In Defense Of Their Good Name is a column where we rise to the defense of bands or albums that are often criticized in the metal scene.
After posting the first edition of this new column, one reader suggested via Twitter that we defend Trivium. It just so happens that the band was on my list because, well, I really like Trivium, and, for as long as I can remember, Trivium has been one of those bands that seemed “cool to hate”. Going back to when I first started listening to them after The Crusade came out in 2006, lots of people I knew dismissed them and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why.
However, the band members themselves might have an idea why. In an interview with Metal Hammer back in 2009, Trivium were asked about the hate and a few words and phrases stick out in their responses: “trendy”, “success handed [to them] on a plate”, and, of course, “you suck”. These are hardly unique reasons to hate on a band, but let’s mull on this for a moment. Trivium gained a lot of hype after their sophomore album Ascendency came out in 2005. This was a time when metalcore was raging with popularity, with albums like The End of Heartache and This Darkened Heart by Killswitch Engage and All That Remains, respectively, being released. Naturally, when there’s a surge in popularity in a particular subgenre and a young band comes and gains a bunch of hype, they are going to be met with criticism. And while that criticism might start with one person saying, “These guys don’t live up to the hype”, it eventually turns into a bunch of people saying, “They suck”, even if they have no basis for such a statement.
In short, Trivium is a band that falls victim to the classic “cool to hate” routine, a routine where an opinion is formed on the basis of what everyone else thinks rather than forming an opinion by *gasp* actually listening to the band. And that’s a shame, because I believe that Trivium has no place in that crowd and that if such people had the chance to hear them beforehand, they would have a much different view. After revisiting Trivium’s discography, I’ve picked out few songs that highlight the band’s strengths that make them a solid act that deserve to be above punching bag status.
One of Trivium’s strongest assets has always been their technical ability. Nowadays, metal is overloaded with bands pushing playing ability with everyone wanting to be the fastest, most technical, most brutal, and so on. From their debut and onward, Trivium has walked a fine line between displaying excellent technical ability without lacking in substance. That is to say, Trivium don’t put their technical ability center stage, but rather use it to supplement their music. Matt Heafy could easily have made the focus of the band “Hey, I’m a guitar virtuoso and I’m not even old enough to drink!” when they first started out, but he didn’t.
A solid example of this ability is in one of the band’s staples: “A Gunshot To The Head of Trepidation”. Most of the song is firmly grounded in the metalcore sound with chugging riffs bound together by now ex-drummer Travis Smith’s beats. The first half of the track is actually a build up for when the clean vocals come in, but you never get that impression because it’s catchy and simply feels like the track is pushing forward. When we finally get to the guitar solos, we are met with the sweep picking and wah-wah’s you might expect in a solo, but before it overindulges, Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu begin to harmonize in a manner not unlike Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. The point here is that Trivium are able to craft songs without needing to rely solely on technical ability or playing as hard and fast as they can.
Let’s go back to the band being catchy. Trivium has a knack for writing solid hooks in their songs, both lyrical and musical. Two solid examples come from what I consider to be the band’s best album: Shogun. The first comes from the track “Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis”, with an opening riff that is one of the band’s best and pulls you right in then locks your attention once the harmonization starts. From there you can’t help but listen to rest of the song, which is bookended by the intro riff thus bringing the experience full circle.
The second track is “Throes Of Perdition”, which sets a bar for Trivium’s lyrical hooks. The chorus that reads “Live feels like Hell should / But this Hell’s so cold / Pull another knife out / Stick it with the rest of them / When my back is full / Turn me around to face it” has an emotional tinge to it thanks in no small part to Matt Heafy’s fantastic clean vocals. How catchy is this hook? My sister, who hadn’t really listened to metal when Shogun came out, fell in love with this song for its chorus. Some metalheads might say that makes Trivium “lame” for appealing to a casual listener. I call it songwriting ability.
What you get with Trivium is a band that is overlooked not only for their technical ability and but also great songwriting. I can understand why some other bands in metal are considered “cool to hate”, but Trivium certainly shouldn’t be considered one of them. I obviously can’t convince you if you’ve actually listened to them and have an informed opinion (though a second chance never hurt anyone), but if you’ve never checked them out because someone on the internet said you’re a poser if you like them, I promise it won’t kill your metal cred to listen to anything from the band.