In life, two options exist: death or growth.
On their eighth full-length offering The Sin and The Sentence [Roadrunner Records], Trivium choose the latter once again. In fact, the record represents an apotheosis of every element that at once defined the Florida group since its 1999 formation. Moments of malevolent melodicism give way to taut technical thrash, black metal expanse, punk spirit, and heavy heart tightly threaded together by the musical union of the quartet—Matt Heafy [vocals, guitar], Corey Beaulieu [guitar], Paolo Gregoletto [bass], and Alex Bent [drums]. Unsurprisingly, these eleven songs resulted from an unquenchable hunger for improvement.
“It was a do-or-die moment,” exclaims Heafy. “There were no two ways about it. We’ve always had this will to be better. I started taking inventory of everything we’ve done right or wrong, and it made me apply that thinking to the new music. What ended up coming about was, in my opinion, a combination of the best things we’ve ever done. We all agreed, ‘We have to make the best record of our career right now.’”
Given their global success, this goal proved nothing short of a tall order. 2015’s Silence in the Snow ignited something of a renaissance for the boys. Moving 17,000 copies upon debut, it bowed Top 20 on the Billboard Top 200 and claimed the #3 spot on the Top Rock Albums chart. “Until the World Goes Cold” arrived as their biggest single to date, achieving the band’s first Top 10 at Active Rock and generating a staggering 17.1 million Spotify streams and 14.9 million YouTube/VEVO views and counting. The Guardian, Classic Rock, Ultimate Guitar, and more praised Silence in the Snow as they sold out shows worldwide.
Despite the explosive nature of the previous campaign, the musicians quietly commenced work on what would transform into The Sin and the Sentence, collating ideas and assembling songs on the road. Without telling anyone outside of the inner circle, they retreated to the Southern California studio of producer Josh Wilbur [Lamb of God, Gojira] for just a month in 2017.
“By the time we got to Josh, 99% of this was written,” explains Heafy. “With Vengeance Falls and Silence in the Snow, we came into the studio with about 50% completed. When we’re as prepared as possible, we make our best music. This was more like Ember to Inferno, Ascendancy, Shogun, and In Waves where we brought a cohesive vision into the studio. Josh pushed us to refine that and make it even better. We made the kinds of songs we wanted to hear.”
An important first, Gregoletto took the reins writing lyrics. The results freed up Heafy to soar on the mic.
“Matt and I were really collaborative in the studio writing a lot of the lyrics for Silence in the Snow right before he went in to track them,” he recalls. “On The Sin and The Sentence, I pushed for lyrics and vocals to start much sooner. We devoted the same amount of time to them as we do to the riffs, drumbeats, and music. We put the lyrics through the ringer. I’ve helped Matt a lot in the past, but I wanted to learn more about the craft and technical side of writing. I was reading books and trying to glean different things. By the end of it, I was picking up more about how to use rhymes and how words bring momentum to a song.”
“This thing was like a film,” adds Heafy. “Paolo was the writer. Josh was the director. I was the actor. I feel like I was able to actually get into different headspaces singing the lyrics, because I wasn’t the one attached to all of them from creation to completion. I think Paolo did an incredible job.”
Without so much as a social media plug or formal recording announcement, Trivium broke the silence about their latest body of work and uncovered the music video for the first single and title track in the summer of 2017. It arrived to a groundswell of fan enthusiasm, racking up 1.9 million YouTube views and nearly 1 million Spotify streams in just four weeks’ time. The near six-minute lead-off charges forward at full speed on a double bass drum gallop, thrash intricacies, and hummable guitar lead as Heafy delivers one of his most powerful and ponderous vocal performances ever.
“The idea is condemnation, being ostracized, being pushed aside, and not quite understanding how to deal with those feelings,” remarks Heafy. “This is definitely reactionary to the world and things that have happened to us.”
“I read this book called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” Gregolotto reveals. “It was all about internet shaming culture. The whole thesis of the book was the amount of punishment for something. Somebody makes a tasteless joke and loses a job. I kept thinking about that and the idea of the witch hunts blaming people for inexplicable happenings. It’s easy to pin something on others because you don’t like them. You join the mob by attacking someone over something little. The Sin is the infraction to the public. The Sentence is the pile-on and ruining someone’s life and career. Does it add up? You might be on the other end at some point, so be careful.”
Meanwhile, “The Heart From Your Hate” hinges on a gang chant, fret fireworks, and an undeniable and unshakable clean refrain, “What will it take to rip the heart from your hate?”
“The emotion of hatred is so powerful,” Gregoletto sighs. “It’s the opposite of love. When someone is deeply in love or hate, it can be very hard to change this person’s mind. That was the concept. It’s the inability to kill off emotions like that.”
“We love to have a dynamic contrast,” adds Heafy. “Ascendancy is the fastest thing we’ve done, but it’s got one our simplest songs, ‘Dying In Your Arms’. ‘The Heart from Your Hate’ shows that end of the spectrum.”
On the other end, “Betrayer” unleashes a barrage of intensity driven by black metal percussion, tremolo picking, and earth-shaking screams before yet another hypnotic hook.
“I wrote it around the same time as ‘The Sin and The Sentence’,” says Gregoletto. “They have a brother-sister connection. Matt’s speaking directly to ‘The Betrayer’ who could be a friend, significant other, or someone you thought you knew who ended up using you. It’s personal.”
Everything leads up to the crushingly epic closer “Thrown Into The Fire.” A conflagration of incendiary riffing, guttural growls, and entrancing harmonies, it’s a fiery final word.
“I wanted to build a character like a preacher or televangelist who’s leading his flock and taking and taking from the congregation,” Gregoletto continues. “He’s preaching how they should live, but living the opposite.”
Following the 2003 independent breakout of Ember to Inferno, Trivium arrived as metal’s hungriest contender on 2005’s Ascendancy. Heralded as “Album of the Year” by Kerrang!, it stands out as a 21st century genre landmark. As they went on to cumulatively sell over 2 million units, they scorched stages with idols such as Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and more in addition to regularly making pivotal appearances at Download Festival, Bloodstock, KNOTFEST, and beyond. In Waves and Vengeance Falls both soared to the Top 15 of the Billboard Top 200 as the band staunchly secured its place in the modern metal pantheon.
By growing by leaps and bounds, Heafy, Beaulieu, Gregoletto, and Bent become what they were always meant to be—Trivium.
“With this, we wanted to knock everything down and think from the ground up about how we write songs,” Gregoletto leaves off. “We enhanced everything we’ve done.”
“I want everyone to know we made this with our hearts and souls,” Heafy concludes. “It was all or nothing; we gave it our all. We’ve been through lots of ups and downs and felt like this had to capture that. It had to summarize everything that is Trivium. I feel like we did that.” – Rick Florino, August 2017