REVIEW: TRIVIUM – “What The Dead Men Say”
Trivium has always been a band that has strived to achieve greatness. From humble beginnings which I am sure we can all remember, the band has single-handedly shattered all the preconceived notions that were placed upon them and has slowly become one of the big bands of this generation. After embracing a minor musical renaissance over the past decade, the band has found great success through their past few releases, which has ultimately culminated in their most recent album, the critically acclaimed The Sin and the Sentence. Creating a follow-up to any massively successful album is a very daunting task, but is also one which Trivium has endured multiple times throughout their career, and one in which they have risen to each and every time. So with the release of their intriguingly titled What the Dead Men Say just on the horizon, its time to take a look and see if they have they managed to maintain their momentum yet again.
There is a whole lot to like about What The Dead Men Say. At only 10 tracks long, it still clocks in at a respectable 48 minutes in duration. There are obviously a few longer tracks, but for the most part, there is nothing on here that leaves the listener wanting once the whole album is over. As to be expected, there is a nice flow to the album, with each track standing as part of a broader package, yet still being able to be enjoyed on their own.
In terms of the overall soundscape, there is an ever-present darker tone to the album that really harkens back to the earlier eras in the band’s career. Songs like Amongst the Shadows and the Stones or the central riff in Sickness Unto You have strong Ascendency-era vibes coursing through them, but still feel invigoratingly Trivium for the year 2020. This has created almost the perfect marriage of their early era work with their current path and would feel like an appropriate album to give to anyone to demonstrate what Trivium is all about.
Musically, What the Dead Men Say feels like Trivium’s best work yet. The musicianship is expectedly high, and the production quality is again phenomenal. The guitar riffs are some of the more enjoyable ones that the band has churned out in the past few albums, and the intricate guitar work of Matt Heafy and Cory Beaulieu on songs like The Defiant or the solo in The Ones We Leave Behind really demonstrate the total growth that Trivium has over their greater sound.
Not to be outdone, the rhythm section also shines brightly on the album. Sections like the chunky bass riff that opens Bleed Into Me, or the finely tuned drumming on the title track breathe life into the album that most rhythm sections would be devoid of being able to provide. Paolo Gregoletto has brought another concrete performance to the table on this record, and while much has been said about the inclusion of Alex Bent and how much he has brought to the band since his inclusion, he certainly leaves nobody questioning just how right of a fit he is for the band with his performance on What the Dead Men Say. This iteration of the band really is their most cohesive form and their musical output on this album is testament to that.
As far as vocal growth, Heafy is unstoppable. The transformation his vocals have undergone over the past decade, even from album to album, is absolutely phenomenal. The tonal control that Heafy has on his voice is remarkable and his vocal performances on songs like The Defiant and Scattering the Ashes bring incredible power to the tracks and certainly elicit an emotional response from the listener.
With all that being said, if you had to take a very fine-tooth comb through it, the one potentially negative takeaway from this album would be that from a songwriting perspective there is an underlying feeling that certain songs feel less cohesive than what the band has done over the past few years. This isn’t a negative light, and strictly speaking, the songs don’t sound drastically different than what the band has cooked up before, but for this listener, there was a feeling that some of these songs might have been tooled together as a collection of really good riffs that the band had come up with that they wanted to include in one package. Again, this doesn’t detract from how good these songs are, but for some of the more long term fans, this record may not exude that same cohesive songwriting polish and finesse they may have been expecting through some of them in song transitions.
Production on the album has once again been handled by Josh Wilbur for his third collaboration with the band, and as already stated, is quite phenomenal. There is minimal to a fault in terms of the mix or production levels, with each element present in the songs never oppressing each other and creating a perfect soundscape amongst these tracks.
As the sum of all its parts, What The Dead Men Say is a brilliant album. It’s brimming with energy; it is unapologetic in delivery; and is what many would expect the ‘next step’ for Trivium would be. While this album might not have the same exuberant confidence that The Sin and The Sentence held, it is the sort of record you would give to someone if you wanted them to know exactly who Trivium is and what they are about. This is definitely another step towards greatness for Trivium and is one that will bring the long term fans, and hopefully some of the more fringe fans along for the ride.