Sunday, 29 November 2015

Trivium's 'Silence in the Snow' - Album Review

Having long left their association with the American metalcore scene behind, Florida's Trivium have taken a lot of influence from classic hard rock and heavy metal when writing and recording their seventh album Silence in the Snow. Every Trivium album so far has had a unique identity, as the band has been careful not to repeat themselves too much. The band's last album, 2013's Vengeance Falls (which I reviewed here), was probably the least unique of their output. It lacked the pure thrash of 2006's The Crusade, the progressive feel of 2008's Shogun, and the heavy groove of 2011's In Waves. Vengeance Falls is not a bad album by any stretch. The songwriting is fairly strong throughout, and the production is excellent, but it just seemed to fall a little flat after the stronger albums that came before it. As a result, Silence in the Snow sounds like an attempt from Trivium to refresh their sound, and create another path for themselves musically. The result is strong, and probably my favourite album from Trivium since Shogun. As I said earlier, there is a big dose of classic hard rock and heavy metal throughout this album. Vocalist Matt Heafy has done a lot of work recently with vocal coaches on his voice, and the results of this are shown here. This is the first Trivium album to not feature any harsh vocals at all, a fact which has of course upset a lot of the flat-earthist metal fans, but it works well in the context of the album. Heafy has always had a strong singing voice, and that has only improved with time. Harsh vocals have always caused him problems with his vocal cords, so it is probably in his interest to focus on the cleans. Guitarist Corey Beaulieu handles the lion's share of harsh vocals live these days anyway, which gives Heafy more freedom with his clean vocals. This album also has quite a stripped-back vibe to it. The riffs are simple, but extremely catchy, and new drummer Mat Madiro sets a basic groove for each song without showing off to much. You could compare this album to Avenged Sevenfold's Hail to the King in that respect, but I feel the songwriting is stronger here. Produced by Michael 'Elvis' Baskette, who has worked with hard rockers like Alter Bridge and Slash in the past probably also influenced the overall sound and style of the album. Despite the album's accessibility and melodic quality, one of the biggest names in extreme metal, Ihsahn (Emperor), wrote and played the album's orchestral intro. It really fits in with the traditional style of the album though, and is the icing on the cake.

The aformentioned orchestral intro Snøfall sets a moody tone for the album, before the melodic title track takes over and really showcases Trivium's new streamlined sound. Paolo Gregoletto's bass guitar rumbles satisfactorily throughout the verses, after a tasty intro riff gets things going. The song's chorus is the first moment on the album where Heafy gets to demonstrate his improved vocal ability. He pushes his voice through a succession of ever-higher notes, and his new range is impressive. A dual guitar solo shows that Heafy and Beaulieu have lost none of their musical muses, before a final reprise of the epic chorus brings the song to a close. Blind Leading the Blind opens with one of the album's most memorable riffs, which has a little of their thrashier past in it, before a pacy verse dominates with more excellent vocals. When onstage at Bloodstock Festival earlier this year, Heafy said that the vocals and music of the late Ronnie James Dio had been a big influence on this album, and that can be seen here. Heafy is definitely channelling a little of the great man's spirit here, and that helps emphasise that old-school vibe. The song's chorus is very powerful, and probably one of the catchiest moments on the album. Dead and Gone has a very modern sounding feel to it, with a big down-tuned guitar riff with some good staccato rhythms. Gregoletto and Madiro lock in well together during the verses, creating an almost funky drum-and-bass combination that adds some serious groove to the song and follows nicely on from the main riff. The chorus soars with plenty of big backing vocals, and there is a short, but explosive, guitar solo that adds some speed to a song that is more of a mid-paced affair. The Ghost That's Haunting You opens with that riff that would not sound out of place on a modern Iron Maiden album, before the song's verse comes in and actually sounds a little like something that could have been featured on Shogun. Heafy's vocals have that rougher edge that he used a lot more in that era, and gives the song real crunch. Songs like this really highlight Baskette's production, and how good he has made this album sound. The bass always cuts nicely through the mix, and the kick drums have serious punch to them. The layers of backing vocals have a big classic rock feel about them, and helps to emphasise the song's chorus. Pull me from the Void opens with a Black Sabbath-esque riff, but it soon picks up the pace with some dual-lead guitar sections as Madiro drives things with his double kick drum pattern. The song's chorus is a little repetitive, but Heafy turns in another solid performance with some impressive use of his higher register, and the song's guitar solo has an old-school Trivium vibe.

Until the World Goes Cold is based around a tight, chugging riff which is a nice contrast to the spacey guitar arpeggio that makes up the main verse melody. These two guitar parts mix well together though as the song progresses, and the mix of styles is surprisingly enjoyable. This is a little like a metal version of Def Leppard, as the arpeggio reminds me of something that they might come up with, and that layers of backing vocals is also similar. It is a very melodic piece with a melodramtic vocal performace, and a neo-classical guitar solo that captures your attention. Rise Above the Tides is one of the album's most instantly accessible songs, with plenty of powerful melodies and riffs that stand out. The fast intro riff is full of infectious energy, and the rest of the song maintains this with some more poweful bass lines, double kick drum sections, and a big chorus that sees Heafy's vocals and the lead guitar competing for space and trying to outdo each other. I hope the band decide to play this song live, as I think it would go down really well if they did. The Thing That's Killing Me is a slightly thrashy song, with a frantic riff and a rough bassline that gives the song a harsh edge. It is still very melodic though, and retains that classic metal sound despite the heavier nature of it. The song's chorus still soars as you would expect by know, and the guitar solo section is probably the longest and most expressive of the whole album - with plenty of fluid runs and shredding. With the majority of this album being quite upbeat, Beneath the Sun takes a slight diversion from this and adds a little bit of doom to the formula in places with big, ringing chords and a slow, precise drum beat. Heafy's vocals have a double-tracked feel to them, which brings about thoughts of Alice in Chains during the verses. The chorus picks up the pace somewhat, and is more similar to the sound found elsewhere on the album, leaving behind the doomier sound temporarily. The change of feeling on this song works well, and helps give the album a more three-dimensional feel and stops it from becoming too samey. Breathe in the Flames is the album's final number, and imediately picks up the pace from the previous offering with some of Madiro's fastest footwork on the album. Out of all the songs on display here, this is probably the most progressive offering with a selection of contrasting riffs and tempos that create a slight schizophrenic atmosphere, but it somehow all comes together well to create an enjoyable song, and one that works well to bring the album to a close, as a sombre acoustic guitar line leads us to the finish line. Overall, Silence in the Snow is a strident album that clearly shows the direction Trivium want to take going forward. The classic influences work within their already-established style, and I hope for more material like this in the future.

The album was released on 2nd October 2015 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Silence in the Snow.

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