October 8, 2021 Trivium – In The Court of the Dragon (Album Review)
Since 1999, Orlando rockers Trivium have been pummeling the Metal scene with their signature brand of heavy metal with intricate riffs and complex melodies. Hot on the heels of their 2020 release What The Dead Men Say, Trivium returns to the scene with new music and a fresh rage, but the same quality fans have come to expect. For years the Florida outfit has worked tirelessly to bring some of the heaviest and most intriguing songs in Heavy Metal music at a consistent pace for over 20 years.
Now, with their latest release, In The Court of the Dragon, the men of Trivium, Matt Heafy (vocals/guitar), Paolo Gregoletto (bass/backing vocals), Corey Beaulieu (guitar/backing vocals), and Alex Bent (drums) are back with more tunes, grooves, and chant-worthy ragers to incite the masses. Released Friday, October 8, 2021 on Roadrunner Records, this album signifies an important milestone to the band as their tenth studio album release, a hallmark Gregoletto called “momentous” in a press release. For a band with a 22 year history of delivering albums of technical dexterity and skill fairly consistently, the question now is: how does this measure up to the rest of the catalogue?
In their creation of In The Court of the Dragon the band set out to create their own mythology. Using artwork and both instrumental and lyrical imagery borrowing inspiration from Japanese, Nordic and Scandinavian lore, Trivium kicks things off with the slow burn intro of “X” which features quiet chanting and slow build that feels like an ancient worship service until it erupts into the title track. There is something grand and narrative about this track that lyrically gives it the feel of a Greek epic with the story being told within. Here listeners are treated to the intricate technical capabilities that made Trivium famous as Heafy and Beaulieu’s stringwork take their moment in the sun. This may be the first occasion of this sonic spotlight on the album, but it is not the last.
“Like A Sword Over Damocles” gets its title from the Roman tale of King Dionysus II and his courtier (a.k.a professional “yes” man) Damocles. For those unfamiliar, the story goes that Damocles made a comment to the king how nice it must be to be king and was invited to sit upon the throne by Dionysus to enjoy the luxuries that come with it. However, upon lavishing in the spoils of being royalty, Damocles happened to look up and overhead there hung a wide bladed sword hung by a single horsehair at which point Damocles pleaded to return to his subservient position which Dionysus accepted.
For ages the expression, “sword of Damocles” has since been used to imply the threat of impending doom and a “heavy is the head that wears the crown” connotation. The story itself is a parable on the duality of power and luxury, that those that enjoy it live under some kind of constant strain and anxiety. Here Trivium gives that story new life by telling it in a way only they can- with blistering percussion and soaring choruses.
“Feast of Fire” has all the ingredients of classic Trivium hearkening back to the Ascendancy and In Waves eras. Most notably is the clean technical execution and collaborative orchestration that creates a whirl of melodic entrapments that carry the ear from beginning to end. Pair that with Heafy’s clean vocals and this is one track sure to ping nostalgia in OG Trivium fans.
“A Crisis of Revelation” is a hard driven crusade that tells the tale of real impending disaster of Cthulhu-like proportions with the emerging of the “old ones” whose “evil beyond comprehension” will likely consume the world. The staggering stringwork and rollicking drums create a technical cacophony that is both pounding and dizzying. Broken up by the melodic flow of the chorus makes the transition through the song flow and eventually rolls effortlessly into the next track, “The Shadow Of The Abattoir.” Both lyrically and instrumentally the vibe is a bit darker to match the theme of the song. The imagery in the title alone of the shadow of an abattoir, or in American- a slaughterhouse, immediately brings to mind the concept of death, destruction and a sense of finality that comes with being in the presence of a place that doles out death as business as usual.
Nearing the end of the album comes the grandiose “Fall Into Your Hands” whose runtime comes in just under eight minutes and provides a masterclass in their deft orchestral execution and expert exercises in dynamics. Bringing our journey to its apex, is “The Phalanx,” another seven-plus-minute opus that encompasses everything fans both new and old love about Trivium. With a chest thumping bass courtesy of Gregoletto and Bent’s pounding percussions, this song is demonstrative of many of the things fans have come to love about Trivium’s skills and how they’ve evolved over the years. The nuances in making a song as layered and eclectic as this proof that the Florida quartet have not only maintained their musical edge but sharpened it.
As the journey of In The Court of the Dragon progresses, the journey of Trivium as musicians and the development of their own legacy and lore is laid bare. This album is over 20 years and nine previous albums worth of experience alchemized into Trivium’s own Iliad-esque epic compendium. For most musicians summarizing and demonstrating ten albums worth of growth in one album would be an insurmountable task, but here In The Court of the Dragon showcases all the things old school fans appreciate about the quartet while still introducing new techniques and influences enough to ensnare new audiences.
So, it seems that while the rest of the world was sitting in quarantine watching events unfold and history in the making, Trivium decided to literally make themselves the stuff of legend. The result is a mythic ode to their voyage from fledgling rockers to seasoned pacesetters. So, for channeling their inner immortals and crafting beguiling narratives, Cryptic Rock gives In The Court of the Dragon 4 out of 5 stars.