Trivium have always been a band close to my heart and I imagine most metal fans my age will say the same. 2005’s Ascendancy – the band’s second studio album, is packed full of songs which form the playlist of tracks which got me into metal. Songs such as Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr and A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation easily stand up alongside classics from Iron Maiden and Metallica when I think back to my younger days of discovering heavier music.
Since then though Trivium have been on what many see as a bumpy road (a road which I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed), the follow up to Ascendancy – The Crusade, was seen by many as a giant misstep in a failed attempt to capture a more mainstream audience. The follow up to that was of course the massively impressive Shogun, a big bold statement of who Trivium are and a go-to album to show haters who dare question the legitimacy of the Florida four piece. The four albums which followed feel like Trivium’s journey of self discovery, starting with the modern sounding chorus-heavy In Waves, to the David Draiman produced Vengeance Falls which was followed up by the more power metal influenced Silence In The Snow, it really felt as if Trivium were trying to find their definitive sound. Many would argue they did just that with 2017’s The Sin And The Sentence, an album which this reviewer couldn’t get enough of and an album which ditched gimmicks and experiments in favour of straight up red-blooded badass metal tunes. Trivium’s ninth studio album – What The Dead Men Say, marks the first time in their discography that the band aren’t back with a new sound. Instead they’re back with the same attitude and mastery which we experienced on the last album but turned up to a level of quality which solidifies them as one of the best metal bands in the world.
Sometimes you can hear a single outside of the album and it can be misinterpreted or in my case, completely underappreciated. I enjoyed the title track to this album the first time I heard it, but hearing What The Dead Men Say played after the brilliant instrumental opening IX, made me connect with this catchy opener on a whole new level. After being eased in we’re smashed around the face with a back to back brutal one-two punch of Catastrophist & Amongst the Shadows & the Stones. The former acts as a shining moment for Trivium as every part of this track hits like a bus while the latter follows up with one of the bands most aggressive and venomous outings to date. After only three songs it’s abundantly clear what drummer Alex Bent brings to the table after joining the band on the last album. With his incredible level of drumming, Trivium are able to reach new heights of heavy which they just haven’t been able to previously. In fact, their sound now feels closer to something like Gojira than anything else while still being able to remain distinctively Trivium. Trust me, this is the highest praise I can give.
Even when the album slows down with the beautiful Bleed Into Me (another track which by itself doesn’t sound as good as it does in the context of the album), it never loses any momentum. What follows is nothing short of breathtaking… The Defiant storms in with the perfect mix of classic Ascendancy era-like familiarity and musical excellence which Trivium have perfected over the years. In a way it’s the perfect Trivium song as it managed to both remind me of why I first fell in love with the band back in 2005 and acts as a culmination of all their experimental detours over recent years. This is also the perfect time to point out Matt Heafy’s outstanding vocals on this record. The final chorus on The Defiant gave me literal goosebumps as Heafy manages to hit notes and a key change which establishes him as undoubtedly one of the best frontmen in metal today.
Before you can even catch your breath after The Defiant, Sickness Unto You arrives with such heavy emotion in its songwriting and lyrics that it’s hard not to feel moved in some way. The subject matter in this track really caught me off guard and shows a new level of maturity that might have not been there in Trivium’s earlier years. Continuing this emotional theme, Scattering The Ashes deals with loss and broken relationships, particularly between a father & son. Speaking to Kerrang about the track and guitarist Corey Beaulieu’s recent loss of his grandfather, bassist Paolo Gregoletto said this; “We were talking about the lyrics and what we wanted it to be. I wanted to make a song that was about scattering the ashes, but more of a narrative of a father/son who hadn’t dealt with these unresolved issues and how things were cut short without being resolved.” This song manages to both get this story across while remaining heavy as fuck.
If I were to have any complaint (more of a nitpick) about this wonderful album it might lie with how it finishes, both Bending The Arc To Fear and The Ones We Leave Behind are great tracks which most bands would kill to have in their back catalogue, but after witnessing what is quite frankly a masterpiece of an album, I just wish the record could have finished with something a tad bit more epic. Again though, I’m nitpicking here because outside of the last two tracks not being perfect, the rest of the album is exactly that – perfect.
I’m going to shamelessly take some inspiration from the That’s Not Metal podcast with some of my final statements because what they said on the most recent episode is something I completely agree with on every level.
What The Dead Men Say is a triumph for Trivium, there’s no doubt. It’s full of blistering bangers and never stops to take a breath. Alex Bent’s drumming drags Trivium to an entirely new level. The guitar parts are spine tingling with Corey’s solos not being simple dick measuring contests, as is the case with most metal albums, instead they take the listener on a journey before bringing them crashing back down to earth with a killer chorus which can be found on each of the albums nine tracks. Paolo’s contribution to the writing is clear to see while Matt has his best vocal outing to date, solidifying him as a legend in the world of metal. What The Dead Men Say needs to be the album which finally sees Trivium headlining arenas across the globe, if it doesn’t then I may lose faith in the metal community. Take a bow Trivium, What The Dead Men Say is your best album to date and arguably the best metal album for over ten years.