10 things you didn’t know about Trivium’s Ascendancy

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When Trivium released Ascendancy on March 15th 2005, their popularity exploded seemingly overnight. Within weeks they were gracing the cover of magazines (Metal Hammer included), heralded as one of the most exciting new bands in metal and being earmarked as "the next Metallica" (which in fairness was something also thrown at Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold at the same time). 

Almost 20 years later and Ascendancy is (rightly) regarded as a modern metal classic, the record that kickstarted Trivium's global career and a leading light for a new generation of modern metal stars. Here are 10 things you may not know about Trivium's second record... 

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1. Ascendancy was their first widely available album

Two years before Ascendancy was released, Trivium put out their debut album Ember To Inferno via the German independent label Lifeforce. The label were so independent in fact that copies of Ember... were harder to find than hen's teeth, singer Matt Heafy later recounting that he wasn't sure there was a single copy available in North America. So that mate that tells you they've been into the band since Ember... is probably bullshitting. Or German. 

2. Roadrunner A&R Monte Conner discovered the band thanks to a metal mag covermount CD...

Trivium were signed to Lifeforce Records after former In Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad posted a picture of himself with the band's 'blue demo' (actually titled Caeruleus). The story of how they landed at Roadrunner Records was no less fortuitous; Roadrunner A&R legend Monte Conner discovered the band thanks to a covermount CD with a metal magazine. 

"Basically, two tracks from [Ember To Inferno] – Pillars of Serpents and If I Could Collapse The Masses – were given away free with some metal mag which landed on Monte’s desk,” Matt Heafy told Hammer in 2015. “He called me and said, ‘I think you guys are good, not great yet, but I’m interested to see where you go after this record.’ That call really lit a fire under our asses and made us really focus on trying to come up with something to blow him away.”

3. But it was a demo of 'Like Light To The Flies' that sealed the deal

Determined to impress Conner, the band went into the studio and demoed the songs The Deceived, Blinding Tears Will Break The Skies and Like Light To The Flies on a 2004 EP titled Flavus. The latter track even had a self-funded music video that Heafy said helped seal the deal - "it showed we were willing to do things for ourselves".

4. The album is certified Gold in the UK

Ascendancy sold like hotcakes on release, particularly in the UK. The album was certified Silver in the UK on December 23 2005 and went Gold on August 25 2006, making it the highest-selling Roadrunner 'debut' since Slipknot's self-titled in 1999. No wonder the band once said they felt like "more of a British band than an American band". 

5. Their sound was a result of “mixing bands [we] weren’t supposed to mix”

With elements of thrash, melodeath and metalcore in the mix, Ascendancy was hard to pin down to any one particular scene or genre on the 2000s US metal landscape. 

"We were a three-piece thrash band essentially, but there was also elements of death metal," singer Matt Heafy told Bringin' It Backward when discussing the band's early sound. "Then we started getting into a little bit more of melodic death metal and I got introduced to hardcore and metalcore. Actually the first metalcore bands I heard were German – Heaven Shall Burn and Caliban."

6. Trivium came back to the UK four times in 2005 alone

Trivium's first tour of the UK kicked-off on May 1st 2005 at Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall. Within a month they had been invited back to play the 2005 Download Festival (more on that shortly) and flew back again in August for a stand-alone show at the Barfly in London (where they were joined for a covers medley by Machine Head's Robb Flynn), before embarking on another headline tour in September.

7. They played a secret show in Cardiff as their own tribute band

In Trivium's first year in the UK, they weren't above chucking in the occasional secret show into the mix. Billed as "Ember & The Infernos", the band played the Borderline on March 22nd 2006, as well as the Concorde in Brighton on March 14th. They repeated the trick again on September 14th 2005, coming out to play a covers set before playing a 'proper' set as Trivium. 

Sam Radcliffe of the Roadrunner Street Team later recounted on the Roadrunner website, "I arrived at the barfly not knowing the big secret queueing up for 'Ember and The Infernos'[...] 5 familiar people walked on stage with beards and hot pants and one in Y fronts. They claimed they were from Oaklahoma and were talking like hillbillies. They then played material from Blink 182, Nirvana, Metallica and many others.”

8. The band weren't interested in sex, drugs and rock'n'roll... eventually

Despite the fact Matt Heafy and bassist Paolo Gregoletto were both just 19 when Ascendancy was released, that didn't stop them indulging in some vices. But even as their stock skyrocketed, in a November 2005 interview with Hammer Heafy remained level-headed. "I don't want to be one of those people," he said, admitting that he had indulged in sex, drugs and drinking on tour previously but had since given it up. "I didn't want to get to the point where I hated myself."

Heafy reiterated this sentiment a decade later, telling Hammer, "there are definitely things I said when I was 18 or 19 years old where, if I could go back in time, I’d slap myself in the face and say, ‘Stop it, you little asshole!’ Our label was encouraging us to play up the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll angle, saying, ‘Talk about this stuff that you’re doing, people like this stuff’ and at 18/19 years old you’re happy to take that guidance. It wasn’t like we weren’t doing these things, but I can see how people would think we were cocky little bastards."

9. The Crusade was "a rebellion" against everything the band had done with Ascendancy

After the enormous success of Ascendancy, the pressure was on for the band to dive right back in with an equally stellar follow-up. But while most of the industry wanted them back with Ascendancy II, the band had other ideas. In a March 2006 Hammer interview, guitarist Corey said he wanted the album to be "straight out fuckin' metal. Ascendancy was good because it showed people what we can do[...] but now people are into us we can take what we do and push it even further."

Similarly, in a retrospective interview with Kerrang! Heafy described The Crusade as " my decision to rebel against everything we just did. I looked at Ascendancy and thought we did everything right. Can we do everything right again? I don’t know. And I looked around and thought everyone is doing screaming and singing, everyone is doing breakdowns and solos, and everyone has a ton of double-bass – so let’s do the opposite. Let’s make a record that sounds like it’s from the ’80s, that’s really thrash, I’m gonna sing entirely, no breakdowns, go back to standard tuning."

10. Trivium were originally booked on a smaller stage for Download Festival 2005

Trivium's set at Download 2005 is the thing of legends. Playing at 11am on Saturday 11 June, Trivium opened the Main Stage to 40,000 fans. Only, that wasn't the spot the band had original been booked in; they were originally scheduled for a later performance on the third stage, which incidentally would also have been a longer set. Instead, in 25 minutes they set the bar for legendary newcomer debuts. 

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Trivium's latest album In The Court Of The Dragon is out now. The band are due to tour the UK in early 2023. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.