Another solid if workmanlike set from one of heavy metal's greatest crossover successes
You could sense that Matt Heafy wearied of the Metallica comparisons pretty early on in his career. After abandoning their early metalcore sound to go full bore thrash on their sophomore major label album The Crusade, Heafy’s band Trivium quickly reversed course, spending the past decade mixing and matching genre tropes, never fully committing to any particular sound but never abandoning their core identity either.
In fact, as much as the band has been compared to such acknowledged influences as Metallica early on in their career, the primary difference between Trivium and their predecessors is that they have always tended to reflect the trends of the day rather than dictate them. For many of their detractors, this is the band’s key flaw: a junkyard aesthetic more concerned with fitting in whatever is popular at the moment than showing any kind of individualism or leadership.
That argument is not entirely meritless, but it sidesteps the fact that Heafy and cohorts do it better than just about anyone in the game today. Silence in the Snow is just the latest example of this, a seemingly forgettable collection of material that, after a few cursory spins, bring about a realization: for all their rote predictability, nearly every song on this album is actually memorable, a trait that was something of a birthright back in the 1980s, when Trivium’s primary influences were in their respective primes, but has since been largely subsumed by a focus within the heavy metal genre on sound over songwriting, and a naive equation of nontraditional song structure with instant art.
Once again Heafy goes for a clean singing palette, this time without a net: there are no instances at all of growling roughage in his vocals, a fallback tool he’s always left himself on previous efforts. For 2013’s Vengeance Falls, Heafy credited producer David Draiman (of Disturbed fame) with helping him expand his vocal range, and Heafy appears to be actively trying to build on that here. “Silence in the Snow” comes off like a milder version of Tim “Ripper” Owens-era Iced Earth, a mini-epic of fairly simplistic instrumentation that’s largely kept dynamic by the busy drumming of new addition Mat Madiro and, more importantly, Heafy’s expressive vocals.
“The Ghost That Haunts You” allows Heafy and fellow guitarist Corey Beaulieu to flex a bit more with their chops, but even in this uptempo format the band rely largely on simple grooves with an overlay of melodic death metal-style harmonies, all while hanging their hat predominately on Heafy’s hook-filled vocals. The sing along quality is ultimately Silence in the Snow’s saving grace, but it’s such a big one that it manages to compensate for the fact that the whole thing is right out of 2005, not nearly old enough to evince a timeless sound but too recent for fans of the era to have quite gotten past their oversaturated burnout with the formula either.
“Maturity” is a loaded term in the world of heavy metal. We’re constantly pushing the artists who strive to top themselves to give us something equally brilliant with every new trick up their sleeve, while at the same time we reward bands who quickly establish themselves as trading on a static, unchanging sound as successfully giving us more of what we already knew we wanted. Trivium are one of those unusual bands that split the difference: they haven’t put out the same album twice in a row, but then you don’t have to worry too much about them pulling a complete 180 and alienating their core audience either. Silence in the Snow resolutely satisfies the diehard fan, while at the same time nothing terribly brilliant materializes from that new trick up their sleeve, either.