Sound — 9
Throughout its career, Trivium has been a band that isn't afraid to delve into new territory. This is the case on their seventh album, "Silence in the Snow." The most obvious, and controversial to many fans, of the changes in the band's sound is the absence of singer Matt Heafy's bludgeoning guttural vocals. It's not the first time that Matt has cut screaming vocals from Trivium's music, as there was little screaming on the band's then-controversial (but now more appreciated) third release, "The Crusade," as well as songs without any screaming at all on 2011's "In Waves" (paired with songs that had no clean vocals at all); "Vengeance Falls," their most previous album, contained screamed vocals but remarkably fewer compared to most of their other albums. What has made "Silence in the Snow" controversial with fans so far is the utter lack of screaming, period. And while the screaming may be missed, it must be said that Matt's clean singing voice has never sounded better than it does now. After blowing his voice out during a concert last year, Matt has received vocal lessons, and is able to do something he always wanted to do. While on "The Crusade" screaming was abandoned to mesh with the musical approach of the album, Matt has finally grown comfortable enough with his singing vocals to say that not only does he not want to scream anymore, but he doesn't need to. Matt's voice has improved with each Trivium album; I thought that it would have peaked with "In Waves," but was proven wrong with his newfound melodicism on "Vengeance Falls" (fan criticism that Matt's vocals were overly derivative of "Vengeance Falls" producer David Draiman's own style was unfounded, for Matt's vocals were fantastic on that album in their own right). After "Vengeance Falls," I thought Matt could do even better going forward, and he has.
Another trend on "Silence in the Snow" is continuing with songs that are relatively straightforward in terms of technicality and song structure, a choice the band has made to ease performing on tour after the technicality of "The Crusade" and 2008's acclaimed release, "Shogun." While technically much more simple, the music on this album, which is more influenced by classic metal than others, has more in common with "The Crusade" and "Shogun" than it does with the groove-based "Vengeance Falls" or the multi-faceted "In Waves" (with the exception of a handful of sludgy riffs). The palm-muted opening riff of "The Thing That's Killing Me" and the dissonant main riff of "Breathe in the Flames" have a very thrashy feel; the almost-epic melodies of the title track are something from a power metal song, while the bridge riff of that song, the main riff of "Dead and Gone," and the verse riff of "The Ghost That's Haunting You" would feel at home with "Vengeance Falls" or certain "In Waves" songs. Harmonized guitar lines, of which the previous two albums were rather lacking, are utilized this time around, showcased in songs such as "Blind Leading the Blind," "Pull Me From the Void," and "The Thing That's Killing Me." While there are many bright melodies on the album, some of the songs have melancholic intros: "Snøfall" (the album opener which can be seen as a natural opening to "Silence in the Snow"); "Until the World Goes Cold" (featuring a textured guitar line through a delay effect, followed by a very simple but very heavy palm-muted riff with a tasty pinch harmonic thrown in); "Breathe in the Flames" (which has acoustic guitars playing over a clean guitar); and the bonus tracks, "Cease All Your Fire" and "The Darkness of My Mind" (both of which feature clean, effect-laden melodies).
Matt Heafy, who no more than 10 years ago was considered to be a prodigy on guitar (he was only 19 when Trivium's breakthrough second album, "Ascendancy," was released), has continued to take a backseat in favor of being the band's rhythm guitarist, playing few solos which are simple compared to his ability. Lead guitarist Corey Beaulieu, while also playing relatively novice solos for his high ability, has had the opposite effect - while Matt is in a pentatonic-based rut in recent years, Corey's solos in the last couple albums have been much more tasteful than previous material in which he would emphasize shredding over melodicism to the point of his solos being impressive but not particularly interesting. Indeed, the solos on "Blind Leading the Blind" and "Beneath the Sun," as well as others, are some of Corey's most memorable solos yet. Corey also takes the opportunity to play melodic lines over choruses, giving them a big sound that we expect from the band. Paolo Gregoletto is one of the best and most underrated bassists out there today, and while he doesn't get a bass solo spotlight that he has gotten on some albums in the past, he once again is an unsung hero on this album, playing quietly interesting lines. New drummer Mat Madiro, who was the drum tech for previous drummer Nick Augusto (of whom was the drum tech for original drummer Travis Smith), has already shown to be an upgrade over Augusto. While Matt's drumming isn't as interesting as Smith's on Trivium's first four albums, he manages to provide more enjoyable beats and fills than the skilled but unimaginative Augusto, while retaining a style similar to his predecessor which has allowed for a much more subtle transition than the one from Smith to Augusto.
