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Trivium: 'Silence In The Snow' And A Debt To Dio

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 Written by Alec Chillingworth

August 7, 2015. Sabaton scorched the Earth beneath their feet in a pyrotechnic-fuelled display of manliness. Fists were pumped. Muscles were flexed. Testosterone flooded the floor of Bloodstock and the gauntlet was thrown with tremendous force at Trivium's feet. As debut headliners, following that should have had the Floridian metallers quaking in their unbelievably shiny boots.  

But, no. Trivium rocked the socks, pants and other garments off all in attendance. It was a victorious, albeit imperfect, performance. The following week, we roasted alive in a Kensington office with guitarist Corey Beaulieu. He was cool. Collected. He reflected on the significance of that night, kindly ignoring the fetid stench of our weeping armpits.

“I heard that whoever headlines Bloodstock, someone will say: 'Ugh, why are they headlining? You should get this other band to headline.' And the band they suggest isn't even a headline-sized band,” he began, enthusiasm coursing through his monolithic, meaty form. Not even a bead of sweat on his temple. And he was wearing black. Dude's a machine. “But we went to Bloodstock and there were loads of killer bands we love there. It was an honour to play. We got an amazing reaction, so whatever negative things people were saying had no effect on how amazing the show was.

“We thought it was an amazing festival and the atmosphere was very close-knit and familial – not like those festivals where you have to walk half a mile to one of the side stages. We've talked to the Bloodstock people and that won't be the last time we headline, so you'll probably see us again in a few years. We'll be more than happy to come back.”

We'll be more than happy to have them. While their career-spanning set was an example of how far both Trivium and Bloodstock have come in recent years, it was plagued with problems. The majestic title track of the band's upcoming seventh album, 'Silence In The Snow', kicked things off. It should have been an immediate punch to the crowd's collective jaw. Instead, er, Corey's guitar broke.

“We checked the guitars right before we went on and they were fine, but as soon as the show started it just faded out,” he said, chuckling with genuine amusement rather than the cackle of a man who murdered his sound engineer and got away with it. “There was electricity going through my microphone so I'd get electrocuted when I was singing. It was such a Spinal Tap moment. It wasn't the ideal start but it ended up being a really special moment in our career.

“Silence In The Snow was written years ago and was inspired by Ronnie James Dio. We brought it back after all these years and the new record is based around that, almost like an homage to Dio. Our first show after a year away was Bloodstock, playing the Ronnie James Dio Stage, opening with that song and my guitars go out. The stars aligned and it was almost like Dio pulling a prank on me, like: 'Ah, it's not gonna be that easy!”

While the idea of Dio pulling a fast one on Beaulieu would make a great sequel to the Tenacious D movie, the late God Of Metal’s influence on the band dates back the best part of a decade. Writing while on tour with Dio's Heaven & Hell in 2007, Trivium deemed the song too labyrinthine, shelving it for all this time. After around eight years, they were ready to do something with it.

“We needed all those years of playing and writing under our belts to know what to do with a song like that,” Beaulieu said. “It's a lot more simplistic and open, and Matt's [Heafy, vocals/guitar] voice carries the song. The vocals are the focal point and he finally grew into the singer he is to do the song justice and carry it. We tweaked some other bits and the middle section is completely different. We also removed some filler from the original. In its raw form, it had the potential. It was the starting point from where the rest of the record sprouted – the vibe from that song spread to everything else we wrote, so it all gelled together as one big piece of music.”

'Silence In The Snow' is an absolute beast. There are still those In Flames-esque guitar widdles and, through experimentation with seven string guitars on a few songs, a welcome dollop of heaviness. But this is not metalcore, as detractors of the band would have you believe. This is full-blooded, iron-clad heavy fuckin' metal.

Dio, Iron Maiden and the like have always traded in hooks and that's what 'Silence In The Snow' has tapped into. Listen to Pull Me From The Void or The Thing That's Killing Me without humming along to Heafy's expanded and utterly flawless vocal delivery. Dare you. It's catchy, it's heavy and, for the first time in Trivium history, there's zero screaming.

“Screaming isn't the thing that defines heaviness,” Beaulieu retaliated. “We've done screaming on every record and we don't want to write the same thing over and over again. On 'In Waves', there were songs that were all screaming – which we'd never done before – and some that were all singing. We can go to different extremes.

