolo Gregoletto. That being said, Ember to Inferno display a shockingly solid grasp of songwriting, outdoing albums from peers who are several releases into their career. While “metalcore” is an easy bucket to put them in, Trivium have never fully adhered to the tropes of the genre. They’ve used elements like breakdowns and mixing screaming verses with singing choruses, but they also utilize thrash and heavy metal elements, hence the Tri- of Trivium.

They’ve always been a guitar-centric band, and that’s established on Ember to Inferno. Matt Heafy is nowhere near the singer he aspires to be (and one day becomes), so the playing carries most of the songs. They establish the trend of Maiden-inspired solos on top of involved metalcore/melodeath riffs in songs like Ember to Inferno andIf I Could Collapse The Masses.” Some of the songs here can use some polishing up, and the album would benefit from a remixing, but in the end Ember to Inferno is a great debut that’s still worth listening to. Not every band 8 albums into their career still dig into their debut for their live setlist, especially if they haven’t peaked with the debut. Yet the title track, Pillars of Serpents and When All Light Dies are songs they regularly play live and they are just as fun to listen to today as they were in 2003 (when Matt was only 17!)

Ascendancy (2005)

After a promising debut which hinted at the band’s potential, and a demo featuring a couple of songs which would later feature on Ascendancy, Trivium found themselves signed to Roadrunner Records. Many bands that sign with huge labels very early in their career, and lives, have crumbled under the weight of expectation – never truly going on to fulfill their potential. The same cannot be said of Trivium. Ascendancy saw them improve every facet of their sound: the songwriting was sharper and more memorable, the performances were more professional, the clean and harsh vocals hugely improved, and the production was on a whole other level. The result is a record which catapulted these teenage starlets to the very forefront of modern metal. Their blend of thrash and metalcore elements perfectly fit into the New Wave of American Heavy Metal that was emerging around them at the time, courtesy of bands such as Lamb of God, Shadows Fall and Chimaira. Yet, Ascendancy took off in ways few others did. The record received widespread critical and commercial acclaim, with Kerrang adjudging it their Album of the Year as sales soared into the hundreds of thousands. And one can see why.

After the atmospheric intro track sets the scene for the darkness to come, the listener gets hit right out of the gate by the one-two punch of Rain and Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr. To this day the former remains one of their heaviest and most aggressive songs, whilst the latter’s iconic drumming and driving riffs have become a fan favourite. Throughout this barrage, the band retains their melodic sensibilities, an element of their sound which gains more traction as the record progresses. However, as strong as their writing is on choruses from the title track and Dying In Your Arms for example, Matt’s melodic singing was still an area which required improvement – these sections failing to carry the same power as the rest of their sound. One of Ascendancy’s key strengths, particularly when judging it alongside the rest of their discography, is just how solid it is from front-to-back. Not a single track is wasted, and at no stage does the momentum falter. Firmly entrenched in the NWOAHM movement, there were still hints at broader influences (cough Iron Maiden cough) and, whilst it was certainly a product of its times, the record still holds up to this day. The record completed Trivium’s meteoric rise to the vanguard of heavy metal and left them with the metal world at their feet. However, as we came to find out, this band’s trajectory has been anything but linear.

The Crusade (2006)

Coming just a year after Ascendancy, The Crusade was the album that would make or break Trivium. They had their time in the spotlight, and they needed to prove they can deliver more to a mainstream audience. Instead, they went in a completely different direction. The Crusade is perhaps the band’s most controversial album because of this. The album features barely any screaming, and it’s a full-on thrash record. Looking at it from the outside, this makes little sense and is a jarring follow-up to Ascendancy. But it makes a lot of sense considering the circumstances.

After extensive touring following Ascendancy, a young and relatively inexperienced Matt Heavy damaged his vocal cords, rendering him unable to scream (which would happen yet again before Silence In The Snow). To the point that they even performed older songs with singing in a live setting (which was actually pretty interesting and thrashy). More importantly, they’ve been huge fans of thrash metal since day 1, and clearly, they wanted to legitimize themselves as a “real metal” band and not just a metalcore fad that will die out in a few years. The end result was an incredible album that was for no one. People who wanted more Ascendancy were disappointed and any thrash audience they could possibly court were turned off by the band’s huge mainstream recognition. However, if one can get past those, there’s a lot on offer here.

Trivium’s affection with Metallica is pretty obvious, as Matt does a great job of channeling James Hetfield at his prime. However, the stuff on The Crusade is generally a lot heavier than most of Metallica’s stuff. Blending the fast, angry side of thrash with the arena rock variants and Trivium’s own flair, the band actually ended up making a solid album. The years have been kind to The Crusade, as separation from the baggage makes it stand on its own more. The solo section of Entrance of the Conflagration, the outro of Becoming the Dragon (which is a song that you are guaranteed to see if you attend a show), the blazing fast To The Rats are all memorable, classic Trivium moments. The cheesy Anthem is just a song that is simultaneously so lovable and annoying and a solid guilty pleasure. As a side note, the lyrical themes of Contempt Breeds Contamination are still as relevant as ever, which is a shame, as it signals we haven’t seen progress in 12 years. It’s also an underrated gem from this album, and one of the songs with more prominent 7 string guitars, which got introduced on The Crusade and have been a staple of theirs since. Finally, the title track, an 8-minute instrumental closer, is a small teaser for what’s to come next, as it showcases their more progressive and shred-oriented flair.

