Unless you are an incorrigible cynic or completely deaf, it would be hard to accuse Trivium of being a band in thrall to a rigid formula. From the blazing breakthrough of Ascendancy and the flawed detour of The Crusade to the technical splurge of Shogun and the dazzling and diverse rebirth of In Waves, the Floridians have steadfastly avoided either repeating themselves or clinging feebly to passing bandwagons. But even by their own fearless standards, the news Disturbed frontman David Draiman was to produce their sixth studio album came as something of a shock.
More polarising here in the UK than in his native US, Draiman seemed a risky choice, not least because his involvement in the making of Vengeance Falls initially conjured up scary notions of Matt Heafy doing orangutan impressions. Metal’s hive mind boggled. Thankfully, the reality of Vengeance Falls is a long way away from what the anti-Disturbed contingent may have been expecting. If anything, Draiman has helped to sharpen the band’s focus and to enable them to achieve a much more precisely defined demonstration of what their music represents.
The fiery attack of opener Brave This Storm sets the tone perfectly. Instantly recognisable as the band that first came to our attention back in 2005, it also indicates a newfound confidence as all the band’s strengths and past musical predilections combine within four-and-a-half minutes of bellicose riffing, soaring vocal hooks and a subtly invigorating sense of urgency. The title track repeats the trick, Trivium’s trademark update of metal’s traditional, thrash and post-Gothenburg groove sparking and buzzing with renewed intent and the chemistry between these four musicians hitting a new level of intuition and verve.
And so it continues, from Strife’s insistent melodic core to No Way To Heal’s deft blending of spiralling harmony leads and lithe brutality. Ten songs full of melodic and dynamic brilliance and no fucking about whatsoever: you may find yourself wondering why so few bands of Trivium’s generation manage to sound this passionate about being a balls-out metal band.
Arguably the single biggest difference that David Draiman has seemingly made is Matt Heafy’s transformation as a singer. Where previous albums have found him tentatively experimenting with different tones and occasionally being guilty of blatantly paying tribute to his heroes, his performance here is both admirably distinctive and supremely confident. Eschewing screams and growls for the most part, he sounds absolutely at home brandishing To Believe’s gleaming hooks, thrilled by the extent of his own vocal range on epic closer Wake (The End Is Night) and, most enjoyably, genuinely intense through-out.
Amid Trivium’s increasingly bold and masterful maelstrom of blazing lead breaks and air-tight rhythmic syncopation, he now sounds very much like the finished article. Vengeance Falls is the sound of a band with total conviction in their own abilities and, if there’s any justice, one with even bigger and better things ahead of them.