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CD Review: TRIVIUM In Waves

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While in the process of reviewing this album, I had a bit of a debate with a good friend of mine about Trivium. He expressed his misgivings to me, the main one centered on the band’s polished or “semi-mainstream” sound. For him, the band lacks a genuine feel that he looks for when it comes to heavy music. I know what he means, and I share his aversion to bands that come across as manufactured, with no raw or visceral foundation to their sound. However, in Trivium’s case, I don’t think this criticism is fair or applicable. Seemingly reading my thoughts, he mentioned Bullet for My Valentine and applied the same criticism. I was more than ready to agree in their case. But for me, this was more of a contrast than a comparison. I’ve seen Trivium live three times and two of those performances (2005 and 2009) were fantastic. Bullet on the other hand nearly put me to sleep when I saw them open for Iron Maiden in 2006. After exchanging a few more points, my friend conceded that Matt Heafy was a talented singer and that the guitar playing was fantastic, but that he simply could not put his support behind Trivium on the whole. Happy to agree to disagree, we touched the conversation off by ordering another round of drinks. By relating this to you, I mean to clue you into some of my thoughts as I write the rest of this review.

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After the usual intro song, In Waves begins with the thunderous title-track, a song made for the mosh pit. Half of the song carries on with a breakdown and Matt Heafy’s vicious screams, while the other rides on a clean and catchy chorus line. From the outset, it’s clear that the band self-consciously tried to replicate the strategy employed on 2005’s Ascendency. I liked In Waves, but I was much more impressed with Inception Of the End. Rather than the title-track’s simple dual approach, the song is filled with compelling melodies and strikes the listener as an inspired mix of the best the band has to offer. Among these elements, Matt Heafy’s voice has always been one of the deciding factors for me. His screams are packed with such an exhilarating amount of rage that I’m still aghast that he ever thought of “not screaming anymore”. Both the dueling vocals and twin guitars from Matt and Corey are in fine form throughout the entire album. In Waves boasts a good deal of riffs and solos, and yet the band wisely avoids yawning their audience away by merely trying to show-off.

It is patently obvious that Trivium has made a determined effort to make every song on this album as memorable as possible. Along with the two previously mentioned songs, I would say the band achieves this best on Black and Caustic are the Ties that Bind. Indeed, the band does sound somewhat “radio-friendly” and “mainstream” in their efforts to construct such catchy melodies, especially on the hard-rock bridge on Caustic. However, slick production and catchiness on the part of a metal band is in no way enough to indict them, particularly if a band can pull it off as well as Trivium has here.

Along with its strengths, In Waves does have a couple glaring problems. Outside the 4 or 5 strongest songs, the rest of the album seems to plateau a bit. One handicap is the uneven quality of the lyrics. 2008’s Shogun was great for a number of reasons, one being the band’s wise decision to drop the mediocre style of The Crusade, and another being the album’s lyrical themes. Japanese military folklore is a subject unexplored by most metal bands (note: willing to be proven wrong here), and the subject gave the album a unique aspect absent from their other releases. Most of the lyrics on In Waves are, I’m afraid, seemingly recycled from Ascendency and Ember to Inferno. While I admire a band that can show focus and consistency, I feel like Trivium can do better than this. Otherwise strong songs like Watch the World Burn are tied down by overly typical lyrics (even the song title made my eyes roll at first). In more general terms, there are songs where Trivium’s formula seems to run a little dry. To my friend’s point from earlier, I would not say that Trivium resembles “metal by the numbers”, but perhaps…well, “Trivium by the numbers”. While In Waves is a good album, these weaknesses prevent it from being a great one.

To be sure, In Waves features some of Trivium’s best work. I’m sure a lot of these songs will be fun to sing along to at this year’s Mayhem Fest and at many concerts thereafter. Some of these I would happily listen to along with my older favorites like Throes of Perdition or Falling to Grey. All I would say to the band is that they could stand to broaden their lyrical content a bit and try to add some more consistency to their formula on their subsequent albums.* Taking the band members’ age into account (most of them only a year or two older than myself) I am sure they will have plenty of chances to do this. Until then, go ahead and check out In Waves and see what you think. If you don’t find something you like, then as with my good friend, I’m happy to agree to disagree with you.

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7 out of 10

Best songs: In Waves, Inception of the End, Black, Caustic are the Ties that Bind

*Matt Heafy might also consider losing the “scarf-look” from the press photos as I’m not sure it really suits him that well


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