Trivium Speak To SonicAbuse

With new album ‘Silence in the snow’ having racked up impressive sales and Trivium having headlined Bloodstock Open Air last year, the band’s star remains on the ascent. The current tour sees Trivium taking to lesser known stages (in locations such as Leicester and Lincoln) at a time when, it seems, the majority of major acts prefer to confine their activities to a handful of English cities, ignoring a huge chunk of their fan base in the process. Admittedly something of gamble, Trivium’s decision has paid off, and the tour has seen them playing to wildly enthusiastic crowds, thrilled to have a band make the effort to come to them for a change.

Never a band to rest on their laurels, Trivium evolve from album to album, with the result that you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. Where ‘Vengeance falls’, for example, saw the band at their most belligerent, ‘Silence in the snow’ is undoubtedly the band’s most unashamedly melodic effort, with a strong visual identity and a series of hooks so catchy it takes the likes of Abba to unseat them. With the tour in full swing, we were fortunate to secure some time with Trivium guitarist Corey Beaulieu, the band’s endlessly enthusiastic guitarist, to discuss the gestation of the new record, the tour and the artwork that marks out each release as something special that fans will want to own in a physical form.

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Every Trivium album is very different and shows some sort of evolution in song-writing and delivery, it must be creatively satisfying, but is it ever challenging to keep fans on board for the ride?

We just… from the beginning, since the very first album, we’ve just written music that we want to play and that we want to listen to. It’s always creative… I don’t want to write the same song over and over again. You always find new things to incorporate into the way you’re playing and you just want to use them. You want to keep things fresh and, you know, doing the same record for ten years, people probably wouldn’t find that as exciting either, so it’s always about finding creative ways to keep your sound fresh and keep it interesting for us as well. We never really set out for each record to sound completely different or to have its own thing, it’s just a very natural progression. You just… when you start writing, it just happens to be that way, finding new things that make it interesting. You might drop something, or not do something so much on one record and then incorporate it back in in a different way – use it as another tool to write. I think, after seven albums… people are used to it now!

In the case of ‘silence in the snow’, was it a conscious decision to move entirely to clean vocals, or was something that happened as the song writing developed?

It was kind of a point… I guess when we first started writing, definitely we wanted to push the hooks and the melodies even further. We didn’t want to have tracks with just a chorus as a hook, we wanted every part of the song to be catchy and have some interesting vocal phrasing and hooking, so it just turned out to be that way. Musically, we just felt that singing was a way to make the record unique to itself. To me, it doesn’t seem like it should be such a shock, because we’ve had all singing songs on other records as well, so it’s kind of been part of our sound, as to the melodic side of things. We did songs on ‘In Waves’ that were completely all screaming, so that was different; it just felt right, and the songs called for that type of vocal, and when I was writing some stuff for the record, I was writing it with clean verse singing on the parts, so there wasn’t really anything that I was writing that was meant for screaming. But, you never know, it might come back in some form or other on the next record, so it’s not like we’re completely abandoning it altogether.

In terms of the record, one thing I noticed with the production, particularly compared to ‘Vengeance falls’ which was really full on, is that there’s a very dynamic sound which has a much more classic rock vibe to it – was that something that you wanted to capture on this album?

Yeah, specifically on this record… when you listen to a lot of modern day records, everyone just masters the fuck out of them and, there’s articles on line called ‘the loudness wars’ and we even compared a lot of records, like records that came out in the last year or two, if you look on a sound graph or whatever, when it’s playing it’s just needle to the red and if you keep turning it up, past a certain level, it’s kind of irritating and it hurts the ears. We were always big fans of old school metal and, back then, mixing on tape and stuff, you couldn’t go past a certain level, so records were a lot quieter back then, but there’s more dynamic in the sound when you turn it up. For example, the ‘black album’ compared to a record nowadays is a lot quieter, which is the case with a lot of records. So we purposefully mixed the record quieter than a lot of modern day records so that, when you do turn it up, everything expands and gets bigger. So when you do put it on a good stereo system and you crank it up, the drums sound bigger, and everything just sounds bigger, because there’s space for it to go, it didn’t get compressed. And that’s something we purposefully did to enhance the sound quality of the record.

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Something that’s very important to me as a music fan and which, I think, also ties you guys back to classic rock, is that you’ve always had amazing cover art and paid a great deal of attention to the way the band is presented. How much you guys are involved in the aesthetic of the band?

That’s all us. Nowadays, pretty much the last couple of records, we’ve done everything ourselves and then we just give it to the label when it’s done. They trust us to handle it… not a lot of bands are as involved outside of the music side of things, it’s usually other art people, or people the label have presented to bands as ideas. For us, the last couple of records, all the art work, the band photos, the album packaging, the music videos… they’re all in house. We come up with all that stuff ourselves and just turn it into the label… they don’t even… we had written the whole record and finished it before anyone even heard it, so, they don’t treat us in the way that some bands get treated, they just let us do our thing. Matt, definitely, is the most hands on art person. We came up with the concept of the skull mascot on the last record, and we had on some merch, introducing it. Then we came up with the artwork for this album and had the masks actually made, and yeah, we spend a lot of time. We want every aspect of the way our band is presented to be done right and not just do the generic band dude shot, or perform in an abandoned warehouse music video… we want to have control over it, we just do it all ourselves and come up with everything. Matt’s wife does all the packaging and stuff, so we’re ‘do it yourself’!

