There aren’t many bands who can go through significant shifts in sound and approach while still remaining a significant force in the metal scene. Whichever era you personally prefer, it’s hard to deny the impact or longevity that the Florida based thrash/modern metal band Trivium has had.
In the early years, the group leaned heavily on the influence of their progenitors, while trying to find a voice of their own in the thrash scene with Ember Into Inferno and Ascendancy. Catchy vocal hooks interspersed between Heafy’s gruff gutturals, and an overall impressive display of musicianship, helped them build an identity along with respectable following. They would challenge this sound as early as The Crusade, by removing nearly all screaming, and then yet again by releasing the extremely dense and powerfully aggressive concept in Shogun. Taking vocal direction from David Draiman (Disturbed) on Vengeance Falls and deriving heavy influence from Dio and more traditional metal in Silence in the Snow, their sound seems to take a new spin with each return to the writing process.
While this approach has led to an incredibly varied catalog of music, it has also splintered fans of all kind. Some prefer the thrash from earlier in their career, some the deeper concept and narrative of Shogun, and some even from the clean traditional sound of their most recent release. The difficulty with this is in how to approach the creation of the new album. On a surface level, The Sin and the Sentence seems to blend a bit of this earlier aggression with the vocal structures and sensibilities of their more modern writing. The result is something that tries to appeal to many of these fans at once, but to what degree is unclear. Editor-in-chief Landon and I (Tyler) dove into the album below to see how successful the newest effort from Trivium is.
Title track and lead single “The Sin and The Sentence” opens the album with a brazen beginning – at first, I was transported back to Shogun-era tempos and technical, yet majestic melodies. The screamed chorus too echoes “Down From The Sky”. We see another callback to Shogun on the song “Betrayer” where the line “Time will not mend all these mistakes” parallels a lyric and melody on Shogun’s title track. The triplet-heavy break in “Sever The Hand” seems like another reference to Ascendancy-era tracks like “Declaration”. However, it is also obviously apparent that much has changed for Trivium outside of the rose-colored call-backs to their early career – this is most notable in the group’s construction of their verses and vocal melodies. Throughout the opening track and the majority of the album that follows, mid-tempo verses introduce subtle hooks and dynamics that build into massive and memorable choruses. Heafy’s voice is more than up to the task, managing to be both confident and nuanced in his delivery while showing that his skills sharpen with each album.
Though the brunt of the tracks follow in similarly secure territory, it not to say that there aren’t some excellent moments among them. “Other Worlds” has a chorus that might be a bit strained, but there are some subdued vocal melodies in the verses that show an intimacy and restraint in Heafy’s voice that I quite enjoyed. The album’s epic at seven minutes, “Revanchist” has vocal hook that is both haunting and unavoidably catchy. It is likely no accident that moments like the aforementioned are vocal-driven; whereas previous records highlighted Beaulieu and Heafy’s guitar heroics to a greater extent, The Sin and The Sentence reign in such pyrotechnics for more focus on streamlined song structures (there are, of course, still enough riffs and lightning leads to check the box).
Trivium have crafted an album that seems like a step-up from their recent material in a number of ways – they embrace their aggressive side more than they have in recent memory while simultaneously showing how far they’ve come as songwriters since the start of their career. Heafy’s voice has grown even more confident and competent, showing a nuance and melodicism that makes for a more diverse, detailed performance than on past records. The Sin and The Sentence feels comfortable building on the sound that Trivium have established over their past couple of records, instead of showcasing the brash reinventions that the group was known for on their first three albums. In that, the record plays it perhaps too safe. However, I cannot fault the band for polishing their now established sound on this new collection of enjoyable, if quite restrained, songs. And, if nothing else, it would be hard to find a metal(core) band brandishing better choruses these days than Trivium.
Personal Score: 7.5/10
If put simply, The Sin and the Sentence feels like a safe album well within the comfort of the stylings the band has come to explore and influence over the last decade and a bit. Even from the lead single and title track you can hear a band working within familiar territory. You probably also noticed that the aggression from their earlier music is back in many ways, leaving behind the adventurous and divisive approach from 2015’s Silence in the Snow. For many, this will be a welcome return to form, but with it also comes with little else in the way of forward momentum for the band. There are some undoubtable strong moments on the album, but most of it feels well trodden and without much new to be had. While all I can offer is conjecture, it feels as if the band was trying to satisfy all kinds of fans by casting their net into safe waters.
Even if no boundaries are being pushed though, the album is still musically competent, with each aspect being polished and well delivered. Ascendancy-esque riffs and a host of Vengeance Falls melodies litter the record, with aggressive riffing and Heafy’s vocals doing most of the heavy lifting, providing the main source of enjoyment during it’s near hour runtime. If there is one standout element on the record, it’s Alex Bent’s performance on the drum kit. Especially after the last few records, it’s nice to see him pushing himself in a really interesting and engaging performance. The usual set of catchy choruses and guitar solos are all present as well, and many fans will be satisfied with the amount of content in these eleven songs.
It’s difficult to say it’s much of an issue when there isn’t much directly to complain about within the music itself, but I find myself disappointed overall by this offering. While I wasn’t in love with their last record, it felt as if the band was trying something new and putting their all into pushing this sound. I did not expect something with the complexity and depth that Shogun offered, but I was hoping for something that had more standout moments throughout in the way the Ascendancy, or even In Waves, had. For now, the band has settled into comfortable territory. Whether this was to appease fans, or if this really is the direction they want to keep, we can only guess at. At the very least, the music that is here is likely to please a lot people who prefer the more aggressive side to the band.
Personal Score: 6/10
Overall Score: 7/10
Notable Tracks: “Revanchist”; “The Sin and The Sentence”
FFO: Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine