Trivium - In Waves (2011)Release ID: 5352
If I could describe Trivium's two decade career into a single word, if would have to be "eclectic". This band always seems to be pushing the buttons of what the members are capable of. This melodic metalcore group has spent the last two decades dabbling in thrash, progressive and alternative metal. And each subsequent album seems to improve on what the last got wrong, which is something that you don't see very often, let alone this frequently. Seriously, Trivium sometimes sound more progressive than the actual progressive metal bands like Dream Theater.
Which takes us to 2011's In Waves, easily the bands most successful album and the one that catapulted them to the front of the line when it came to the new flagbearers of metal throughout the 2010s alongside Mastodon. And what we end up getting is a return to form for Trivium; far more traditional in its melodic metalcore roots, but also implying many of the thrash and progressive traits fairly regularly. It is a very comfortable space for the band and it has some really good hooks. And man I wish I liked it more!
The major problem is the production, and it is a recurring problem throughout all of Trivium's albums. The lack of bass independence from the rhythm guitar, combined with the fact that the bass is hardly audible in the first place, make the tunes slog on for so long! It makes some really infectious hooks and grooves on "In Waves", "Watch the World Burn" and especially "A Skyline's Severance" and "Forsake not the Dream" feel bloated without any growth. And when the songs are composed in this way with heavy emphasis on the breakdowns, a full low end is key. None of the breakdowns feel justified, even with the drop tuned guitars.
It's a damn shame because once again, Trivium are at the top of their game when it comes to songwriting. Matt Heafy is a very good and frankly underrated singer. The way in which he is able to switch back and forth between clean singing and harsh screaming is impressive, combined with the fact that he does a lot of the guitar solos on this album as well. The background vocals provide a little bit more of a gravitas from both Corey and Paulo and even Matt himself. The guitar riffs are humongous and almost instantly recognizable and catchy on "In Waves", "Built to Fall", "Black" and "Forsake not the Dream". The songwriting has taken a significant step up from album like Ascendancy after the bands progressive pivot on their last album Shogun. In fact, some songs like "A Skyline's Severance" and "Caustic Are the Ties That Bind" have riffs that sound like they were leftover from the Shogun recordings, and reworked to fit into a more traditional melodic metalcore frame.
But as always, good songwriting can only help you so much when the sound of the album is this... formless. Without a sense of direction or a drive towards the end goal, In Waves just kind of treads water (pun intended) after a while. Paulo needs some independence in the tracks and has to be turned up, but unfortunately, that still hasn't happened almost ten years later. When they did, it was on the bands most contentious album, Silence in the Snow. Still, the riffs are iconic and a must for anyone looking for the quintessential melodic metalcore sound, or just the sound of the 2010s.
My first venture into Trivium and melodic metalcore in general hasn't been an all round success. That isn't to say that this record is awful but I do have to temper the tone of my review with the caveat that this style of music doesn't appeal to me on so many levels. In the main my tastes are more extreme and so this combination of clean vocals and frenzied bursts of energetic riffing that lacks enough bite for my ears is always going to present a challenge.
Let's start off by acknowledging that I completely understand why people enjoy this album and indeed the band overall. There's so much memorability here it quickly becomes infectious and if this oppositional attitude that the band chooses to deliver its music via is your bag then your itch is most definitely scratched with this. There's not enough hours in the day for me to ever get Watch The World Burn out of my head before the bedtime. This stickiness to the record is one its major successes; that and the fact that this song writing literally sings to the soul of its disaffected audience.
The problem I have is that the record is so consistent it feels almost programmed and processed lacking any real depth or soul. For all the aggression and obvious passion that sits behind the music it leaves no emotional footprint on me as a listener. There's no feeling that Trivium share anything with me and therefore although I don't exactly come away empty handed, I don't have much to show for my effort of listening.
I don't deny it has mass appeal but it is not a record that holds any lasting appeal for little old me.
You know why I chose In Waves as my favorite Trivium album? Well during my original epic power metal taste a few years ago, I found the music video for the song "In Waves" on TV, then about a year later, the friend I told you about in my first forum thread introduced me to a heavier modern side of metal starting with this band. This album reminds me of how much I owe my friend for bringing my metal taste to a new era. But I can't simply say that this is my favorite album for my own personal reasons, that's so shallow! Fortunately, there's a lot of awesome stuff in this album that makes this Trivium album my ultimate favorite.
