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Trivium - What The Dead Men Say (Album Review)

Monday, 27 April 2020 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Kiddie metal. Kiddie metal. Fifteen years after their breakthrough with ‘Ascendency’; after touring alongside Slayer, Obituary, Gojira, and Annihilator; after working with Ihsahn, frontman of the legendary black metallers Emperor; after just releasing a single that opens with Matt Heafy screaming “Bloody corpses, broken bones reveal”, Trivium are kiddie metal.

Whatever. ‘What The Dead Men Say’, Trivium’s ninth album, is every bit as hard as it sounds. And the Floridian four-piece are now in the unique position where, finally, they have their own sound. Throughout their career, they’ve gone proggy (‘Shogun’), classic heavy metal (‘Silence In The Snow’) and full-on Metallica worship (‘The Crusade’, which is nowhere near as bad as people pretend it is).

But 2017’s ‘The Sin and the Sentence’ changed everything. It was a tapestry of everything the band had done up to that point, and it was just so metal. ‘What The Dead Men Say’ is more of that. It’s just Trivium. They wear their influences on their sleeves, but it sounds like no one else but Trivium. And it’s incredible.

The core components are here, as you’d expect. Heafy’s screams could sit on a hardcore record, while his clean vocals could be considered a bit hammy, a bit Bruce Dickinson. But if you’re into metal, lyrics such as, ‘‘A father and son, two lives now come undone” are par for the course, and damn it, they’re going to be delivered like they're the ultimate truth. 

You’ve got massive rock radio choruses like the one on Bleed Into Me. There are gorgeous twin leads on almost every song. The catchiness. The grooves. The duelling solos. So vibrant. So mighty. But ‘What The Dead Men Say’ really excels as 2020’s most exciting, dyed-in-the-wool, ‘mainstream’ metal album for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s deceptively complex, from the title track’s discordant verses and black metal tremolo to Bending The Arc To Fear’s homage to Floridian death metal. The winding song structures expertly echo glory days Metallica without falling into tribute territory, and it’s all packaged to sound cleaner than a mouse squeaking into a bottle of bleach. And yet, the ingredients are so extreme. That Trivium can Trojan Horse all that into something your Saxon-obsessed uncle deems ‘kiddie metal’ is staggering. 

Secondly, Alex Bent is the best drummer the band have ever had. It’s no coincidence that the two albums he’s been involved in have been their best since ‘Ascendency’. With him behind the kit, Trivium are a band reinvigorated and up for a scrap. Bent’s fills, blastbeats and tantalising cymbal chokes give ‘What The Dead Men Say’ the venom it needs. With another drummer, it’d still be great. With Bent, it’s essential listening—one fill during Amongst The Shadows & The Stones is so on-the-nose you might actually laugh.

If you’re snobby about your metal…well, you wouldn’t be reading this. But if you love everything about the genre—Heafy’s grandiose warbling, the screams, the gang vocals, the huge hooks, blasting for days, riffs pulled from both the gutter and the heavens, and percussion that’d get a nervous thumbs-up from Gene Hoglan—then ‘What The Dead Men Say’ is your album of the year. Kiddie metal? Leave it out. 

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