“Heavy metal started with Black Sabbath and it took what, like, 15 or 20 years before anyone introduced what became screaming – with Venom or something? So in the ‘70s, you had all these tough, dark riffs with great vocalists: Halford, Dickinson, Gillan, Dio. They had these larger than life, amazing voices, and that's the fuckin' basis of what heavy metal grew from. The great thing about metal is people are always trying to expand the boundaries.

“Every sub-genre – death metal, black metal, power metal, traditional metal, speed metal – has 'metal' in it. Whether it's Cannibal Corpse or Judas Priest, it all falls under the metal family tree. If fans are missing the screaming, we have six other records with screaming in them. We still do it live, so it's not like we changed the old songs. ”

When Beaulieu says “We're a metal band,” you can't argue with him. And you wouldn't, because he looks like he could beat Zeus in an arm wrestle. His band has channelled a smorgasbord of heavy acts over the years and, aside from a bout of Metallica worship with 2006's 'The Crusade', they've done so while maintaining their identity. The same goes for 'Silence In The Snow'. It's Trivium doing classic metal, but it's still undeniably Trivium.

“We've had death metal inspired stuff, whereas this record was inspired by the classics – we're all Iron Maiden fans – and we love the hooks and energy of that era, so we wanted to explore why that stuff hits so hard,” he said. “When I think 'heavy', it's not all about tuning down and screaming gutturally. That's one type of heavy. Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name – that, to me, is heavy. The vocals are emotional, the lyrical content is deep and it's heavy in an epic way rather than just weighing a tonne. It makes the hair stand up on my arms.

“This record still has a very metallic edge with the riffing and stuff, but we really wanted to make the hooks instantaneous. You hear Silence In The Snow and you can sing along by the second chorus. It's infectious. With 'Shogun', it took people four or five years to go: 'Yeah, that's one of your classic records.' When it came out, it was just: 'Yeah, whatever.' It's fuckin' marinaded over time. People talk highly of it but it took a while. With this record, people have picked up on the songs a lot quicker. We've really made sure every note and lyric fits perfectly. It was meticulous.”

Following 2013's frustrating 'Vengeance Falls', Trivium's new material really does feel like a step in the right direction. The music has, as Corey so eloquently put it, “fuckin' marinaded”. 'Silence In The Snow' isn't Trivium trying to ape a certain band nor is it Trivium trying to reclaim former glories. Heafy undertook vocal and guitar lessons, while Beaulieu continued to learn from his peers, relishing the chance to pick the brains of others. While no longer musical comparators to Metallica, this band has unwittingly followed the ethos of that band.

“The first Metallica record I bought, as it was released, was 'Load',”  Beaulieu said, not at all fussed about discussing a band he's been compared to for a decade. “Even before that came out, I could dive into five albums' worth of music. 'Kill 'em All' sounds nothing like 'Master Of Puppets'. They've always progressed. We don't want to write stuff that we don't dig just because fans of a certain record will like it.

“Bands that came out at the same time as us and just stuck to one sound had their peak, but now it's beaten to death and people find the next thing to listen to that's fresh. But Metallica always stayed ahead of the game because they weren't afraid to change. Going from '...And Justice For All', which was, at the time, their biggest selling record and also their heaviest to 'The Black Album' is a complete transition. It's still got that Metallica crunch and spirit, but it's a totally different record. It's polished and straightforward. They fuckin' went into it and made sure that record was undeniably a fuckin' beast. They went on to make a record that sold, like, 50 million copies that changed the course of their career.”

As the interview drew to a close, and skin started to peel in the August sunshine, it became apparent that Beaulieu revels in his band's polarising effect. Much like Metallica, Trivium's output has kept fans on their toes and given critics ample ammunition over the years. But they don't care. They're making their music on their terms and, in these interesting times we live in, not every band can afford such experimentation. 'Silence In The Snow' is a bold step into the unknown for Trivium.

“Some people have liked all of our stuff, and some have only liked bits of it,” Beaulieu said. “People have different records which they connect with, and that's cool. I have those same records with my favourite bands, but we've always felt that if we're 100% in love with the music then the fans will follow. Whether it's a critically acclaimed record or it was panned, at least we did what we wanted. Listen to it, enjoy it and have fun with it. That's what music's all about.”

'Silence In The Snow' is out on October 2 through Roadrunner.


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