Trivium – In Waves (Deluxe Edition – 2011)

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Music

One of the most compelling metal bands going these days is Orlando, Florida’s Trivium. The band exploded onto the scene in 1999 with a hybrid mix of thrash and metalcore style that had many metal fans calling them “the next Metallica.” Pretty big shoes to fill, for sure, but the band has – over 12 years and four albums – pretty much delivered on the promise.

With each album, the band has continued to grow both musically and popularity-wise. With much eagerness from the metal community, the band has returned with their fifth studio release In Waves. As one of the most anticipated releases of 2011, I was ecstatic to get a chance to hear and review this album prior to the August 9th release date.

There was a natural progression that was bound to happen here. I even re-visited all four previous albums in order first, to make sure I had the story straight leading into this review. Even without hearing it, I already had the album playing in my head with spiraling guitar riffs, amazing drum patterns, and mind-blowing lyrics. Then, like a kid on Christmas unwrapping the first gift, I tore into the album with a frenzy.

After the normal instrumental intro (albeit a little creepier than usual), the record kicks off with the title track, a heavy metalcore dose of the clean, crisp, aggressive style that Trivium should have owned the trademark on by now. In perfect balance are the screams and clean vocals, and it is immediately noticeable that frontman Matt Heafy has improved his vocals on both fronts.

His vocal tour-de-force continues on the next track, “Inception of the End”. The track is a bit faster and heavier than the opener, and weaves a more familiar maze across the musical spectrum. Some drop tuning makes this feel a little darker, and Nick Agusto really gets the opportunity to bang away on his kit here. One of the better tracks on this album, for sure.

For a band that usually likes to turn time signatures into calculus problems, “Dusk Dismantled” opens with a basic 4/4 march into the most evil growls I’ve heard Heafy spew. It hints a bit at death metal, and the clean vocals are mostly absent here – but it’s a gripping track that refuses to let loose. The solo is grand, the bass driving, and the drums are perfectly executed, but honestly I couldn’t understand the lyrics one bit, and this felt like a song that would have been pushed over the top with a message. Still not bad, though.

“Watch The World Burn” is a rhythm-heavy offering that, again, throws the stage lights on Heafy and his vocals. And his lyrics. So far, the lyrics have been a little less than amazing, but that gets set straight here, if only for a song, with strong, passionate message of defeatism. The guitars kick it up a peg near the end, completing a very strong effort. This should get video-treatment and single release at some point, as it is the album’s strongest track.

As strong as the last track was, “Black” flips the coin as completely forgettable. The average listener will question this assessment, as it has all the “Trivium-esque” elements – clean vocals, screams, crisp guitars and hard-hitting drums. But for me, it fell extremely flat and felt uninspired. The structure was plain, the highlights were missing, and the whole thing came across as mediocre (even after multiple listens).

“A Skyline’s Severance” is one of the more interesting tracks here. From a complete songwriting standpoint, this is what I was expecting after Shogun, yet here we are halfway through the album before it actually rears its head. The structure is diverse, the time signatures leap from one to another, and it is heavy as a truck-full of bricks. Noticeably mixed down, though, are the guitars. At several points through the song, I was expecting a little riff, or slide – or something. I caught a pinch harmonic a few times, but thought this song could have been improved – again – with a little more balance. That balance evens out more a little during the second half, which makes up for the earlier misgiving of guitar treatment, and actually made the track very memorable.

Speaking of Shogun, “Ensnare The Sun” is an Asian-influenced instrumental with sitar-sounding guitars and softer drums that would have possibly fit better on the band’s last album. That said, it’s pretty and digestible, and maybe the palate-cleansing sorbet needed to lead in to the second half of the disc.

“Built the Fall,” is again immediately recognizable as a Trivium track, but rewinds to the complacency demonstrated earlier in the album. There is really nothing “wrong” with it, but it just feels like a carbon copy of something we’ve just heard. Maybe it’s my discerning ear, or maybe my desire to hear something groundbreaking along the way here, but this track also gets the dreaded “forgettable” tag…

Just when I thought Trivium was no longer the band to pull you through emotional ups and downs, we get “Caustic Are The Ties That Binds” – a near 6-minute epic jaunt through everything heavy and soft the band could possibly offer. The drums have an obvious greater personality here, and the lyrical/vocal approach is flawless. If this song doesn’t remind you of how epic this band can be, nothing will. The power of this track comes from the near-acoustic interlude halfway through, which eventually gives way to a guitar showcase and heavy closure. Granted, an album full of songs like this would have bored you by now, but- holy shit – this was good.

