Trivium – ‘What The Dead Men Say’

By Ian Kenworthy

Over the course of eight albums, Trivium have built a reputation as one of metal’s biggest bands. After a lull, they recaptured the thrill of their earlier work with 2017’s ‘The Sin and The Sentence’, and that heavier, more pummelling sound has provided the jumping off point for ninth album ‘What The Dead Men Say’. Trivium are not looking back, and they’re ready to prove they still deserve their crown.

Each of the band’s albums has been shaped by the producer – David Draiman of Disturbed on ‘Vengeance Falls’ being the most obvious example –  and this time they returned to Josh Wilbur, who helmed ‘The Sin and The Sentence’, and it’s not hard to see why. Using that album’s sound as a template, the band have only pushed themselves harder, and to stunning results. Harder-edged and powerful, the entire album comes across as nothing short of ferocious, and combined with arguably the heaviest songs the band have ever written, it makes for a breathtaking listen.

Singer/guitarist Matthew Heafy is clearly aware of exciting trends in metal and will often praise younger, more adventurous bands on social media. Throughout the album, he draws upon these fresh, exciting influences to keep his own work from feeling stale. Of course, he also knows his core audience, so his songwriting never steps too wide of the mark – you know what you’re getting, but it’s still surprising just how strong this record is. Trivium have not sounded this energised for a long time, if ever. It’s most obvious in the fast thrash of ‘The Defiant’, and how it contrasts with the fiery ‘Bending The Arc To Fear’.

While there’s nothing quite as ambitious as you would find on 2008 opus ‘Shogun’, there is no shortage of inspiration. Take lead single ‘The Catastrophist’ as an example; descending into thundering blastbeats at the four-minute mark, it suddenly flips around, grabbing your attention in a new and alarming way. It’s hugely effective here, but every song offers a twist on the band’s usual formula. ‘Sickness Unto You’ is another great example, as it begins like a quintessential Trivium track, but before its conclusion the band unleash a huge barrage and threaten to tear your ears right off.

After struggling with vocal injuries during the ‘Silence In The Snow’ era, Heafy is back on top form and his performance is outstanding throughout. You can hear the honesty in his voice on songs like ‘Scattering The Ashes’, which pulls at your heart strings and is genuinely affecting. Yet, when he deploys throat-shredding screams on ‘Amongst The Shadow And The Stones’, it has the opposite effect, drawing up emotions from the darkest depths of anguish.

This is far from a one-man show, though. Lead guitarist Corey Beaulieu’s lines are amazingly slick, his fingers whizzing across the fretboard with aplomb as though he has something urgent to say. Paolo Gregoletto is also given chances to lay down some classy bass solos, especially during the ominous opening to ‘Bleed Into Me’. It’s the slowest song here, but has grit under its fingernails; built around a huge groove, it’s catchy and bites in exactly the right places.

Every album has its weaknesses, and here you can find it in the title track. Matthew Heafy repeats ‘What The Dead Men Say’ so many times during the chorus it feels overcooked and excessive, even at a first listen – but at least you’re not going to forget the album’s name in a hurry.

Clocking in at total of 46 minutes, the album is focused and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even the two songs that do stretch beyond six minutes earn that length, twisting and turning and never treading water. The band leave us with what could be one of the greatest songs in their repertoire in ‘The Ones We Leave Behind’, bringing the album to a thrilling close with its galloping, triumphant mix of riffing and deft lead guitar work from Beaulieu.

Trivium have returned, armed with a powerful record that has enough guts and forward-thinking might to reclaim their throne and lay waste to the competition. Urgent and sharpened to a point, ‘What The Dead Men Say’ is fresh, focused, and easily sits amongst the band’s best work.

IAN KENWORTHY

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