I thought the look of ‘In Waves’, in particular, looked so cool and, as you say, it’s easy to get bogged down in a generic approach, but I think that when a band pays attention to the art and design it really adds something to the experience of buying a CD…

Yeah! We did all the crazy concept stuff on ‘In Waves’ and then, with ‘Vengeance falls’, we reverted back, like the performance video that we did for ‘Strife’, and after we finished that record cycle, we were just felt it seems more Trivium when we elaborate more and do something that’s different… A lot of the stuff we do is influenced by things outside of metal. You can watch an Indie rock band music video and think it’s a really interesting look for a video, and then try to do something in that vein for a metal video and, kind of, metal it up! So we definitely pay attention to a lot of art stuff, and Matt’s wife is a graphic artist and the guy we work with on all our music videos is a photographer and videographer and he works for Facebook and does all this stuff, and so we want people in our circle of, I guess friends, that are all very art based people, so we get a lot of creativity going round. The guy who did the videos for ‘In waves’ and ‘silence in the snow’, he doesn’t even listen to metal, so we get a fresh perspective on… like, if it’s someone outside of metal you can ask whether you’re making a cheesy metal video, or whether it’s a video that someone who doesn’t like metal can get in to because it’s a very interesting video or because the artwork’s very striking. So it’s always cool to have people who aren’t absorbed by the metal cliché kind of world.

This tour is quite unusual because you guys are on the ascent, you headlined Bloodstock last year, and now you’re doing this tour that takes in a load of places that rarely see bands, were these fan requests, or how did you end up booking this tour?

We just decided… we had a little break in our schedule between US touring and we felt that we should probably get to the UK sooner, rather than wait a year after the record to play, and we just thought it would be cool to do a different market. We’ve always… it’s easy to get into a routine, you know, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle… and you play those five shows and focus on the major cities and we thought it would be good to get back to doing what we did in the early days, where we played like two weeks. So we’d play smaller places, but we’d hit a lot more. Every once in a while it’s cool to do that because we get people who come out to the shows and they’re, like… normally when you do the five shows in London, a lot of people have to travel two or three hours to get to the nearest city where there’s a show, so it’s cool when you meet people at shows who say how they haven’t seen us for three or four years because not everyone can travel or have the time to do so. So it’s cool to bring the show to these people. It’s never a bad thing, either, to kind of starve the cities that get all the shows and make them wait a little bit! They’re used to getting a show every year or two years when we’re touring, so make them wait a little bit and then come back later. Playing the smaller places, as well, has been fun. It’s been awesome, every show since the first one progressively gets crazy and wilder – last night was fucking crazy! We’ve never even played Lincoln before, so it seems to be that people are pumped!

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The gestation of ‘Silence in the snow’ goes back quite a way, to ‘Shogun’, I think?

Yeah that’s right. We wrote it in 2007. The genesis of the song… the original version of the song was a little bit different, but we didn’t work on it too much. We had so much material for ‘Shogun’ that something had to go. So we had the demo for this song, like the main points, and we felt that the song had potential but that it definitely didn’t fit with the stuff on ‘Shogun’. But we always kept the demo of it, we kept it on the shelf, and our Manager’s been bugging us for like the last seven years like “Dude, when are you going to do ‘silence in the snow’, I always liked that song!” But the last couple of records, ‘in waves’ and ‘vengeance falls’, it didn’t really work with them and so, this record, when were on tour (we were actually in the UK during the ‘vengeance falls’ tour), and we listened to the demo again and we realised it was very much the vibe that we were talking about for the next record, so rather than try and fit that song with a bunch of other songs, it became the starting point. It was the song that we based the rest of the record on. It finally found its place and we evolved it to where, playing the vibe of that song, we evolved it so that it wouldn’t feel strange or not fit with other songs. That song was just a little too early for what we were doing, so we fixed it up, gave it the attention it never got, we reworked it, rewrote parts… so it’s different from the original, but it’s got a lot of the same parts – it’s got the same melody and a lot of the same guitar parts, so, it’s cool and we always felt that a good song or a good riff… if it’s good music, there’s no expiration date on when you can use it!

You also got Ihsahn to create the opening track – how did that come about?

Well, Matt and Ihsahn have been like BFF’s for a long time now. Ihsahn’s been working on Matt’s black metal side project and he’s just like an amazing musical mind. He’s very creative, his solo stuff and Emperor as well. We didn’t have an intro for the record and, well we didn’t have one on the last record, and we wanted something a bit like Hans Zimmer, the dude who did Inception, we wanted that symphonic yet tech-y sort of modern sound, so we were thinking who could do it, and Matt suggested Ihsahn, because he’s got a lot of that sort of stuff in his music, and he’s really good at composing and music theory and all that crazy stuff, so we just sent him the title track and told him to take the vibe of it and go wherever he thought he could go. And I remember when we first got the song back, Matt sent us an email saying “Holy shit, you guys are not going to believe this!” So that was cool, and I opened it up and this song, this intro from Ihsahn, and it was like his first pass at the track and we opened it up and it was fucking amazing – so we were like “this is your first attempt? Holy crap!” So then he added in little extra things as he went along, but he pretty much nailed it right out of the gate – the melody of the song, he really made something unique out of it. I like it a lot, I think it’s one of my favourite intros ever. So I’m sure we’ll be hitting him up on the next record for something cool!

It is a great intro, although I must admit I love the intro to ‘In waves’ – the build up with the drums and synth is very cool…

Yeah, we’re hoping on the next record we could get, possibly, like his… expertise and orchestration and actually put it into a song. So not just have an intro, but actually have that crazy shit incorporated into an actual song that would be something really cool that we’ve not tried before.

OK dude, we’ve taken up a lot of your time and I guess people want their room back, thanks so much for the interview.

Thank you man.

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