Props to Trivium for embracing the 21st century in a way few other mainstream metal acts have. For the last few years they’ve live-streamed all of their performances on Twitch, and frontman Matt Heafy uses the platform as a kind of side-hustle when he’s not on tour, twice daily putting on gigs from his home, gaming, and chatting with fans. When it comes to self-promotion, Trivium are putting the hours in.
The same can be said of their work ethic. Heafy in particular has been candid about how much time he spends playing guitar each day, how many times he’ll rehearse before going into a studio or heading off on tour. This is a band who have put the work in and are only really now – nine albums deep – seeing the fruits of their labour.
That’s in large part thanks to the one-two punch of 2017’s The Sin and the Sentence, and this, their new album What the Dead Men Say. For the first time in their career they’ve released two albums in succession widely accepted by the metal community, reigning in their urges to wander too far off-message (The Crusade’s sudden tonal shift; the pop-metal of Vengeance Falls). Their last album saw them combine everything fans loved: anthemic choruses and shouty verses; epic duelling guitar solos and constant tumbling percussion. It was straightforward, but it worked.
So too does What the Dead Men Say. For better or worse, it’s an album of more of the same, the band having found a winning formula. The opening grooves of the title-track – with its “go!” mosh call – are welcoming and familiar, before its hooky chorus comes in, purpose-built to lift the roof off concert venues. Drummer Alex Bent gives an athletic performance here and across the whole record, switching it up between accentuating the riffs and blast-beating the bejesus out his snare.
Lead single Catastrophist follows in the same vein, flying the flag for accessible radio-friendly metal, before twisting into something wholly more brutal and technical in its latter half. It’s a reminder of the heights Trivium achieved on Shogun where each song was given more space to breathe and experiment, resulting in some of their finest work.
What the Dead Men Say favours accessibility over Shogun’s layers though, which stands them in good stead for broad appeal while sacrificing variety. Already sounding like a ‘part 2’ to The Sin and the Sentence, it’s only on Scattering the Ashes the pace changes, reminiscent more of the melodic Dying in Your Arms.
It’s where Trivium’s proficiency of their craft can contribute to their downfall: they’re now so refined, they sound like they could do this in their sleep. Every note is perfect to a fault, so while it’s an album packed full of headbangers, it also lacks any sense of danger. They’re loud, but they’re not aggressive; they’re shouting, but they’re not raw.
It makes for a collection of perfectly competent metal tracks by a band who have found a groove, one that’s accessible to genre newbies and should satisfy long-term fans too. After years of trying to break through and the discipline it’s taken to get to where they are, they deserve the success.
What the Dead Men Say is out now via Roadrunner Records