Shogun (2008)

Here we are. The crown jewel, the masterpiece. Shogun is easily the band’s magnum opus. This is where they decided to step everything up, from the singing, the songwriting, the playing and the overall concept. Matt has always been a great lyricist, but in Shogun he marries his personal themes with epic mythology to add yet another layer to his prose, and that’s an appropriate metaphor for the album as well. Focusing heavily on the use of 7-string guitars and a heavy heavy-metal (heh) approach, Shogun is their most elaborate work to date. Harmonies are layered upon each other, riffs are constructed with great care and everything flows masterfully. Matt’s screaming is back, the solos are more intense than ever, the songs have progressive elements and every single track is perfect.

Kirisute Gomen is a killer opener that immediately makes a statement. 7 strings, fast drumming, screaming, middle-eastern-oriented riffs, it’s all here and it’s only the beginning. Jumping from section to section, it’s one of the band’s most varied songs, along with the rest of the album. Through the rest of the album, they blend melancholy with empowerment with Matt’s strongest vocal performance at this point in their career. Each song is so distinct, so full of memorable hooks that this album could be harvested to make 3 albums for a band that wasn’t trying so hard to be excellent. WhileDown From The Sky and Throes of Perdition are live staples for the band, the deep cuts from the album are worth exploring as well. I could praise every single song, but it’s worth mentioning that Insurrection and Like Callisto to a Star In Heavenare brilliant thrash songs, and Into the Mouth of Hell We March and Shogun are easily two of the best metal songs ever written. The latter displays the band’s capability for stretching themselves, with mellow cleans a la Opeth, and an unprecedented build-up over the course of the song’s 12-minute runtime. If you listen to one Trivium song when you read this article, make it the title track of their crowning achievement.

In Waves (2011)

After showing the world what memorable heights they were capable of achieving with Shogun, the hype and anticipation for In Waves was immense. In true Trivium fashion though, In Waves marked another significant shift in their sound from what made Shogun so acclaimed. The record took on a decidedly dark edge, certainly the darkest of their career, and this can be seen in their cover art as well as the sound and atmosphere. In Waves was decidedly less progressive and technical than its immediate predecessor; however, it made up for that with crushing grooves and thunderous rhythms. Despite many music fans and, in particular, music critics, calling for the death of the intro track – In Waves showcases how an intro track is meant to be used. Not only does “Capsizing the Sea” evoke a dark, pensive and eerie atmosphere, but it perfectly sets the scene for and flows into the titanic title track. A live staple for good reason, the grooves and growls on “In Waves” are second to none as the quartet absolutely pummel listeners into oblivion. Yet, the brutality doesn’t end there, if anything it gets ramped up a notch. “Dusk Dismantled”, “A Skyline’s Severance” and “Chaos Reigns” continue along the same lines and, along with the title track, best surmise the raw and unbridled aggression on display here.

As welcome as the aggression on display is, In Waves doesn’t forsake the other key components of their sound. “Built to Fall” and “Watch the World Burn” mark the more melodic, arena-metal aspects of their sound, whilst “Black” is, quite simply, an absolute banger. Still, for all the positive aspects of the record, In Waves is not without fault. Most notably, the sequencing of the record can be called into question. “Chaos Reigns” seems like a natural closer given the feel of the record, and the two tracks that follow it seem to end it on more of a lull than a high. Finally, as good as In Waves is, many still feel that it pales in comparison with the masterpiece which preceded it. Comparisons aside, it marked the first time in the band’s career that they released two fantastic albums in succession, and many of its tracks have become live staples ever since.

Noyan’s note: One of the best Trivium songs ever, Shattering the Skies Above is a bonus track for In Waves, and is a must-listen.

Vengeance Falls (2013)

After In Waves, the band were in a good place. They seemingly struck a balance between fans who wanted Ascendancy 2.0 and those who wanted to see more of the Shogun angle. Of course, being Trivium, they decided to rock the boat instead. They decided to get David Draiman of Disturbed to produce, which is still an unconventional left-field choice. Many people blame Draiman for making Matt’s singing patterns on this album sound like Disturbed, but Vengeance Falls features some of their most interesting vocal work, so it paid off in the end. An oft-maligned album, this is where the formula from In Waves started to show its cracks. The band started to fall into a rut with a repeating chorus-verse-chorus structure. This can be seen in the singles from this album. To get value from this album, one must dig a bit deeper than the surface. The first hints of it can be found in No Way To Heal”, which is a surprisingly solid modern melodeath song. The second half of the album is where it begins to shine.

