Saturday, 23 November 2013

Trivium's 'Vengeance Falls' - Album Review

Of all the metalcore bands to come out in the early 2000s, Trivium were always my favourite. In my opinion, they were always head and shoulders above their peers both musically and lyrically. Combining all their influences together, Trivium have an instantly recognisable sound that is much classier and technical than other metalcore bands; and, especially on their more recent albums, have much more intelligent lyrics that are often based around real-world events or mythology. While I believe that 2008's Shogun is their creative peak, I have enjoyed all of their albums and each has a recognisable sound and style. 2011's In Waves moved away from the more progressive elements of Shogun and went back to basics. What we got was a much more straight forward modern metal album with a healthy dose of thrash and the band's new album, Vengeance Falls, sounds a little like a continuation of the sound forged on In Waves; but with a slightly more clinical and polished approach. Much has been made in other reviews and online about David Draiman's (Disturbed; Device) involvement with this album. In my opinion, his production job here is excellent. The album sounds massive! The guitar tones throughout are really good and there is plenty of space in the mix for the all instruments to be heard clearly. Melody has always been a big part of Draiman's ethos, and on this album the melodies are front and centre. This is not a complex album by any means, but it is pretty heavy and full of good tunes. Matt Heafy's vocal performance here is very strong. He has always been a good singer, making use of both clean and harsh deliveries, and his work on this album is no exception. If I had to pick one word to describe the sound of Vengeance Falls I think I would choose 'refined'. There are no major stylistic changes to the band's sound but I think a little bit of fat has been cut here and there, and a little more focus has gone into making good melodies throughout the songs. This is probably the first Trivium album that sounds very similar to their previous one, but I think that is an indication of the type of music they want to make going forward. I do not see that as a bad thing at all, and I think that Vengeance Falls is probably a blueprint of what Trivium's sound will be like in the future.

The sound described above is evident right from the outset. Brave this Storm is unmistakably Trivium, but a little more polished. Heafy's snarling vocals on this song hark back to 2006's The Crusade with the musical style of In Waves backing it up. Harsh vocals are used sparingly during this song - mostly in the pre-choruses - letting Heafy show off his diverse range, but it is in the choruses that he really shines. He also also performs the song's main guitar solo and it is the technical feast that we have come to expect from the band. If Draiman's influence can be heard anywhere on the album, then it is on the title track. Heafy's delivery has that staccato aesthetic to it that Drainman is famous for but that is as far as it goes. The song is nothing really that special though. It has a decent chorus and Corey Beaulieu's short solo is flashy, but everything else is pretty average. Luckily, most of the rest of the album is better! Single Strife is much stronger. Nick Augusto's punchy drums drive the song and the verses are so infectiously catchy. I think that Augusto is a bit of an unsung hero in the band. Replacing Travis Smith cannot have been easy but he is just as good as Smith and his fast footwork in this song is enjoyable. If this album has an anthem, then this is it - which is probably why they made a video for it. It has the first real guitar duel between Beaulieu and Heafy. Having two good lead guitarists in a band can be a blessing as well as a curse, but I think Trivium's music manages to get the best out of both of them. No Way to Heal is definately a throw-back to the sound the band had on The Crusade but with added harsh vocals. Heafy's barks sound really strong and Augusto's drums make certain parts of this song sound really monstrous. It really highlights just how strong the production is on this album too, as Paolo Gregoletto's bass really stands out despite the big dual guitar riffing and drums. To Believe is another really melodic piece. I will say at this point though, that the lyrics on this album are a little hit and miss, and certainly not as strong as they have been in the past. Still, when the melodies are strong enough this almost makes no difference as you are likely to find yourself singing along with them anyway. The overly melodic nature of this album leaves little to be discovered on repeated listens which maybe affect it's longevity but it certainly makes it instantly enjoyable.

At the End of this War is a little more underwhelming. Opening with an acoustic guitar line and delicate vocals is a new thing for Trivium, and it works well, but the rest of the song is more standard. I would have actually liked to hear more of the acoustic elements of the song. The band have yet to do anything like that and a fully acoustic Trivium song would probably be quite good. Still, the chorus is perfectly enjoyable and saves the song from being otherwise mediocre. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone on the other hand is probably the best song here. As soon as it starts, you are struck by a brilliant riff that is full of groove and some really delicate harmonies. The verses are a little slower but the great riff returns for the pre-chorus which leads to some really inventive vocal melodies from Heafy in order to compete with the guitar excellence. If I was to pick a top riff of 2013, then this song's main riff would probably be number 1, it is just so good. The icing on the cake though is a really melodic solo from Heafy before Beaulieu takes over and shreds all over the song - excellent stuff! Villainy Thrives is another really strong one. Augusto lays down an almost Chris Adler-esque drum pattern in the verses; which is high praise indeed as, in my opinion, Adler is one of the best drummers in metal today. The chorus is, once again, excellent and has Draiman's signature melodies all over it. After the second one, there is a vicious passage of harsh vocals followed up by an equally vicious dual guitar solo. Incineration: The Broken World feels a little bit flat after two such great songs. It is not without it's highlights though and Heafy's harsh vocals sound really strong, probably the strongest that they ever have. Also, there is a cool bit towards the end were Gregoletto's bass becomes really high in the mix and he performs a short but fun little bass solo! He clearly has some skills and I would like to hear more prominent bass work from him in future. The album comes to an end with Wake (The End is Nigh) which is easily the most varied piece here and sounds a little like something that could have been on Shogun without the spark that made that album such a classic. Still, this songs fits the sound of this album very well and is a very fitting closing number. There are a few tasty riffs dotted throughout the song but some of the lyrics are pretty silly and takes the sheen away a little. Overall, Vengeance Falls is a good album from a band that are now well established in the metal scene. If this is the sound that the band want to pursue in the future, then I would be happy with that. It is good to see a modern band putting so much emphasis on melody and I am sure they will continue to release quality material going forward.

The album was released on 14th October 2013 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Strife.

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