Heavy metal music of the modern era is a completely different beast.
Components such as mood, atmosphere and soundscapes form as much a part of the overall album experience and in most cases is all the better for it.
Metal albums that start with a misleading musical intro that soon descends into chaos are nothing new, but when coupled with modern technology seem to have more impact when done right.
Such is the opening track on Trivium’s new album, In The Court Of The Dragon.
X is an eerie, sweeping, foreboding and dark 1 minute and 28 seconds akin to a laboured descent into the downstairs kitchen and provides an ominous, if not original peak behind the Trivium curtain of an album that has been eagerly awaited by fans and critics alike.
Fans for the fact with Trivium you know the band will always deliver, and critics for the fact they are just hoping for a reason to tear down a band that has stood the test of time over 22 years and ten albums.
Leading straight into the title track, things soon ramp up to a more palatable level, with Matt Heafy’s recognizable vocals barking orders over the trusty rhythm section and drummer Alex Bent.
Trivium’s modern sound has been built on the composite harsh and clean vocal delivery by Heafy who, it must be said, is much better when singing of a less clean nature.
With bass player Paolo Gregoletto providing cleans and guitarist Corey Beaulieu assisting with harsh tones, Trivium have found their musical identity more with each album, and the intensity of In The Court Of The Dragon almost seems like a deliberate attempt to put doubters immediately on the back foot.
We’re only (really) one track in and already I have heard guitar solos, menacing vocals and drumming to set a pacemaker to, so basically so far, so good.
Like A Sword Over Democles starts with a twin guitar assault that continues in a frenetic outburst of emotion before Heafy cuts the tension and dictates proceedings. The transition from harsh vocals to clean can often seem cumbersome or forced, but Trivium seem to have found the harmonies balance and switch between the two a little better over time.
I must admit I much prefer the harsher vocals, which to date have dominated proceedings, with Heafy seemingly more at ease in anger than light.
More guitar solos punctuate the song mid way through and, it’s hard to describe, but nothing feels forced if that makes sense?
The back half of this song is (beautifully) dominated by guitars and showcases the technical prowess of each member of the band.
Feast Of Fire sees Heafy channelling his clean side of vocals with a still heavy track only with more harmonious interludes. Not bad but next. I will listen to this one on the radio when they release it…
A Crisis Of Revelation explodes with a quick drum roll that gives way to precision and menacing guitar work, and I quickly forget the almost formulaic nature of the previous track.
This is more like the Trivium that I fell in love with, although the cleans are still less than convincing at times.
This album is definitely more guitar driven than those of recent memory and somehow trivium have managed to maintain a rage and ultimate sense of disdain despite over two decades in the metal machine.
The Shadow Of The Abattoir starts off almost ambiently, with softer guitars setting the tone for a stripped back tune that is softly spoken/sung and even more softly delivered. I’m all for bands experimenting musically, but for the life of me can’t understand the lengths some bands go to. The song does snap into life in patches, but at this time of night is doing nothing to inspire.
No Way Back Just Through sets things back on track with an aggressive intro and driving beat that sits just behind a sizzling guitar run that veers off into a plethora of solos. The tempo changes and nuances present on this track sway my opinion back to the side of positive but only just.
Fall Into Your Hands, with it’s stuttering lead in, is the sort of different I would much rather hear.
A sweeping yet sporadic tune with more timing changes than an old Falcon is the standout track so far with its venomous intent and eclectic nature more my idea of musical experimentation.
But, hey, this is Trivium’s album and one thing this band has proved over the years is they don’t give a flying fuck what people think of their musical output as long as they themselves are content.
And full credit to them for that.
From Dawn To Decadence produces an instant wall of sound that quickly descends into carnage and portrays the heavier side of Trivium that for this listener is by far their best. Despite the appearance of more cleans, they are more used here for effect rather than compensation and actually add to the song rather than fracture it.
Album closer The Phalanx, coming in at a tick over seven minutes, is going to be the dealbreaker for me.
Aside from a couple of skippable moments, In The Court Of The Dragon has largely been an impressive offering from Trivium, but I, for one, like to leave an album wanting more instead of being lulled into a soothing conclusion.
Unfortunately The Phalanx offers little in the way of resolution. It is a decent tune – excellent in patches – which showcases the multi facetted nature of Trivium’s music, but for some reason lacks that knockout punch you always hope the final round will deliver.