Chris Sessions’ take:
Trivium, then? OK, so what are my impressions? Not my cup o Joe, sailor. This is just more of the same shit I have been hoping to avoid reviewing for about a year now. If you haven’t heard them or their billions of clones, they play a thrashy, melodeth style of music and they have a singer that roars the same way they all roar and sings the same way they all sing. Which is to say, a slightly metalled version of hardcore roaring and slightly metalled version of punk singing. They tend to gallop the verses and breakdown the pre choruses, then singsong their way through the chorus itself. You can certainly find a more annoying way to kill an hour, but I can for goddamned sure find you a few better ways.
They do have an edge on the competition, and that is the riff writing and the plain dealing method of execution. They can’t touch Lamb of God or All Shall Perish for overall songwriting or technical ability in this general style, but they do bring a slightly more professional and metal edge that their other peers just don’t seem to get. Never the less the basic components are nothing you haven’t heard too much of since about ’03. One other thing I will give this band is that the clean vocals are NOT just ripping off Descendants like the rest of the pack. They don’t completely ditch the whininess, but they are a LOT closer to classic metal vocalizing than I am used to hearing from these bands. Think a slightly less pretentious Hetfield with a better sense of timing and melody.
The musicianship is both excellent and transparent. Even the breakdowns, such as they are, are based on melody instead of simple root note rhythmic stomping. They obviously have an eye to raising the game, but not at the expense of the songs. The soloing shines, but that’s not been a real consideration for me since about ’84. The rhythm section is tight and focused, again pointing to a real desire to keep the songs in the spot.
The recording is competent, but it’s on the blandish side. This is a band that aches for some studio charisma. There is just nothing about the sound that makes you think you are listening to anything special. It’s a decent job of knobbing, but it kind of declaws the band when they really could have used some edge and depth.
The bottom line is that this is an above average, average modern metal album. It does nothing wrong, and it does a few things better than you can find elsewhere. But it really IS just another metalcore melodeth whateverthefuck the purists want to call it this month record. With the incredible wealth of amazing records we have been privileged to have been handed this year, a record like this simply can’t get much passion from me. I can’t really knock it, but I know I won’t be listening to it again once this review is published.
Jim Brandon’s take:
I lost count of how many different drafts of this review I’ve written already, each time basically trying to say the same thing, and failing. For the most part, I really admire Trivium, mainly for the way they and their marketing team have convinced a new generation of fans that they’re something a bit more special than the average modern metal band. I tend to disagree, but at the same time, I think Trivium is a clever, entirely overrated, but good band which some people have put entirely too much stock into hyping as being the act to carry metal into the future.
There is no doubt that The Crusade is far from being a poor album. Performance-wise, I really don’t think they could have done anything better. The musicianship is very sturdy if not entirely average in this age of virtuoso status quo, the riffs are somewhat dynamic and technically flawless, the mix is exceptional and the songs themselves absolutely shine with ambitious energy. Even though the band has managed to stay very productive in a very short amount of time, I can tell nothing was rushed nor taken for granted with either the time spent in the studio, or with the effort given to the conceptualization and presentation of this album as a whole. The packaging is beautiful, a superb visual counterpart to the adhesive, catchy-as-hell music inside. The team didn’t fuck around on this one, and have produced a close to perfect album, and that is the entire problem I have with both Trivium, and The Crusade.
A more contrived, inspired-on-the-fly album I have yet to hear at such a high level of exposure at this particular time in metal. People have actually been fooled into thinking this is the genuine article, the real deal, true modern Bay Area-inspired thrash fucking metal. How laughable. As pristine and gossamer as this album is, even with excellent songs such as “To The Rats”, “Entrance Of The Conflagration”, and “This World Can’t Tear Us Apart”, and considering the touching sentiment of “And Sadness Will Sear”, it almost breaks my heart to hear how utterly fabricated this album ends up coming across in the end. It’s a truly spectacular imitation, and if I tapped it with a drumstick, I’d probably hear an echo to rival a steel drum. Hollow resonance.