After the melodic thrash The Crusade and the progressive thrash metalcore Shogun, In Waves marks the band's return to the metalcore roots of their Ember to Inferno and Ascendancy. This is also their first album with drummer Nick Augusto, who replaced original drummer Travis Smith (not to be confused with heavy metal cover artist Travis Smith). Augusto has brought the drumming in Trivium to higher, faster levels. Instead of all songs having a balance between singing and screaming, a few songs have only screaming while a few other songs have just singing with very little screaming. I love both vocal styles and that's a new and less boring strategy (not that it was ever boring).
"Capsizing the Sea" is an atmospheric and well chosen intro, getting listeners pumped up for what comes next. The first actual song, the title track, is my favorite one from this album. It starts off with an Ascendancy-like metalcore breakdown with Matt Heafy repeatedly screaming the name of the song, then it leads to a melodic Crusade-like chorus. There's also a complicated solo in the middle, but other than that, the riffs are simple yet catchy. That's what I like!
“Inception Of The End” is a metalcore song, beginning the speedy shredding and going beyond their promised energy. The lyrics have a lot of epic singing and awesome screaming that already brought them to fame. Augusto really puts out more depth in his drumming than a regular everyday drummer, bolting through never-played-by-the-band-before blast beats. All that alone establishes Augusto as the perfect drummer for this album and the next one. "Dusk Dismantled" continues the heavy path, this time even more furious, darker, and containing only screaming.
The track “Watch The World Burn” branches out beyond their usual sound of thrash metalcore. It still keeps that style but it's more progressive track. The song has pretty much everything from heavy riffs and a progressive bridge with epic singing and screaming vocals to a melodic thrash chorus. Once again, songs like "Black" and "Built to Fall" have mainly clean singing with just a small amount of screaming. However, "A Skyline's Severance" is a polar opposite, only containing screaming, but is another song that hearkens back to the early days of Ascendancy. The build up goes from soft to fast and heavy in no time flat, before going straight into the first verse. Heafy's screaming is deeper than before, getting to the point of growling. The guitar work and drumming is really standing out to their very best. Halfway through, the tempo switches gear and things get more powerful with aggressive guitars and verses, and epic outstanding solos. "Built to Fall" is an awesome epic song that is still a good choice for a single.
"Caustic Are the Ties That Bind" Is another epic song and the only one in the standard edition to not be in the drop D-flat tuning the band used throughout the album, or at least the only one not in the D-flat minor key. The band once again tries something new with a softer uplifting bridge and solo after the powerful verses and chorus. "Forsake Not the Dream" once again unleashes the heavy drums and powerful guitars. It's a little inconsistent and repetitive, but still a better song nonetheless. "Chaos Reigns" is another strictly screaming song that still reminds me of old-school Trivium.
After all that chaos from previous songs, "Of All Those Yesterdays" is a calm and little more progressive half-ballad where they were able to develop a slightly melancholic atmosphere. Then the song fades into "Leaving This World Behind", a dark ambient outro with the same melody as the post-solo bridge in "Dusk Dismantled". Heafy shouts a politician/preacher-like speech and repeatedly says "I’m leaving this world behind, making up for all our crimes" with his voice rising up to screaming, then the outro intensely builds up before coming to a sudden stop. That abrupt ending left me bothered and confused but doesn't affect the rest of the album. If you have the special edition, you get to hear some bonus tracks put throughout the album, including the acoustic-folk interlude "Ensnare the Sun", really good songs "Drowning In Slow Motion" and "A Grey So Dark", and drop-D-infused kick-A tracks "Shattering The Skies Above" and Sepultura cover "Slave New World".
After hearing this album, I now see what an awesome astonishing album it is, and it's nice to once again hear the band's original metalcore sound along with a small bit of their epic progressive side. This album has surely brought in new fans and kept longtime fans. Anyone listening to metal for the first time? I highly suggest starting with this album. Trust me, you'll like it. Trivium, you da best!
Favorites: In Waves, Inception of the End, Dusk Dismantled, Watch the World Burn, A Skyline's Severance, Built to Fall, Forsake Not the Dream