Trivium exploded onto the metal scene in 2004 with its incendiary and critically acclaimed major-label debut, Ascendancy. Featuring the blazing intertwined guitar riffs of Corey Beaulieu and Matt Heafy (who doubles as the band’s lead vocalist), Trivium’s sound infused the classic metal formula of Metallica and Iron Maiden with a heaping helping of modern metalcore (read: screamed lyrics and machine-gunned blast-beat breakdowns).
As is often the case in this genre, Trivium isn’t particularly interested in focusing on the sunny side of humanity. Indeed, with the songs “Inception of the End,” “Watch the World Burn,” “Black,” “Built to Fall” and “Caustic Are the Ties That Bind,” it’s immediately apparent that Trivium’s outlook on the state of things circa 2011 is just as grim as it was seven years ago when the band was bludgeoning its way through “Drowned & Torn Asunder,” “Dying in Your Arms” and “Suffocating Sight.” Talking about the new album’s title track in the band’s official bio, bassist Paolo Gregoletto said, “To me, the ‘In Waves’ riff is what anger and hopelessness I felt would sound like if emoted musically.”
But anger and hopelessness aren’t all there is to Trivium.
Echoing Solomon’s sentiments in Ecclesiastes, “In Waves” honestly ponders the difficulty of finding meaning in the face of mortality: “What’s the purpose if this life won’t last?” “Of All These Yesterdays” begs, “Take away all of this pain/Life feels like it’s all in vain.” Heafy recognizes on “Chaos Reigns” that his heart and head harbor hatred (“I know where my hate truly hides/Front and center behind these eyes”).
Spiritual awareness, sometimes showing up as disorientation, appears on “Leaving This World Behind” with the lines, “Could someone please erase me/Take my body from this hell/I don’t know how it started/ … We dug our graves real deep/Surrounded by our moats/Such a shame, oh, such a shame/Our sins won’t help us float.” Likewise on “Caustic Are the Ties That Bind,” we hear, “I’ve been lost for so long/I don’t even know where it went wrong/Can you help me?” That song also laments the destructive violence of our culture.
The exceedingly bleak “Black” could be heard as a dead man’s horrific realization that a hellish fate awaits him. “Inception of the End” counsels perseverance and shedding the fears that bind us (“Fire/Alight the new beginning/Desire/Make this life worth living/Hands are shaking/Heart is breaking/ … Don’t lose focus/Because we are halfway there/ … Sacrifice all your fear”). “Watch the World Burn,” meanwhile, suggests resisting the forces that would grind us up. “Forsake Not the Dream” encourages someone not to relinquish what matters most to them. “A Skyline’s Severance” implies that something that’s damaged within a man must be expunged for him to find freedom. And “Built to Fall” breathes something like a prayer for deliverance (“Take away every single pain/That infects each and every day”).
Any effort that I’ve made in this review to interpret Trivium’s lyrics in a positive light must be balanced with the fact that In Waves all but submerges listeners in despair. “Hope has gone cold with its cause,” Heafy tells us on “Of All These Yesterdays.” “Lost inside its every flaw/Life is finally swallowed raw.”
Faced with life’s apparent meaninglessness, “In Waves” ponders, “Do I end this world for all to see/ … Do I take everyone else down/Everyone else down with me?/ … Incessantly we’re sinking in flames.” And despair seems nearly victorious on “Chaos Reigns” when we hear, “I break and bleed/I tear, then feed/The wretchedness inside of me/Chaos reigns.” The same is true on “Dusk Dismantled.”
Revolution flirts with nihilistic, fire-staring anarchy on “Watch the World Burn.”
Trivium certainly exhibits a spiritual sensibility on In Waves, but only to the extent that the band recognizes something is not right, something is lost and missing and horrifically broken in our hearts and in our world. These guys yearn for something more … and that’s as far as they’ve gotten in their corporate journey.
So they focus on what they know: suffering, pain and death. While they don’t exactly glorify those hard realities, neither do they offer much of an alternative. They long for salvation and deliverance, I think. But since they haven’t yet found those things, they can’t help their fans find them either.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.