“Foresake Not The Dream” is a definitive proclamation of Trivium’s decision to forego the thrash element (at least for now) of earlier albums and put the capital “M” on metalcore. It’s the genre-made 100mph double-bass attack, paired with decent vocals and a solid guitar riffage. It’s Pandora-friendly, for sure, but that doesn’t mean we are discrediting the track. In fact, the balance here – metalcore or not – is solid. It’s enticing enough to take notice, and is another of the albums strongpoints.

Maybe the whole metalcore thing got tired for Matt, as “Drowning In Slow Motion” harkens back to more of a thrash feel than anything else here – which I think was the force that drove Trivium to the forefront of the metal scene years ago. Guitar heaviness and complexity return, and it is music to the ears. Not to beat a dead horse, but Heafy is again top of the playbill with a perfect vocal performance. It’s still metalcore, but not like anything you’ve listened to lately….

Ending the album here would have suited the listener well, and therefore this is where I’m going to (kind of) end it as well. The remainder of the “Deluxe Edition” gives you a nu-metal sounding effort in “Gray For Dark,” a decent track in “Chaos Reigns,” which isn’t as chaotic as you would have hoped for, and a ballad-turned-average rocker in “Of All These Yesterdays.”

Finishing off the last three tracks of this “deluxe” edition is the disjointed instrumental “Leaving This World Behind.” It’s a clever piece of feedback and background radio noise that builds, brick by brick and note by note a powerful intro into….

….. a track we all heard 18 months ago. Ugh.

“Scattering The Skies Above” was included in the Gods of War Blood & Metal (video game) special mini-soundtrack early last year. It featured original tracks from Trivium, Killswitch Engage and heavyweights Opeth and Dream Theater in support of the game’s release. It was awesome, but was also a year and a half ago. The track had no place being “remastered” here, and made the mistake of filling space.

Also a mild mis-step was the closing cover of Sepultura’s “Slave New World.” I always like the tribute track, but for me, this was a reach into unchartered territory, and while not awful, made me want to hear the original to remember it the right way.

The synopsis of it all is that Trivium delivered the album they wanted to, but not necessarily the album WE wanted. But it may have been intentional.

In an interview with Guitar World, it was stated that for In Waves, the group chose forgo the complex epic compositions, tricked-out, leads and seven-string guitars that characterized its past two albums. Instead, they chose to take an approach similar to that of its second album Ascendancy (2005) by using uncluttered riffs, drop-D tuning, and more straightforward solos. “When we did Ascendancy, we were writing specifically for the songs, not to show how well we could play,” says Heafy. “That wasn’t exactly the case with our next two records.”

And here is where I think the band tripped up a bit. For me, part of the attraction to Trivium was their growing complexity, their growing skill, and their growing development as an epic art form, as opposed to just another “metal” band. This record has some fine moments, but is far too safe. Where the last album Shogun was the best record they had done, it was time to step forward – not back. While this isn’t a failure by the band, it is definitely bound to be buried by the stronger, more imaginative albums already in their catalog. Not a bad album by any means, but you probably already own the better ones.

Next time around is bound to be better, and my guess is that it will be. Trivium isn’t going away anytime soon, the fervor won’t let that happen. But this CD serves as a bit of hiccup while they still develop who they are and the impact they will inevitably have. Trust me, the best is yet to come…

6/10

Tracklist:
01 – Capsizing The Sea
02 – In Waves
03 – Inception of the End
04 – Dusk Dismantled
05 – Watch The World Burn
06 – Black
07 – A Skyline’s Severance
08 – Ensnare The Sun (Bonus Track)
09 – Built to Fall
10 – Caustic Are The Ties That Bind
11 – Forsake Not the Dream
12 – Drowning in Slow Motion (Bonus Track)
13 – A Grey So Dark (Bonus Track)
14 – Chaos Reigns
15 – Of All These Yesterdays
16 – Leaving This World Behind
17 – Shattering The Skies Above (Bonus Track)
18 – Slave New World (Bonus Track)

http://www.amazon.com/Waves-Trivium/dp/B0055EDCGU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1312579538&sr=8-2

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