Friday, October 25, 2013
Trivium - Vengeance Falls (2013)
Country: Orlando, Florida
Style: Alternative Metal/Metalcore
I know this isn't exactly going to be one of the popular things I wind up reviewing but I'll cover it regardless (as always) because I am a fan of Trivium. Along with several other metalcore groups, they were among the first bands I got into that featured screaming/growling/etc. vocals and so they will always hold a special place in my heart because of that. I know that this is perhaps a more controversial record because of who produced it, but I don't want that to outweigh the music that's on here.
Now, for those that don't know, the producer of this album is none other than the lead vocalist of Disturbed - David Draiman. That alone had garnered some snide remarks before the album or even a single had been released to the listening public. Now, whatever you think of Draiman himself, he is a unique presence in the world of mainstream metal and rock music because of his work in Disturbed. That band is one that still holds a place in my heart because they were one of the first groups I ever got into on my own (back when I was like in seventh or eighth grade), and have been known to place a track or two from their first three albums on occasion. So perhaps it may have been fate that his path would one day align with the much meligned Trivium - a group who have had quite a career despite their young ages. Since coming up in the early 2000s in the American metalcore scene they've transformed with each and every album, which is something that I personally find commendable. Coming from a scene where it appears most bands haven't really changed their sound since moving to the mainstream, Trivium have changed from metalcore to melo-death to thrash and onwards.
Unlike most of the reviews I write up on this site I'm going to try something a little different for this album and divide it into a positive section and a negative one. Starting with the positives it has been said in numerous reviews, and it's true, that Matt Heafy has never sounded more confident or stronger as a vocalist than he has on here. While screaming vocals have been reduced to a very minor role on this album, his cleaner vocals are definitely the best he's delivered thus far. His performance is great as a track like Incineration: The Broken World proves. Also, and this is to Draiman's credit, the album does sound huge. It's a very powerful sounding album (faults discussed later). It just sounds big, and in that regard he definitely did deliver on a production front. I mean, it's a very mainstream-y sounding production, but it's the kind that will undoubtedly find several tracks from here on the radio sometime in the future.
Then there's the negatives, which I think people are more interested in to be honest. Now, despite whatever you may think of Trivium, I always felt like they knew how to write a good song. While I disliked 2011's In Waves on my first listen, I now regard it as perhaps the group's finest release to date. It stripped things back from the much more progressive Shogun album to the bare essentials of songwriting and the band wrote a damn fine pop metal album (as much as one person didn't like my use of that term on the review for that album). For this album it feels more or less like the band took a very similar approach to the songwriting, and it's perhaps the first time I could see a definite stylistic similarity between any two of Trivium's albums. In just stylistic terms, this album is very similar to the sound found on In Waves, only the songs aren't anywhere near as consistently good or catchy. Now, while I did praise Heafy's vocals on here, it has to be said, it's impossible to ignore the effect that Draiman has had on the vocals on here. I don't know whether it was his input in the studio or if Heafy just decided to take a much more Draiman style on this record, but he is clearly doing some of his best Draiman impressions on here. Hell, To Believe could have been a Disturbed song if the instrumentation was a bit simpler. Then there's the production itself which is terribly overproduced. Yes, the album sounds huge and I can certainly appreciate the pop approach towards placing the vocals right at the forefront of the mix, the tones on this album are horribly mechanical sounding. The guitars have no heft, it's like the intention was to go for a super syncopated sound between guitars and drums (and bass) but the result just sounds so homogenized and fake sounding. Then there's the drums which are done in that horribly overproduced manner where the kick (or beater in this case) and snare are right in your face and everything else falls to the wayside. Also, I just have to comment on the fact that Draiman said in an interview (and I think that Trivium are partially to blame for only hyping his words) that this is an album that will redefine metal. Draiman has said this is the album that metal fans have been waiting for and how it's going to (and I'm paraphrasing here) that it will redefine the genre. All I can say is that it's going to come out and nothing is going to happen that hasn't happened before. Some people will buy this album, others won't, some will like it, some won't, the band will continue to tour and then they'll record another album in another couple of year. Nothing is going to change.
This isn't a bad album, it's just an average one. While the negatives I mentioned above clearly outweigh the positives, people who like the band will listen to this regardless, and since I am a fan I did subject myself to this several times before I made these judgments. It's average and nothing more, the songwriting isn't great, the riffs aren't amazing, and the production is overdone - but if you like your metal sounding very sterile this is the album for you.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Vengeance Falls, Incineration: The Broken World, Wake (The End Is Nigh)