Trivium – What the Dead Men Say review

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Trivium – What the Dead Men Say review

When Trivium released The Sin and the Sentence back in 2017, it caught many in the metal community by surprise. Through the six years before that album’s release, Trivium had seen their fair share of inconsistencies and challenges, from drummer swaps to damaged vocal cords and stylistic changes in-betweenThis led to albums with some undeniable concert staples (ie. “In Waves”, “Strife”, “Until the World Goes Cold”), but none of these records could hold a candle to either Shogun or Ascendancy from the decade prior in terms of cohesion or overall quality. Sin and the Sentence changed all of that. It came across as a more confident and inspired record, due in no small part to the band’s inclusion of new powerhouse drummer Alex Bent, as well as singer/guitarist Matt Heafy’s revitalized harsh vocals (which had unfortunately been completely absent on 2015’s Silence in the Snow). The record was a shot of adrenaline for a band that had been quite frankly wandering in circles trying to find a foothold again in the modern metal world, and it won them back long-time fans who had written them off for dead.

Sin and the Sentence reset the clock for Trivium, and for listeners going into 2020’s What the Dead Men Say, it could almost be justified to have suspicions and fears of this potentially being a sophomore slump. The band arguably had more to prove going into this record than ever in their whole career. Success was crucial and not guaranteed, as that rebirth from three years before could have easily been a fluke, nothing more than an exciting yet short-lived footnote in their history. Yet while Sin and the Sentence was a culmination of all the things that made Trivium so appealing through the years before, What the Dead Men Say ends up being the leaner, more captivating record.

Over the course of nine songs, it is not only apparent how much tighter the band has become in the last three years, but also how much more attention to detail there was in making sure that no filler was present. The intro “IX” leads into the anthemic powerhouse title track, itself invoking feelings of classic Metallica opener “Battery” through a melodic death metal lens. This track’s sense of building tension appears frequently through the album on highlights such as “Sickness Unto You” and “Catastrophist”, the latter which delivers one of the best vocal performances of singer Matt Heafy’s entire career. His overall presence on this record shows a continued rebuilding of his voice that started as far back as 2015’s Silence and the Snow. His extra controlled grit and distortion is a fantastic touch to lyrics that are without a doubt improved over past records, never becoming as overly verbose as those on Shogun, nor as boringly blunt as those found on In Waves.

There are also plenty nods to the best parts of the band’s mid-2000s heyday in “Amongst the Shadows and the Stones” and “The Defiant”, and the years of experience behind them make these songs sound far more thought-out and mature in their rage and energy. All of the instrumentals are locked in with lightning precision, and while the guitar work of Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu in Trivium has always been a strong point even when the band was not in top form, the true source of What the Dead Men Say’s power is from the rhythm section of bassist Paolo Gregoletto and drummer Alex Bent. These songs wouldn’t have the same weight and impact if it wasn’t for Gregoletto and Bent’s massive synergy together, ranging from the drop-tuned groove of “Bleed Into Me” to the furious power thrash closer of “The Ones We Leave Behind”. As stated before, Trivium has always been a technically gifted band, but here it is beyond just pure guitar hero shredding and bombast, it’s now further developed into an experience where all 4 members lock into every moment with intent and integrity.

What the Dead Men Say is exactly the album Trivium needed to make in 2020. Off the heels of Sin and the Sentence, they recognized all the past wrongs they made right on that record and took that approach even further, without any uncertain sidesteps or shakeups that have plagued them on and off over the years. It is an uncompromising take on modern mainstream metal, and easily their strongest release to date, reflecting a band that finally feels comfortable with each other and their collective vision. “Gods walk amongst all without fear,” indeed.

Rating: 9.5/10

Review courtesy of Brent McCann

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