Thursday 14 May 2020

Trivium - What the Dead Men Say (2020)

Country: USA
Style: Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 24 Apr 2020
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I find that I want to avoid most trendy modern American "metal" bands, as I don't buy into them being anything of the sort, but Trivium are surely the exception that proves the rule. Sure, they're trendy, modern and American, but I don't have any problem in calling them metal.

Now, there are plenty of metalcore trappings still in their sound, perhaps most overtly on Amongst the Shadows & the Stones, even if it's also surely the fastest song on the album, with a pace that outstrips most of the songs on the last few American thrash albums I've reviewed. However, plenty of the also instrumental passages here made me forget I wasn't listening to an Iron Maiden album and some vocal ones move firmly into Pantera territory. Either way, that's metal.

It helps that Matt Heafy's vocals are clean as often than they're shouty, if not more so. The album's bookends, the title track at the beginning and The Ones We Leave Behind at the end, are probably my favourite songs here, with Heafy singing clean for most of both of them. Even on songs with more shouty vocals, such as Catastrophist, the majority of those vocals are still clean and the shouty parts are used as contrast.

Those bookends do what all metal songs want to do: they gallop and they rock and they soar, with a twin guitar assault bringing in melodies. It shocks me that people complained when Heafy ditched screams for clean vocals, because the latter sound so much better and, what's more, give him a heck of a lot more opportunity to bring nuance to his songs.

Bleed to Me may not gallop as much but it rocks and soars too, while somehow sounding like it would fit well alongside all those trendy modern bands on a trendy modern ClearChannel radio station. The Defiant follows suit, with the most Maiden-esque backing of anything here but with shouty aggression in the vocals. It also builds rather strongly towards its end, most courtesy of new fish Alex Bent, who's been the band's drummer for four years now.

I rather like the mixture that Trivium are playing with here, a traditional metal sound that I've enjoyed for three and a half decades and change mixed with that nu American sound that I usually prefer to avoid. They've managed to find a palatable balance that I can enjoy and, by my third time through, it wasn't just the bookends that I was digging but the songs in the middle that explore that palatable balance.

Both Bleed into Me and Sickness unto You are catchy and commercial songs I'd have no problem seeing as singles (which the former was), but they're never weak. The Defiant is more brutal. Scattering the Ashes even adds a slight gothic tinge to its vocal line. I won't suggest that this is the most varied release of the year but it's a lot more varied than I was expecting it to be.

I should add that the melodeath part of the trivium, along with thrash metal and metalcore, is still here, flavouring most of these songs. The most overt may be Bending the Arc to Fear but it's there throughout the album. However, Trivium has clearly turned into more of a straightforward heavy metal band with some metalcore influences and that's no bad thing. Frankly, the more I hear them evolve in that direction, the more I like them.

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