A new Trivium album is always an occasion; since 2003’s Ascendancy the band have put out some stellar releases but it’s been tempered with inconsistency and odd choices (Vengeance Falls, anyone?) but fans have always stuck by them for those glimmers of brilliance. After the aforementioned Vengeance Falls and power metal detour Silence In The Snow, the band were seemingly in a rut but expectations were well and truly smashed with the welcome return to form of The Sin And The Sentence, sounding like a band going back to the drawing board and just enjoying writing some great heavy metal. With that in mind, 2020 and a global pandemic sees the band releasing followup What The Dead Men Say, prefaced with singles ‘Catastrophist’, the title track and ‘Amongst The Shadows And The Stones’, each of which managed to showcase a different facet to the band’s sound, from huge choruses straight out of Shogun (‘What The Dead Men Say’) to the balls-to-the-wall heaviness that could’ve come from the Ascendancy sessions (‘Amongst The Shadows And The Stones’).
What The Dead Men Say is a welcome continuation of Trivium’s mid-career revival that hones the best elements of their previous works to a keen edge to deliver what is quite probably their finest effort since Shogun. Instrumental opener ‘IX’ is very much par for the course but sets up the transition into the title track that roars out of the gates with tremelo picking before the riff and a call to arms from Matt Heafy hits. The use of Iron Maiden-esque duelling guitars throughout as a melodic device as well as riffs and solos (‘The Ones We Leave Behind’) contrasts with earlier descriptions of the band as the next Metallica, especially after the oft-maligned The Crusade that perhaps wore its influences a little too openly but it’s apparent that comparisons like this are far too reductive. The band channel influences from both classic heavy metal and thrash as well as a myriad of other subgenres, fusing both into bone-rattling heavy metal replete with galloping rhythms, duelling guitars and thunderous riffs straight out of the Bay Area thrash scene and it’s clearly no longer fair to mark Trivium as successors to any particular one band as they’ve now evolved a brand of metal entirely their own.
Midway highlight ‘The Defiant’ is a shining example of their multi-faceted sound and is arguably one of the finest on the record, if not their career; its epic scope, raw aggression in its verses are paired with a grandiose, arena-sized chorus that’s destined to be a highlight of their live set for years to come, global pandemics notwithstanding. Following track ‘Sickness Unto You’ features a solo section straight out of the Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold) playbook with a faux-breakdown underpinned by thunderous basslines courtesy of Paolo Gregolotto who turns in a career-best performance throughout, including a stellar turn as the main melody in the opening verse of ‘Bleed Into Me’. It’s also a relief to see the band retaining a drummer as Alex Bent turns an incredible performance in on the skins, with punishing double-bass work along with deftly-handled complex time changes.
If there’s any criticism to be levelled at the band it’s perhaps that some songs are simply less memorable than others or some sections fall a little flat but these are such minor gripes; Trivium have honed their sound to a fine art by this point and simply write great heavy metal. Despite past inconsistencies and missteps, What The Dead Men Say continues their mid-career renaissance and makes the case for them to be included as one of the greatest modern metal bands around and an early contender for one of the finest records of the year.
What The Dead Men Say is out now via Roadrunner Records. Purchase the album here.