The Crusade is a sublime replica and reminder of some of the best music of past days to ever grace human ears, but while the band might even truly believe in what they do, they’ve also effectively painted themselves into a creative corner that I’m very interested with seeing how they get out of. Fine, this is Trivium’s ‘thrash album’, so be it. But could it have possibly been safer and more antiseptic? This album smacks highly of calculation: marketing, production, songcraft, image. All of it sounds rather modeled and plastic. I’ll give all the devils their due, and the scores reflect music only, but I’ve yet to hear anything that makes me take this band with more than a massive pinch of salt, and the morbid curiosity of seeing which bizarre musical direction they’ll go into next. This album will be huge, you can bet on it, but I’m hard pressed to find anything more ersatz this year. Run with it while you can, guys, but you better come up with something closer to an authentically individual vision pretty damn fast.
The main reason I wanted to chime in on Trivium’s latest was to relay a recent exchange I had with an employee of Roadrunner Records. This person sent out an e-mail that proclaimed something to the effect of that the new album had a serious Bay Area thrash sound – “but in a good way.” As a Bay Area resident and huge fan of the style, I took offense to that and called this person on it, stating that if this was the way to market a classic style to a younger audience, that we needed to send them a mix CD of Vio-lence, Testament, and Forbidden. They insisted it was a harmless remark and that I was overreacting. I had my doubts, but either way, the comment was reworded in future mass correspondence to remove any negative connotations. Pleased that I had successfully defended my bros, I went about whatever business I had at the time – probably flinging tampons at posers.
Of course, this whole thing began to pique my interest in the new album, which I would have otherwise completely ignored. See, I don’t necessarily dislike Trivium as much as I just don’t get the big deal. After hearing From Ember to Inferno and Ascendancy plus multiple live shows, my reaction was always the same – they’re good, but there are other bands doing this better, usually the bands who pioneered the style and are still going strong today. I’m all in favor of kids (which Trivium are) having love for the old school and trying to pass that along to others, and while The Crusade undoubtedly is a direct by-product of the band’s devotion to thrash metal, I’m just not sold. Much like 3 Inches of Blood, they do a fine job of playing a classic style, but it sounds like what it is: young musicians paying tribute to their heroes, successfully capturing the sound but not the spirit of the music.
They do sound great in trying, though. The riffs of “Ignition” take me back to the classic work of Metallica and Testament, but Matt Heafy’s vocals are just a little too polished for a style that has never been about polish. Plus, when that track sounds just like “Entrance of the Conflagration” which sounds a lot like “Unrepentant” and so on, you really start to wonder where the spark is. Maybe I’m just an asshole. I really want to like this one, and maybe over time it will chip away at my grizzled, crusty exterior and find its way to my thrash-lovin’ heart. Then again, maybe I’m right, and Trivium is just trying to cash in on the wave of thrash nostalgia sparked by the likes of Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and Darkest Hour, who at least have the decency to put their own stamp on the sound rather than simply emulating it.
Tim Pigeon’s take:
The Crusade is an album that I’ve been eagerly awaiting. I picked up their debut album on a whim years ago and found promise – promise that was fully realized on Ascendancy. Their sound had certainly evolved from the first album to the second, and they continue to alter things on this one. Right now I’m struck with the impression of a band that is searching to find a sound that they enjoy playing. Thus, this feels like a transition album. I find that to be a small letdown as I felt they mastered the NWOAHM sound last time around.
Trivium can play their instruments, no doubt about it, and they’ve apparently been listening to a lot of thrash, because that’s the direction they’ve gone. Matt Heafy has complimented his standard sing/scream with a middle ground crooning voice that is a shameless Hetfield impersonation. I don’t know how he and Corey split up the guitarwork, but they solo like beasts, particularly on “Entrance of the Conflagration”. The rhythm section is everywhere it should be, without adding much spice. This is all benefited by a crisp, full, modern production, much like on Ascendancy.
Something has changed in the songwriting process, to where many of the songs seem to jump around, as if hastily arranged. A few come together really well like near-ballad “This World Can’t Tear Us Apart” and “Detonation”, however others seem more scattered, like “Contempt Breeds Contamination”. They end on an ambitious note with the eight-minute instrumental title track. A nice riff set that reminds me of Arch Enemy starts it off. Sweet shredding comes in at 2:30, and then again at 3:50. This song changes the tempo and feeling frequently, while never straying too far from the base formula.
I’m at a loss to understand why this band engenders so much controversy, as they seem to me like a talented group of guys who write good songs. They stick to tried-and-true formulas, and they pull it off very well. I’m interested to see where they go with the next album, as this one feels more adventurous and less complete. Nevertheless, there is plenty of sound material to please the more mainstream heads, as well as fans of stout riffing.