Monday, 13 November 2017

Trivium's 'The Sin and the Sentence' - Album Review

Despite their early history being heavily intertwined with the American metalcore scene in the mid-2000s, Trivium have grown to become one of the very best mainstream metal bands in the world. Their potent mixture of thrash, classic heavy metal, and even elements of extreme metal has helped them to forge a powerful and distinct sound, despite seeing plenty of tweaks and different emphasises over the years. Trivium are one of those rare bands where you really feel that each album the release has it's own identity and style. While the differences between the albums are not vast, subtle adjustments in direction and presentation help each new album to form a distinct new chapter in the Trivium story. This, combined with their regular album releases and heavy touring schedule, has really helped the band to rise through the ranks of metal to somewhere near the top of the tree. There are a few modern metal bands that hold higher statuses than Trivium, but these bands are few and far between. Two years ago the band released Silence in the Snow (which I reviewed here), an album which saw Trivium making a deliberate effort to strip back and streamline their sound. Silence in the Snow saw the band push their classic heavy metal influences to the fore, which as a result created probably the most accessible and melodic Trivium album to date. Frontman Matt Heafy was the star of the show and showed off a much improved vocal range throughout. The decision not to feature any harsh vocals at all on Silence in the Snow definitely ruffled a few feathers in the traditionally conservative metal community, but in truth none of the songs on Silence in the Snow would have been enhanced at all by the presence of them. Silence in the Snow went for a very specific sound, one that the band achieved with aplomb, and as a result some sacrifices from the band's usual arsenal were needed. Fans of the band's heavier side should fear not however, as the band's latest effort The Sin and the Sentence definitely sees Trivium re-connecting with all things heavy. There are two elements that really add to this change in my opinion, and the first is the addition of drummer Alex Bent (Dragonlord; Underling; Battlecross) to the band's line-up. Bent joined the band earlier this year, and his fast, powerful drumming style really propels Trivium forward on this album. He is also easily the band's most diverse drummer since founding member Travis Smith. The other element that really contributed to the sound of The Sin and the Sentence is Josh Wilbur's production. This is the first Trivium album that he has produced, and he has brought his years of experience with working with bands like Lamb of God and Gojira to the table. His clear, but heavy, production is a big part of what makes The Sin and the Sentence such an enjoyable listen, and Trivium really made the right decision working with him. Given the album's heaviness, it is unsurprising that the harsh vocals are back here - although in a more limited capacity than some might expect or desire. Heafy's clean vocals still dominate here, and his performance here might even be better than his work on Silence in the Snow.

After a slightly spooky intro, the album gets underway with the blistering title track that showcases the band's rediscovered heaviness from off. Immediately the impact of Bent can be seen with some creative drumming reminiscent of the great Mike Portnoy, but the lead guitar melodies are firmly rooted in the band's recent obsession with traditional heavy metal. This continues during the verses, which slow everything down somewhat with a simple chugged power chord pattern that allows Paolo Gregoletto's bass to dominate. This is a song which contains many different vibes throughout, and a thrashy chorus with a strong harsh vocal presence only adds to the song's diversity. It really seems that Trivium have used this song to introduce all the elements that are present throughout the album, and as a result this title track really is a microcosm for the whole. The instrumental section is typical of the album's diversity, with melodic Yngwie Malmsteen-esque neo-classical guitar leads atop Bent's blast beats. Opening with an ultra-modern, almost Fear Factory-esque pummelling riff, Beyond Oblivion really puts the band's heaviness back in the spotlight. The verses alternate between slow, murky sections and uptempo ones lead by Heafy's powerful harsh vocals. It is clear that Heafy has really worked on his harsh vocal delivery over the past couple of years, and his voice carries much more venom than previously. This is contrasted well with the chorus, which is highly melodic and definitely showcases the band's love for artists like Dio. Lovers of 2006's The Crusade will likely enjoy Other Worlds, which seems like a real throwback to the melodic thrash sound showcased on that album. The verses in particular really could have been lifted directly from that album, with their simple anthemic sound, but the slightly ethereal chorus sets the song apart from that part of Trivium's career with Corey Beaulieu's subtle guitar leads adding real atmosphere behind Heafy's uncharacteristically high vocals. The Heart from Your Hate sounds like a song that could have been left over from the Silence in the Snow sessions, as it features the same stripped back, overtly melodic sound that characterised that album. The song mostly moves along at a mid-pace, which is aided by a strong groove coming from Gregoletto and Bent's interlocking rhythms. Beaulieu's simple guitar leads are instantly memorable and provide the song's main hook. This hook resurfaces in the chorus, which is a real winner with Heafy's excellent vocal display. Betrayer is another instantly heavy song with Bent's ridiculously fast drumming driving the intro. The harsh vocal barks are perfect for this sound, but the song is not a pure speed fest with another highly melodic chorus and there are sections of the verses which are deliberately low key. Structurally this song is similar to Beyond Oblivion, in a style which seems to define this album overall. Despite the song's more melodic tropes however, the parts of this song that really stick in the mind are the heavy ones which shows how powerful they are. The Wretchedness Inside is another heavy song, but one that mostly drives along at a solid mid-pace with plenty of groove to the riffs. There is definitely a strong Lamb of God influence here, with plenty of riffs that sound like something they might have come up with, so I wonder if that is Wilbur's influence rear it's head here? It works well for the band though, and gives song a distinct identity from anything else presented here. The chorus is typically Trivium however, with Heafy's soaring clean vocals, but the rest of the song sees him screaming over the mechanical riffs.

