Since their breakout second album Ascendancy, Trivium have been frustratingly inconsistent. The thrash-leaning, Metallica-aping The Crusade had some solid ideas but lacked any real coherency. The band followed this with the show-stopping Shogun, with its sprawling, progressive take-no-prisoners approach which is widely lauded, and with good reason, as one of the two best albums Matt Heafy and co. have ever produced alongside the obvious Ascendancy. Unfortunately the band seemingly lost their way again with the three successors being nothing particularly special.
Given such a career trajectory you can be forgiven for not knowing which Trivium will be coming out the speakers this time - the full-throttle, firing on all cylinders band that released the aforementioned Shogun and Ascendancy or maybe the Disturbed-lite of Vengeance Falls or the plodding of Silence in the Snow.
The opening salvo of ‘The Sin and the Sentence’ and ‘Beyond Oblivion’ certainly throw their weight squarely into the former camp with progressive flourishes, a welcome return to Matt Heafy’s bark and his ability to write massive vocal hooks without sacrificing any intensity; the following ‘Other Worlds’ and ‘The Heart from Your Hate’ recall The Crusade but decisively hit the mark. Over seven albums Trivium have experimented with several sounds without ever seeming to find one that sticks (something that can also be said of their now-infamous inability to actually keep a drummer) and it now feels we’re being treated to something of a best-of, drawing on all the different directions the band have tried to form something as close to a unified Trivium sound we’re going to get.
Unfortunately the drawing on previous sounds isn’t the only look back to prior albums here - The Sin and the Sentence also feels like a condensed version of the previous seven albums in that it also is maddeningly inconsistent. The opening half of the album goes right for the throat with razor-sharp riffing, huge vocal lines and structures reminiscent of Shogun, but songs like ‘Endless Night’ and ‘Beauty in the Sorrow’ draw on The Crusade again and while not necessarily bad, fall short of the mark and are quite forgettable. The back half of the album does have a tendency to draw on the more techy influences Trivium have dabbled with previously on In Waves, such as the mid-album highlight ‘The Wretchedness Within’ which has the kind of incisive, buzzsaw edge to the riffs you might expect of TesseracT or SikTh, all snarl and ferocity. Unfortunately this again doesn’t hold up - ‘The Revanchist’ has some excellent riffing, clearly drawing on more djent-oriented textures and soundscapes but drags on unnecessarily over seven minutes.
The Sin and the Sentence is, overall, probably one of the best albums Trivium have put out; while it doesn’t reach the heights of Shogun or Ascendancy, which are frankly now modern metal classics, it’s still a cut above the rest of their discography right now. Sadly this is another modern metal album that suffers from a severe case of a lack of self-editing - at nearly an hour long the album feels bloated and stodgy, with the vast majority of songs clocking in over five minutes long. The album is too front-heavy, all the best material in the first six songs but there’s then another five songs left of tech-y plod that, while not at all bad, simply doesn’t live up to the promise of the first half. This is the closest we’ve ever had to a nailed-down Trivium sound and encompasses all that was good about their previous seven albums but it’s let down by inconsistent songwriting - but if you like Trivium or just want to hear a solid modern metal album, The Sin and the Sentence should tick the right boxes for you.
Highlights: The Sin and the Sentence, Beyond Oblivion, The Wretchedness Inside