Are you sitting comfortably? Yes? Then shall we begin? Today’s lesson in hard rock and metal 101 is all about metalcore. Metalcore is said to be a broad fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk, pioneered by bands such as Sepultura and Pantera. Its emphasis is on breakdowns (slow, intense passages conducive to moshing), screamed vocals, heavy guitar riffs and double bass drumming. The emphasis on screaming vocals (or cookie monster vocals as I like to call them) has always led me away from metalcore music and bands. One such band who I have heard snippets of before are Trivium, despite the quality of the music, I have never ventured further due to the perceived emphasis on the screaming vocals. However, upon hearing the first single from the new album, Vengeance Falls, I detected a move away from this reliance on the cookie monster vocals and a move to integrate it with clean vocals, a move that I thought may make them more palatable to my ears. The fact that David Draiman, of Disturbed fame, was the producer was a major influence on my decision to give Trivium another try and, thankfully, it was a definitely worth challenging my long term prejudice.
Trivium consists of Matt Heafy (lead vocals, guitar), Corey Beaulieu (guitar, vocals), Paolo Gregoletto (bass, vocals) and Nick Augusto (drums) and the Floridian band were formed in 2000. Initially featuring Travis Smith on drums, they released their debut album, Ember to Inferno, in 2000 and followed this up with Ascendancy in 2005. The Crusade (2006) saw a move away from the screaming/growling vocals usually encountered on Trivium releases but this was back with a vengeance for 2008’s Shogun. 2011 saw the release of the band’s 5th album and the first to feature, former drum tech, Mick Augusto after the departure of original drummer, Travis Smith. Titled, In Waves, it marked a return to the earlier style of Trivium and, whilst gaining a generally popular reception, it did receive a mixed response, in some parts, from critics and fans alike. 2013 sees the release of the supposedly heavier Vengeance Falls and my first, major, foray into the world of Trivium.
Vengeance Falls explodes into life immediately with the hell for leather twin guitar blast and manic drumming that kick open the doors to, first single off the album, Brave the Storm. A staccato blast of banging guitar and hard edged vocals, backed by a little growl brings us the powerful verse and chorus followed by a discordant slice of guitar and then we’re back in the loop again for more of the same. Thumping drums and guitar and a nice piece of growly vocals and a brief, piercing solo make up a short break in the middle before the headlong rush to the crashing ending. Title track, Vengeance Falls is introduced to us by a classy, coruscating riff that features timely chord changes and then we are treated to a quality verse that is aligned with a nicely muted growling vocal backing. We are then treated to brilliant, irresistible chorus that rapidly becomes a signature throughout the album. Screaming vocals overlay a seriously heavy section and all too brief solo before the seriously good vocals once more take the lead as the song powers to its close. Strife begins with one of those opening riffs that you know are going to become an instant classic. Hard, heavy and powerfully brooding, it sets up the rest of this seriously classy metal track. The thumping drums and gleaming riff then preface a more laid back vocal section and another fantastic chorus. Hard edged, crushing guitar and the ever heavy drumming are key features of this monster track. It oozes power and menace throughout, a nice, blazing solo featuring super cool blasts from the twin guitars another highlight. The twin guitars are the key to the intro to No Way to Heal before another powerful vocal performance from Heafy, including some nicely judged screaming, pummelling drums underpinning everything. The bombastic chorus is backed by that twin guitar squeal. The screaming vocals feature more prominently in this track but do not detract in anyway. This song has a heavier feel to it which includes the speed metal inspired, and oh so cool, twin guitar solo. You definitely get the feel that this album was conceived from the start as an epic metaller. To Believe begins with another fast paced riff before a nu-metal/rap style vocal on the verse. The vocals taking on an almost rhythmic phrasing, the guitars powerful and crunching and the drums a vision of contained thunder. A stand out guitar section follows, twin leads spiralling up and blazing away, the song continues to power its way through to a suitably thunderous conclusion.
The nicely underplayed, acoustic opening of At the End of This War together with the low key emotional vocal delivery by Heafy are completely blown away by the monstrous riff that hits you in the solar plexus and knocks you into tomorrow, more of the thunderous, fast paced drumming underscores everything as this driving slice of metal melodrama thunders into sight. Catchy vocals complete with some nicely low key growling add to the quality on show, another cool twin guitar solo arriving right on cue. A quality piece of metal that ticks all the requisite boxes then bows out gracefully. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone has a more thrash metal feel to it, slightly slower paced but as hard and heavy as anything else on show, darker and more melancholy. Thunderous guitars occasionally firing away squealing licks, monster drumming and an even harder edged vocal all add to the heavier feel. A really down and dirty solo that strips away flesh and bone is the centrepiece of this continual wall of thunder that assaults your senses. An intense blast of hard edged guitar and drums heralds the powerful arrival of Villainy Thrives, dark and dangerous vocals with a seriously menacing edge taking up the story, its another nuclear blast straight at your senses, growling vocals and all. A sinister, slightly distorted solo adds to the villainous mix as the song pounds along to the end. Incineration the Broken World continues the descent in to the darker, broodier and thoroughly menacing feel that the record has taken on, crunching staccato guitar combined with the epically heavy drumming and snatches of screaming vocal all contributing to the heavy mix. Another quality solo lit up by the twin guitars but given a mean and moody edge is, once again, another highlight. It is at this point that I feel the second half of the record is walking a thin line between becoming formulaic and getting away from the fresh feel that comes across from the earlier tracks but, thankfully, it just about gets away with it. The final track on this heavy maelstrom of an album is brooding closer Wake (The End is Nigh). Just pared back guitar and low key vocals begin the track, however, it’s not long before pounding drums, thunderous guitar and harder vocals combine to take us on another dark journey. There is a definite Metallica vibe to this song as the ever present monster drums and bombastically heavy guitars thrash it out over the brooding vocals helped by some well considered growling. A killer solo melds with some nicely distorted guitar as the track fades out leaving you with ringing in your ears feeling like you’ve been in the eye of a tornado.
I like this album but, does Vengeance Falls convert me into a metalcore fan? Probably not but, what it definitely has done, has opened me up to the fact that I might have prejudices in music and, because of that, I may be missing out on some seriously good bands. Whilst I’ll never be a convert to that screaming, growling vocal style that many bands of this and other genres are exponents of, if they are used sparingly and in the right place, like on this release, they can be an asset to the music. One thing I can say is, I am now a definite convert to the charms of Trivium and would recommend Vengeance Falls to anyone who is a fan of metal music in any form, give it a listen you may, like me, be very pleasantly surprised.