Producer Michael Baskette's résumé includes the three most recent Alter Bridge albums, as well as albums by Tremonti, Falling in Reverse, blessthefall and Slash. While his credits are small, he managed to help Trivium produce another slick-sounding album. Many fans feel the post-"Shogun" albums have been over-produced, and yet, the sound is crisp, the guitars pack more than enough punch, each instrument is mixed with plenty of volume and space, and Matt's vocals ring through loud and clear. Some might say over-produced, but the album sounds great and that's what really matters.
Lyrics — 8
While Matt will never be hailed as a wordsmith, he is one of the better lyricists in modern metal. Most of the lyrics on this album appear to deal with overcoming struggles, internal and external (a theme which has appeared on all Trivium albums in some capacity, especially on "Ascendancy," "In Waves" and "Vengeance Falls"). The one exception is "Silence in the Snow," which was written during the "Shogun" sessions and features imagery that is not dissimilar to the songs on "Shogun," many of which were about Greek mythology and samurai. "Here we all stand on this canvas of white/Our palette holds but only one shade tonight/Silence snows in, in her wintery chill/Let's paint the ground red with the blood of our kill." The message behind the lyrics may be from the perspective of a warrior/soldier; the atrocities of war is a theme that the band has explored on past songs such as "Down From the Sky" and "At the End of This War," among others.
Outside of the title track, one of the few possible downsides of this album is its lack of lyrical variation, but Matt still manages to make a whole album of solid lyrics surrounding the aforementioned topic of overcoming struggle. Some of the best lyrics along with the verse quoted above include:
"Calling for action/I demand that you question/Are you content with the truth that they have fed down to you? /Think for yourselves/You must break out from this hell/How has it come to this? /We are but drones/Silenced, led amiss" (from "Blind Leading the Blind").
"A fear of dying, a forgotten man/Just a number, a grain of sand/Time won't heal, it's running out on me/All your pain, it's more than I could take" (from "Dead and Gone").
"Apparition, read me my last rites/Can't read me into the grave/What the hell are you supposed to do when the whole world is coming after you? /What have I done? /What have I become? /Standing six feet deep/Am I the only one?" (from "The Thing That's Haunting You").
"As I build my house of bones/You're sinking under/For all your sins, you will atone/I burned it down/I turned back on everything/I search for half-remembered dreams/Pulling me down with you/Above my head, they're circling/The vultures want what's left of me/I sacrificed it all and I will fight until the world goes cold" (from "Until the World Goes Cold").
"The knifes are sharpening/A co-conspiracy/Poisonous treachery/My Judas passed the flame/But now you say that I breathe in the flames/The walls that built you up, they burn you down the same" (from "Breathe in the Flames").
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this is another strong album from Trivium, their seventh good album out of seven; few bands can make such a claim. While I prefer "Shogun," "Ascendancy," "In Waves" and "The Crusade," I find "Silence in the Snow" to be an improvement upon "Vengeance Falls," and also rank it above my least favorite (but still a very good album), "Ember to Inferno." Along with the consistency of the band's discography is the consistency of quality of songs on this album, the standout tracks being "Breathe in the Flames," "Dead and Gone," "Beneath the Sun," "The Ghost That's Haunting You," and the bonus track "Cease All Your Fire." If I had to choose a song I find to be the weakest, it would be the still solid "Rise Above the Tides."
The strengths of the album are: the band's ability to mesh bright sounding melodies with heavy guitar riffs, Corey's improving melodicism, the upgrade in drummer, production quality, and Matt's vocals. I don't find any glaring weaknesses in the album, but if there is anything that the band could improve on moving forward, it would be lyrical variation; it would also be nice to see Matt work out some more solos in the future, providing they're a little more creative than those of recent. Many fans will clamor for more technical music or more aggressive vocals, but I will not count that as a weakness as there's nothing wrong with the straightforward songwriting, and there's certainly nothing wrong with Matt's vocals. Moving forward, another album like "Shogun" or "In Waves" would be fantastic, but fans need to realize that the likelihood of Trivium doing another "Shogun" or another "Ascendancy" like they have been calling for is not likely, as awesome as it would be. And they do not need to release those albums again - they just need to release good albums, and they consistently just do that.