You know you’re old when: a) you start telling the same jokes as your dad; b) you realise that your favourite TV programme growing up isn’t and never will be available on DVD; and c) a band comes along whose frontman was born after you squeezed your first spot.
I kid you not – I am old and Trivium’s Matt Heafy is a veritable scratch on the shaving accessory landscape at just 18 years young. Not that his bandmates are close to US legal drinking age, either, with a group average of 19.
Does this elixir of youth matter? Well yes, for besides the fact that Heafy & co are precociously talented, their age – or lack thereof – is ironic given that Ascendancy is steeped in the influences of classic, mid-’80s thrash and speed metal.
Opener The End Of Everything is misleading, its 80 seconds piano, doomy acoustic guitar and choral voices implying that things are about to turn all Nightwish on us. Instead, it pours. Rain to be precise, though Slayer‘s Raining Blood might be a more apposite reference, with incredibly fast, machine gun drumming, monstrous guitar riffs and Heafy’s impressively gruff, barked vocals.
Close your eyes in some of the slightly cleaner vocalised bridges and you can believe it’s pre-Black album Metallica in full flow, while the technical wizardry of the guitar solo is something to behold, particularly when it sticks in a dissonant chord before returning to the song’s opening motif. Yes sir, there might just be a drop of genius in these parts.
The remainder of the album continues in this vein, with most of the tracks demonstrating that Trivium have an excellent grasp of dynamics, song structure and arrangements – let’s not forget that Heafy co-produced the album.
There are also other nuances and titbits that raise Ascendancy beyond the more workmanlike thrash of a Chimaira, say. For instance, there’s the surprising burst of melodic backing vocals in A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation and the unexpected but effective “Hey! Hey! Hey!” war cry towards the end of it. Similarly, the clever key change part way through The Deceived is the work of a band inexperienced in years but experts in heavy music writing.
Of course, Ascendancy is not flawless. Some of the songs are overly long; Dying In Your Arms’ softer metalcore slant feels out of place and, frankly, not as good as that put forward by the likes of 36 Crazyfists; while the lyrics demonstrate that perhaps there is some growing up to do (“F**k the people / F**k the world / F**k it all” being the worst offender in Departure).
In summary, Trivium have a little way to go if they want to, erm, Ascend, to the level of label-mates Killswitch Engage. However, with the rabid enthusiasm and undoubted quality of Ascendancy, Trivium have thrown their cap into the (New Wave Of American) heavy metal ring in a way that is impossible to ignore. And, unlike some of their contemporaries, they’ve got time on their hands to continue honing their craft. Enjoy.