The Trivium story began back at the dawn of the millennium, when drummer Travis Smith and then frontman Brad Lewter recruited 15-year-old guitar prodigy Matt Heafy for their new band, after seeing him blaze his way through Metallica’s ‘No Leaf Clover’ at a school talent show. After a handful of gigs, Lewter departed, enabling Heafy to take over as the band’s singer, as the band – which also featured bassist Brent Young - hit the studio to record their debut album, ‘Embers To Inferno’. A strident and preternaturally confident first effort from such a young band, ‘Embers...’ (released in 2003) showcased the trio’s highly original but extremely timely sound; a ferocious blend of classic metal, thrash and extreme influences that stood in stark contrast to much of what was popular at the time. It also gained the interest of Roadrunner Records, who duly signed the band and set them to work on their second studio album. Meanwhile, Trivium bolstered their ranks by bringing in Corey Beaulieu as their second six-string wizard, and replacing Young with new bassist Paolo Gregoletto. Recorded at Audiohammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, with engineer and all-round nutjob Jason Suecof, ‘Ascendancy’ (2005) was the perfect album to introduce the now four-man Trivium line-up to a now revitalised global metal scene. Anthemic songs like ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’ and ‘Like Light To The Flies’ exhibited great depth and musicality and immediately set the band apart from the rest of the metal scene, turning them into one of the most widely hailed new bands the genre had produced in years.
“’Ascendancy’ was ahead of its time,” states Matt Heafy. “We were doing that stuff before we knew it was ‘in’. People put all kinds of terms on it, but always thought it was metal as fuck. It was never metalcore. There’s death riffs all over that shit. The pre-chorus riff on the title track is so ‘Symbolic’-era Death! How could you think it was anything else, you know?” Both in the US and in Europe – and particularly in the UK, where Trivium shot from nowhere to conquering the annual Download festival at Castle Donington and becoming a major headlining act, all within a matter of weeks – Heafy and co were making major waves, touring relentlessly on both sides of the Atlantic and building up a huge international fan base that was frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the band’s next move.
Again recorded with Suecof at Audiohammer, and released in the autumn of 2006 - a mere 18 months after its predecessor - ‘The Crusade’ was a massive milestone for Trivium; a bold, and adventurous move that both consolidated their reputation as metal’s hottest young band and proved that unlike their peers, Trivium were more than happy to take a few risks in order to further nurture their art. Shedding every last trace of metalcore from their sound – including losing Heafy’s screamed vocals – the band’s new material ranged from the punishing modern thrash of ‘Ignition’, ‘Detonation’ and ‘To The Rats’ through to the Megadeth-meets-Motley propulsive rock of ‘Anthem’, the moody balladry of ‘And Sadness Will Sear’ and the epic instrumental craziness of the album’s eight-minute title track.
“With ‘The Crusade’ it was very much a reaction to the previous record,” says Heafy. “We wanted to do something completely different, something out of the box for Trivium. We wanted to go with whatever the opposite of ‘Ascendancy’ was. If we’d made Ascendancy Part 2, we wouldn’t be doing this anymore. We wanted to state early on in our career that we’re not afraid to do something different and to diversify.”
Buoyed by critical acclaim, a hugely positive response from the fans and a seemingly never-ending stream of high profile tours, including a successful cross-Europe joint as special guests to Iron Maiden and a triumphant stint on the Ozzfest tour in the US, Trivium quickly threw themselves into the writing process for their fourth album, spending many on-the-road hours honing and refining their newest material in anticipation of hitting the studio, this time with renowned producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters/Stone Sour/Death Angel).
“We were writing on tour for a year straight,” says Heafy. “When we were on the Black Crusade tour in Australia, I showed the Machine Head guys the songs. I respect Robb Flynn such an incredible amount as a musician and a person and I wanted to know what he thought. He called me up and gave me a really good talk about demoing and revisiting songs and all that, so we went back to the rehearsal studio and completely re-wrote everything. Then we sent the stuff to Nick, and then between us we picked the 13 best songs. We went to Franklin, Tennessee, where we lived for eight weeks, and recorded at Sound Kitchen Studios. It’s a legendary country music studio where Willie Nelson recorded. We met Lynyrd Skynyrd there! Everyone was amazing and so nice, so it was a great working environment for us.”
There is a moment for every great band when everything comes together and a definitive musical identity emerges. This is precisely that moment for Trivium, as the thrashy energy of ‘Embers…’, the cocksure melodies and aggression of ‘Ascendancy’ and the adventurous bravado of ‘The Crusade’ coalesce around a core of new-found creative muscle ‘n’ bone, resulting in an album of songs that proudly surpass everything the band have achieved in the past. ‘Shogun’ sounds huge, in every sense. The collaboration with Raskulinecz has taken Trivium to new levels of compositional and technical brilliance, while the album’s brutal, bone-shattering production means that they’ve never sounded heavier or more powerful. With lashings of vicious riffs that celebrate the band’s love of death, black and thrash metal, alongside the most incisive and memorable melodies the quartet have ever written, ‘Shogun’ is a monstrous achievement that promises to have the cynics and naysayers choking on their toast.
“It was all very natural,” explains Heafy. “We didn’t care what was going to come out, and that’s why it sounds this way. We all still love extremely heavy music with the brutality and no melody, but we also love stuff that’s incredibly melodic and simple and memorable, so that explains the two extremes. We like to have everything. Vocally we tried everything from the lowest note I can sing to the highest note, from the lowest growl to the highest scream, and everything in between. We wanted to try it all. That was the whole concept behind the record. No limits. Just try anything and see what comes out.”
Simply one of the most important metal bands on the planet right now, Trivium have been threatening to make that final leap from established contenders to full-on metal heroes for the last few years. With ‘Shogun’, their fourth and manifestly best album to date, they have clearly mastered the metal arts and are ready to step into the arena with the genre’s greats. From the bludgeoning bombast of opener ‘Kirisute Gomen’ – a dynamic paean to the ways of the Samurai – through to the hook-laden savagery of ‘Down From The Sky’ and ‘Into The Mouth of Hell’, and on to the towering steel-plated genius of the 13-minute ‘Shogun’ itself, this is truly Trivium’s defining album and the first stone-cold classic of their career. With over 600 live shows under their belt to date, Florida’s finest are ready to hit the road again and this time they have both the songs and the self-belief to take on all-comers.
“We wrote this album exactly the way we all wanted to,” concludes Heafy. “We really did our own thing this time. When people check it out, they’ll realise that we’re not an exclusive band. We’re not doing this for one specific kind of person. If you want to come to a show and rock out, that’s what we’re here for. We’re just four normal guys who just happen to be able to play metal for lots of cool people around the world. And that’s what we’re gonna do. This first shows we do for this album are gonna be just us, our instruments and the music. There’s not going to be any fancy shit going on. It’s just gonna be raw, brutal and exactly what this album is. It’s about the music, and that’s all we’re about. We hope everyone comes out to see us and we hope you all dig the record. We’re really fucking proud of it.”