Endless Night is the album's shortest song, and the only one here under four minutes in length, but it is still a memorable slab of melodic metal. Instead of having any traditional riffs, Beaulieu's lead guitar melodies drive the entire song with their chiming quality. The most obvious point to make about this song however is how it really does not sound like a Trivium song at all. None of the band's usual trademarks are present at all really, but it does not feel out of place here - which goes to highlight how diverse this album is. The spacey guitar solo is the highlight however, which sees the band in a more laid back mood than usual. Sever the Hand puts the heaviness back in spotlight with another song that mixes fast verses with a stadium-sized chorus. While fairly typical of the album's overall sound, the song still stands out due to some pretty mean Sylosis-esque instrumental sections that, although are sometimes simply chords played really fast, really pack a punch due to the tightness of the band and the strength of the production. There are more dynamic instrumental parts too, with plenty of guitar soloing throughout from Heafy and Beaulieu. In fact, if it was not for the clean vocals in the chorus, this really could have been a Sylosis song and shows that Trivium is tapped into modern metal veins too. Beauty in the Sorrow opens with a more melancholic clean section, before one of the band's trademark riffs kicks in and sets the tone for the rest of the song. Despite this, this is a varied song, with short sections that are reminiscent of the opening moments to help break up the pace. This, combined with one of the most memorable guitar lead hooks on the album really makes this number stand out and as a result it is probably the strongest number in the album's second half. There is a really great guitar solo too, that starts off fairly slow, showcasing lots of precise note bends, before speeding up as it moves along to a shredding climax. The Revanchist is the album's longest effort at just over seven minutes in length and, unsurprisingly, there is definitely a bit of a progressive leaning here. A bit like the album's opening title track, this feels like a song that attempts to define the whole album's sound with a multi-part make-up that sees the band throwing everything that they have at it. The slower chorus mixes well with the heavier verses to create a song that contains a little bit of everything that has helped make Trivium so great over the years. The lengthy instrumental section is great too, and really allows all four of the band members to flex their muscles and pull together to make something powerful. The album's closing number Thrown into the Fire is another heavier song that ensures the album packs a punch right to the end. The song's tricky riff is one that is sure to get the blood pumping right from the off, and the dominance of Heafy's harsh vocals throughout makes the song a really potent listen. While the chorus is still mostly melodic, the vast majority of this song really is heavy and is probably exactly the sort of thing that those who were not too keen on Silence in the Snow wanted to be hearing from Trivium. Overall, The Sin and the Sentence is another excellent album from Trivium that really sees the band taking the best bits from throughout their previous seven albums and putting it all together into a diverse and dynamic set of songs. This is probably the band's best release since 2008's Shogun and will certainly bring a lot of fans who have been disillusioned with the band's other more recent work back on board.

The album was released on 20th October 2017 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for The Sin and the Sentence.

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