Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Tri(vium)p Ascending the Lane

I remember my return to metal. At the dawn of the torrent age, discrete P2P software was still the norm. Many of the big programs had central servers shut down, moved toward contemporary iTunes style interfaces or just faded out as torrents took over and google plus megaupload, mediafire and rapidshare filled the gap for instant gratification.

This was just around the time of the best-before date of "nu metal" as a mainstream offering of heavy metal. If you can recall, this was the dawn of the age of metalcore, a hardcore resurgence, post-metal (a term whose actual execution never lived up to its potential)  and emo/screamo. Hip-hop was being excoriated from the genre, baggy pants burned, sportswear retired and bands were dropped from labels.

In 2004 Roadrunner released Trivium's debut as a four-piece, Ascendancy. Ascendancy made its presence felt by going back: an extended acoustic guitar piano introduction, grand melodic movements and cool harmonised, dueling leads. The production was crisp, protagonists young and inspired and seemed to represent a simultaneous return to classic metal values and fronting the vanguard of the genre's new forward movement.

At the time, I thought it was great. Then I thought it was not. Then recently on a dark and cold mid-November late night car trip home from work, I finally "got it".

The problem with Trivium is that for whatever reason they never really clicked with a diverse metal audience. Perhaps it was their age, their looks or workingman-esque lack of overt charisma, maybe it was even certain questionable stylistic decisions made around the time  of the crusade. What can be said about Trivium though, is that they are good at what they do even if their latter day execution has yet to live up to the promise of their debut. The Crusade was middling. Shogun was stunning. In Waves had its moments and Vengeance Falls is similar to its predecessor.

Going back to Ascendancy after all these years (and why the hell doesn't it have a current vinyl print?) after all these years makes it possible to discover a few somewhat surprising things. It is a really solid, traditional thrash metal album. Sure, the lyrics are somewhat immature and heart on sleeve but have you ever read thrash or death metal lyrics. So while the subject matter combined with the melodies can move the listener toward cringe worthy emo territory on closer listen it sounds like Heafy is doing his best The Real Thing era Mike Patton. Soaring vocal melodies over weedling guitar and a giant rhythm section sounds great. Furthermore, even though the album came out during the metalcore flood it is actually far less formulaic and with an abundance of solos and old-school thrash arrangements and tension buildings... it's a rock solid classic metal album.

Ascendancy deserves a re-listen or a first listen if you were scared off the first time. Metal!
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