Review: Trivium – ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’

Album number ten from Floridian Grammy-nominated metallers Trivium arrives hot on the heels of 2020’s ‘What The Dead Men Say’, and it is hard to think of a metal band in more of a rich vein of form and creativity as Trivium are right now.

Since ‘What The Dead Men Say’ began with an instrumental track called ‘IX’, it makes sense that ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’ begins with another instrumental, this time called ‘X’. And like so many Trivium albums, the title track quickly follows on. ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’ (the track) is (no pun intended) a beast of a track; Matt Heafy is in the form of his life on what could be the heaviest offering from Trivium to date, his intense harsh vocals seem to have sprouted wings over the last few years, and here he sounds like he is delivering his vocals from atop Mount Doom in Mordor as chaos unfolds beneath him. There is a fantastic sense of irony in having Heafy deliver some of his most melodic, hooky vocals over the relentless blastbeats from drummer Alex Bent. Once the dust settles from the full-throttle title track, one of the standout moments on the album – ‘Like A Sword Over Damocles’, kicks in, and brings with it one of the strongest, most memorable choruses that Trivium have produced in some time. Full of guitar wizardry, and incredible teamwork from Alex Bent and his engine room partner Paolo Gregoletto, this one is pretty dam hard to resist. How does Trivium follow up this opening one-two? By dropping in the more accessible side to the band in the guise of ‘Feast Of Fire’, that’s how. Heafy’s vocals are mostly on the melodic side on this one – the harsh vocals do put in an appearance, however – and although hardly mainstream radio-friendly, the end result does slot in nicely alongside acts such as Stone Sour and Tremonti.

The pacing on ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’ is crucial, and it’s obvious that time and thought went into the running order. Key tracks are slotted in throughout the album in crucial places; the title track and ‘Like A Sword Over Damocles’ take the brakes off instantly, and after a brief pause for breath, the epic scale of ‘The Shadow Of The Abattoir’ brings a widescreen cinematic quality to the album. Seven minutes in length, the track takes on many different forms and because of this, proggy Maiden comparisons could be made. Trivium excels during these longer, more adventurous tracks, and ‘Fall Into Your Hands’ (where Alex Bent totally slays during the almost-tribal intro) and ‘The Phalanx’ both tip the seven-minute mark. During the breakdown on the former, Gregoletto delivers a trippy bass performance that is going to sound killer when Trivium gets back out on the road (soon my friend, soon), and the guitar solos from Heafy and Corey Beaulieu will make your head spin. Even though it’s epic on the grand scale of things, the aggression is never too far away and the explosion of energy on 5:40 minutes is enough to wake the dead. Closing track ‘The Phalanx’ has been loitering with intent since it was birthed during demo sessions for ‘Shogun’, and now after some adjustments here and there, it finally lands some twelve or so years later. The orchestrations from Ihsahn (Emperor) lend a mysterious air to the track, and the end result is staggering. One of those moments where if you close your eyes, it’s easy to picture how this one will look and sound in a live setting. Simply magical.

Three albums in four years is a decent return, but it’s the quality of said albums that makes that statistic all the more impressive, and ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’ is undoubtedly the strongest of the three albums (completed by 2017’s ‘The Sin And The Sentence’), and Trivium’s best since ‘Shogun’ in 2008.

Available now through Roadrunner Records, more information here.

 

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