Matt Heafy was going through a dark time during the writing of this album, with him being mugged at gunpoint and facing death, which leads to the darker themes on display. At The End Of This War is a catchy song with a strong momentum that sets the stage for the second half of the record. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone is a semi-ballad with a great chorus. Villainy Thrives is the band’s most nihilistic song with a simplistic guitar riff on the verse with some of Matt’s most off-kilter singing and the best chorus on the album. In general, the more pared back sound, combined with the catchy vocal hooks are what set apart Vengeance Falls. Then, we get a great surprise with “Incineration: The Broken World”, which is a longer, more progressive and thrashy song throwing back to the Shogun era, and perhaps is the best one on the record. “Wake (The End Is Nigh)” is another dark ballad in the vein of In Waves. The bonus track “As I Am Exploding” is a great Ascendancy throwback that shows that the band still have it. That being said, they clearly wanted to explore different themes on this album. Matt pushes his singing farther than ever on Vengeance Falls (which lead to him hurting his voice during the touring cycle for it), and it’s an album that is dark, misanthropic and somber (while still retaining the Trivium formula). It’s generally quite divisive, but looking past the singles shows that the band still have great songwriting chops, they simply wanted to utilize said chops for a different purpose. It’s ostensibly their first album that isn’t explicitly guitar-focused, which is why it stood out at the time. Given enough time, and with their latest release bringing the band back to the top, maybe Vengeance Falls will also be looked upon more favorably. I know I love it these days.

Silence in the Snow (2015)


Silence in the Snow saw Trivium shelve much of their thrash and extreme metal influences, instead opting to showcase their more melodic aspects and pay homage to classic traditional heavy metal artists such as Maiden, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and more. Whilst these elements did a wonderful job of embellishing Trivium’s overall sound on previous releases, the band fell flat when leaving the bulk of a record’s sound to these influences. The title track is the clearest example. Whilst decent in its own right, it cannot compete with the iconic tracks it seeks to stand alongside. The same could not be said for their efforts on records such as Shogun and Ascendancy. Further, when seeking to bring more modern elements into the fold, the band end up sounding more arena rock than heavy metal. Whilst this may help them get played on the radio, it certainly didn’t endear them with existing fans or critics within metal’s circles. Matt’s inability to scream, due to vocal injuries he’d sustained courtesy of a poor screaming technique, also meant there were no harsh vocals on the album. The resulting lack of variety would contribute towards the record’s one-paced nature and the inconsistency in song quality throughout; however, despite its many flaws, there were still some strong moments.

Overall, Matt’s clean vocals were the best they had ever been, his improvement marked, particularly in comparison to their early releases. Further, “Dead and Gone” featured gritty cleans that perfectly fit in with their sound, and it’s a shame Matt hasn’t been able to reproduce that vocal approach consistently. “Until the World Goes Cold” is also a highlight, with a huge chorus that is sure to leave thousands of throats raw the world over. Finally, the record manages to end on a good note with the last couple of tracks among the fastest and most engaging. Thus, whilst it’s certainly among the weaker entries in the Trivium discography, SITS still represented a necessary sojourn on the way to where they stand today.

The Sin and the Sentence (2017)

Across the past seven albums, we’ve heard Trivium explore a range of different sounds and identities. They’ve been thrash, metalcore, progressive, dark, commercial and melodic. The past two albums have largely been considered disappointments by their fan base, and the band is at a crossroads. Three less-than-stellar albums in a row, and those who have to this point been along for the ride may begin to jump off. Maybe they’ve changed? Maybe Shogun was a one-off? Maybe they’ll forever play in the shadow of their former selves? Well, thankfully, The Sin and the Sentence puts all of those questions to bed with Trivium returning at the very peak of their powers. It’s with careful deliberation that I say this could be the equal of Shogun.

TSATS takes every disparate element of Trivium’s sound, every facet that makes them who they are, and ties it all together into a single, unified whole. Their entire careers they’ve been creating jigsaw pieces, and TSATS is the culmination of their pursuit, the puzzle finally put together. The title track is long, thrashy and technical. “Endless Night” and “The Heart From Your Hate” are arena-rock the way it’s meant to be done, with massive choruses that you just don’t want to get out of your head. “Beyond Oblivion” sees them play at speeds they’ve never even attempted before, whilst “Betrayer” showcases their extreme metal influences. “Sever the Hand” has one of their most interesting instrumental sections to date, whilst one can’t help but bang your head to the earth-crushing grooves of “The Wretchedness Inside” and “Thrown Into the Fire. There is no filler. Every track is executed perfectly, working both within itself and the context of the album.

The band has stepped up to the plate on all fronts. The production is crisp. The cleans are strong, and the screams are plentiful. The riffs are memorable and the grooves crushing. The drumming is the best they’ve ever had (PLEASE KEEP ALEX) and the lyrics are engaging. This is Trivium at their best, and we sincerely hope this is the start of a special era for the band.

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