Reviewed on this page:
Ember To Inferno - Fractured - Ascendancy - The Crusade - Shogun - In Waves
Hailing from Orlando, Florida, Trivium is a thrash metal/metalcore band, pounding out distorted power chords with enough aggression to power a small country. In some ways their back-to-basics, riff-based sound is not unlike post-thrash acts like Lamb Of God, but with two differences: Lead singer Matt Heafy doesn't stick to a growl, often singing melodically on a song's chorus. And guitarists Corey Beaulieu and Heafy make room for plenty of solos displaying fearsome technique (the band recently contributed a flawless recreation of Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" to a tribute album). They're so ambitious and such good songwriters that they're bound to have a big crossover hit one of these days, but don't wait: whether you're a metal fan or not, Trivium (especially their 2006 The Crusade) are worth hearing.
I've written up a 2007 show I attended on our indefatigable concert reviews page.
Matt Heafy, lead vocals, guitar; Brent Young, bass; Travis Smith, drums. Corey Beaulieu, guitar, joined 2003. Young left, 2004, replaced by Paolo Gregoletto. Smith left, 2009, replaced by Nick Augusto.
Ember To Inferno (2003)
On their debut Trivium was a three-piece, with Heafy the only guitarist. The band's basic approach is present - thundering high-speed riff tunes with gruff vocals, shifting to uplifting melodic choruses, then back again - and there are plenty of hooks you won't be able to get out of your head ("Pillars Of Serpents"; title track).
But everything's a bit rough: the production (by Jason Suecof and the band) is cloudy;
there are three atmospheric instrumentals ("Inception, The Bleeding Skies"), which is at least two too many. And Heafy apparently didn't realize that "Falling To Grey" was a note-for-note copy of Megadeth's "Tornado Of Souls."
Two bonus tracks recorded later that year after Beaulieu joined the band ("Blinding Tears Will Break The Skies") point the way to the fuller, more precise sound they would develop on their next release.
Fractured (Capharnaum: 2004)
Largely recorded before Ember To Inferno but released afterwards, Capharnaum is Jason Suecof's band: on this record, he played guitar, wrote most of the music, produced, and sang two tracks ("Machines" and "Icon Of Malice"). The rest of the leads and lyrics are by Heafy, who apparently pitched in to get the record finished. Completing the lineup are drummer Jordan Suecof (who founded the band with his brother), bassist Mike Poggione and guitarist Daniel Mongrain.
The music is basically death metal as pioneered by Death - unrelenting heavy distortion, fast tempos, muddy sound,
no clean vocals
- with only an occasional slight resemblance to Trivium's more cleanly articulated, varied approach (title track). The second half of "Refusal," a chaotic cut and paste of single-note riffing, is the most notable deviation from the formula.
Overall, not nearly as gripping as similar efforts I've heard by, say, Bloodbath,
with too many familiar-sounding riffs ("Perpetuate Catatonia"), though some of the bashing and winding guitar lines are exciting ("Icon Of Malice").
The sound is unrelentingly heavy and fast this time, with less clean singing than the two surrounding albums.
Having two lead guitarists gives the songs an extra dimension (title track), but a bigger factor is Smith's more prominent drumming ("Drowned And Torn Asunder"). So when the compositions are up to the group's standard, the results are incredible: "The Deceived" and "Like Light To Flies" are complex, hard-hitting and hummable, all at once. But a number of the tunes are merely functional ("Rain"; "Suffocating Sight"), keeping the disc from being as consistently rewarding as the followup.
And there's one cheesy moment, an echoey power chord vamp that's straight out of the Scorpions songbook, or maybe Aldo Nova's, during the otherwise brilliant "A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation."
Produced by Suecof and Heafy. Also in 2005, Heafy and Beaulieu contributed to Roadrunner United: The All-Star Sessions.
The Crusade (2006)
Except for a few spots, Heafy drops the growl; generally, he adopts a Hetfield-inspired tone that's harsh but tuneful,
while on the choruses he can sound like the guy from Creed ("Ignition"), or even an indie navelgazer ("Detonation") - predictably, that's helped the band commercially while sparking cries of "sellout" from metal purists.
Suecof keeps the sound simultaneously clear and thrillingly saturated ("Tread The Floods"), and incorporates unexpected tricks like vocal harmonies without letting them become the focus, while the playing of Beaulieu and Heafy is better than ever ("To The Rats"; the phenomenal instrumental title suite).
All those elements don't mean much if you can't put them together with great tunes, but once again, there are loads of intricate compositions ("Unrepentant"). The singalong "Anthem (We Are The Fire)" is more hard rock than metal, sounding rather like Bon Jovi, but it's catchy as hell.
The lyrics vary from romantic themes ("This World Can't Tear Us Apart") to such un-metal topics as the killings of Amadou Diallo ("Contempt Breeds Contamination") and Matthew Shepard ("And Sadness Will Sear"), though without much subtlety or depth.
Produced by Nick Raskulinecz, and he brought back more of the growled vocals (now generally performed by Beaulieu) and - more importantly - turned the ambition knob all the way to "Epic." The tunes are longer - the title track topping out at twelve minutes, thanks to Opethian mellow segments - the song structures are more complex (leadoff single "Kirisute Gomen," with an incongruous bridge that sounds wrong every time it comes in), and the song titles are verbose ("Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis"). I don't object to any of this in principle, I know heavy metal often lives on the border between pretentiousness and self-parody, and I'd much rather listen to a band that tries too hard than one that doesn't try hard enough. But way too much of this disc comes off as calculated to impress ("Into The Mouth Of Hell We March") rather than honest communication, and too many of the individual song sections are drab ("Insurrection"). Still, the band has a fearsome array of tools and can still put together a classic song (the emotional rollercoaster "Down From The Sky," where Heafy truly rages rather than just singing about rage)...
I don't recommend this disc highly, but I don't recommend writing them off either.
In Waves (2011)
All the songs are short this time, with the previous record's prog tendencies confined to a handful of fragments ("Ensnare The Sun"), and the tunes are closer to the bash/growl template of Ascendancy than the multiplicity of styles on The Crusade ("Of All These Yesterdays," with mellow verses and a bluesy bridge, is practically the only exception). The band's technical facility is undimmed and the hooks are effective ("Watch The World Burn"): They're totally locked in on cuts like "A Skyline's Severance," and the no-nonsense approach ensures that also-rans are crisp and hard-hitting ("Black"; "Built To Fall").
But the long succession of similar-sounding songs with pretentious titles ("Caustic Are The Ties That Bind"; "A Grey So Dark" - did they become British at some point?) grows wearying by disc's end. I still think the band will realize its full potential sooner or later, though this album (like Shogun before it) is far from essential.