Photo Credit: Roadrunner Records
Orlando, Florida heavy metal band Trivium’s ninth album What the Dead Men Say opens with a short track titled simple “XI”, an instrumental that acts essentially as an overture. The title song, however, which immediately follows, drives the point home. Trivium is clearly the type of band that likes to drive the point home before they’ve even left the garage, and in this case the point is aggressive guitars with loud and extensive speed soloing, and screaming vocal sections which accompany the “regular” lead singing. Sure, we’ve heard it all before, but bands like Trivium still persevere because they take it upon themselves to be impossible to ignore.
Still, while there’s certainly no song on the album that anyone would mistake for Taylor Swift, a few tracks might be comparatively more accessible to a mainstream audience, including the more emo “Catastophist”, as well as the refreshingly to-the-point “Bleed into Me.” Trivium, in fact, knows when to insert the requisite catchiness into pretty much all the tracks at exactly the right time. The band also exhibits some musical nods to classic heavy metal bands – particularly Iron Maiden – on tracks such as “Scattering”, which despite the title is also among the album’s more straightforward songs.
Most of the songs, by contrast, do employ multiple layers as well as runtimes averaging about five minutes. The listener will obviously have the final vote on whether this is more bang-for-their-buck or overkill. The lyrics remain solid throughout, and even though the subject matter is relatively familiar (even routine for this genre), it doesn’t make what the band has to say any less relevant. This includes various, and contradicting, perspectives: “Bending the Arc of Fear” (great title) seems to be written from the point of view of the victimizer, rather than the victim (“Prey upon you // The weak inherit all our scorn”).
Lead vocalist Matt Heafy is not just strong vocally but also seems more than comfortable with the responsibility of being the only member present throughout the band’s entire career. Guitarist Corey Beaulieu (in the band since 2005’s Ascendency) is also a force to be reckoned with, both on the axe and also providing the screaming vocals. Newcomer Alex Bent, the band’s fifth drummer since their formation (cue the Spinal Tap references) is clearly bent on presenting the impression that he’s been around whole time (he succeeds).
Trivium close Dead Men Say on an upbeat(ish) note, which is surprising in regards to both the rest of the album as well as the title of the song, “The Ones We Leave Behind.” Not only is the track uncharacteristically uptempo (even the second half of the guitar solo comes off as more celebratory than angry), but the message is refreshingly positive: “If we could break through the structures built between us // Then would all the fault lines simply disappear // If we could fight back and bring ourselves together // Then our sacrifices will not be in vain.” Those already relatively well-versed and appreciative of this specific genre will probably be interested in most of What the Dead Men Say has to say. All others should proceed with caution.