With their fifth full-length album, In Waves, Trivium make a crucial statement.
It's a statement about writing their own rules about what it means to be a contemporary metal band. It's a statement that encompasses boundary-defying music, moods, movement, and visuals. It's a statement that's emblematic of their evolution. It's a statement that's going to impact anyone open to it.
While on the road in 2009, the first rumblings of In Waves began. Trivium vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy had already started pondering the direction the band would take for their fifth offering. So far, they'd excelled at the standard hallmarks of the genre, and he wanted to do something new.
Each one of their albums—Ascendancy (2005), The Crusade (2006), and Shogun (2008)—garnered unanimous critical and fan acclaim. Ascendancy cemented the band's place in the metal-verse, selling over half-a-million copies worldwide.
Shogun debuted at #23 on the Billboard Top 200 and in the top 100 in 18 other countries. All over the globe, they rose to the ranks of metal elite, sharing the stage with everyone from Iron Maiden and Slipknot and dominating festivals such as Download, Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and OZZfest. They'd done everything the way that a metal band is supposed to. However, even with all of this success, Heafy and his cohorts guitarist Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and drummer Nick Augusto had gotten frustrated with the state of metal and yearned to break out.
"In my opinion, this album really was a response to what we've ever done as a band and everything we're seeing in contemporary music," declares Heafy. " We want to take metal a step further. We're not going to tell anyone what In Waves means. We want to put imagination and creativity back in the mind of the listener."
Trivium let the music do the talking this time around. The title track and first single hinges on a pummeling polyrhythmic guitar groove that breaks into one of the band's most infectious choruses just before a haunting guitar melody sails off into the distance. Rather than simply modifying their sound, they expanded it with elegant sonic textures and crushingly calculated chaos. The technical prowess is tempered by a melodic sensibility often unexplored by bands in this genre.
About the song, Gregoletto explains, "To me, the 'In Waves' riff is what anger and hopelessness I felt would sound like if emoted musically. It was the first riff I wrote after we got off the road for Shogun, and it's inspirationally somewhere in between the technicality of Meshuggah and the straightforward groove of Sepultura, but it channels a new intensity. After that song, we weren't afraid to push ourselves out of familiar territory anymore."
"It was the turning point for the music," Heafy reveals. "It's got the simplest chorus we've ever had, and it meant something different to each of us. There's minimalist spin."
However, that simplicity breeds complexity as each song takes on a life of its own. "Inception of the End" drops from a speedy thrash air raid into an anthemic arena-filling refrain, while vocal harmonies climb alongside schizophrenic screams on "Watch the World Burn." "Of All These Yesterdays" takes flight on a propulsive hum and an off-kilter solo. Everything culminates during "Leaving This World Behind," which pairs a classically influenced acoustic guitar with a chilling scream and an orchestral, electronic undercurrent. "Built to Fall" shatters an off-time riff with a hyper-charged hook that sees Heafy channeling a new charisma.
The entire album moves and shifts like one fluid entity. Heafy adds, "There was a conscious effort to tie everything together. Since we pulled back on so much of the musical complexity, it was about the song and we were able to connect on a basic level. It wasn't about trying to insert another big word in the lyrics or another solo. We weren't worried about showing how technical or brutal we could sound. It was about making something great. When I simplified the lyrics, they were able to be translated into multiple definitions, expanding the album to a multi-purposed work of art."
In order to paint this aural pastiche, the band retreated to Paint It Black Studios in Altamonte Springs, FL with production triumvirate Colin Richardson [Machine Head, Bullet for My Valentine], Martyn "Ginge" Ford and Carl Bown in early 2011. The band had already conceived the vision for the album over two years of writing and volleying visual concepts around, so recording allowed the band to continue to experiment. Surprisingly, Heafy didn't turn to his iPod for inspiration though.
"On this record, my influences weren't music," he explains. "My influences were film and directors like David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Christopher Nolan. It was also the idea of modern art. I used to not get modern art and museums. I went to The Louvre four years ago and it got me into classical art. Then I started getting into modern art. I like modern art because it completely disregards all of the pre-set rules. Contemporary art can be anything. There is no right or wrong. That encouraged me on In Waves. We made the music we wanted to make."
In order to keep pushing the envelope, Trivium experimented with a myriad of sounds and textures, employing everything from cardboard tubes, fire extinguishers, napkins, and out-of-tune pianos to make sounds. Working with new drummer Nick Augusto in the studio also helped facilitate the process. Beaulieu exclaims, "Nick's a fantastic drummer, and he soaked everything up really quickly. We moved at such a fast pace together and we were able to accomplish a lot more in a short amount of time. It was a very creative, fast-moving, and enjoyable experience. Having that positive environment with Nick made it a lot more fun and it made the songs better."
However, the songs will ultimately continue to get better as their vision comes into clearer focus. Heafy sums it up best. "If a CD is like the soundtrack to a movie, In Waves is the entire film. It's everything. It's the soundtrack, the visuals, and the packaging. It's a full-on visual experience rather than being the standard format. The whole purpose of art is to inspire creativity and other art. No one made the album we wanted to hear yet so we made it ourselves. It's time to take metal to another place and bring in new people."