In The Court of the Dragons: Do Trivium Somehow Top Their Last Two Albums?

So, here we are, the one I’ve been dreading. Not because it would be at all a bad album, if anything it’s the exact opposite. The band got my album of the year last year, with What the Dead Men Say earning a 9/10 from me, and I didn’t want to appear favouritist by having them top my list for the second year in a row. However, from what I have heard from the singles of In the Court of the Dragons, it is going to be a damn good album, and I have been damn excited to hear it all. So, I shall try not to gush too much, but I cannot promise anything given the quality that Trivium has put out over the last few years. let’s get to it!

After a pretty epic, choir-based intro track the album’s lead single and title track launches straight in with a HUGE riff and Matt Heafy’s fantastic, powerful scream. The harsh vocals don’t end after the opening chorus, the verse being just as heavy and fast-paced, the band unleashing their thrash influences straight off the bat. The vocals don’t clean up until the bridge after the second chorus, Matt’s cleans sounding just as awesome and strong as they did on their last album. Said bridge leads to a great little breakdown, pretty simple but made heavy by more screams over the top, the different guitar parts adding to the awesomeness. the breakdown descends into some awesome riffs before a couple of minutes of intense, technical, duelling guitar solos melt my face off. The solo leads to an epic final chorus and outro, finishing the track off in spectacular fashion, especially with the HUGE opening making a reprise. This was playlisted the moment it came out, and I don’t regret it at all!

‘Like a Sword Over Damocles’ (the names are my only ever issue with Trivium) opens on a great guitar riff, the rest of the band building in slowly over the top as they transition into a second, even thrashier one. The riff carries on through the verse, Matt’s voice transitioning seamlessly from melodic cleaner parts to brutal screams, a thing of beauty really. The pre is again heavy, harsh vocals over the top of blisteringly quick drum-work, before a catchy vocal melody rings through the awesome, albeit brief, chorus. We get an awesome, higher guitar riff out of the second chorus, Matt’s screams soon coming in over the top and we even get some cool chanted backing vocals too, adding so many layers and dynamics to the track, as well as making it pretty must-see live. Just to add to the epicness of it even more, the guitar solo begins before the end of the part, soloing behind the back of the crazy riff and screams before carrying on with the technical mastery out the back of it. The guitar work so far on this album reminds me of the Phil Demmel/Rob Flynn days of Machine Head, it is THAT good. As if hearing my words, we head into a very Machine Head-style riff out of the solo. It’s not only awesome and thrashy but climbs up the scale masterfully multiple times, building up more and more. Said build-up pays off with a MASSIVE riff coming out the back of it, leading into another amazing guitar solo, maybe the best one yet, before we head into an epic final double-chorus to finish things off. This was another absolutely incredible metal song, but I’m scared to put it on the playlist in case other songs are somehow even better!

The second single, ‘Feast of Fire’, is up next. It’s another one that has been heavily rotated by me since its release. It’s the most radio-friendly track up to this point, it being a tad slower than the previous songs and has nowhere near as many harsh vocals, it being mainly cleans. Every part of it is catchy as anything, from the clean verses to the harmonised, screamed pre to the HUGE chorus, catchy and arena-filling. Make no mistake though, even though it’s more radio-friendly doesn’t mean it isn’t still heavy. The riffs are massive and the breakdown/bridge part is HEAVY, not least because of the great guitar and drum work but also the great screams over the top. The band even manages to squeeze in another guitar solo, though it isn’t quite as impressive as the previous songs. Everything about this track was awesome, a great choice for a single and one that I really hope finally pushes the band to the top where they so rightfully deserve.

‘A Crisis of Revelation’ immediately gets back to their thrashy, Shotgun-era roots with a crazy-fast guitar riff and awesome drums to back it. The riff continues through the verse, with more awesome screams from Matt adding even more heaviness over the top. A similar pre leads to a slightly more open chorus, the instrumentation slowing down a little and the vocals cleaning up again. It’s good and fairly catchy, but maybe my least favourite chorus so far on the album. However, the riff coming out of the second one is BADASS, added to even more by the great screams. It transitions into a guitar solo a little out of nowhere which felt slightly jarring, but everything around the solo was so damn good (and the solo itself of course), that I can hardly complain. It also leads to an awesome minute or so of crazy instrumentation that builds up more and more into one of the most insane drum fills I’ve ever heard. It really has to be heard because I cannot do it all justice. We then get a final verse and chorus to take us home in epic fashion.

‘The Shadow of the Abattoir’ opens on a cleaner, slower riff than anything we’ve heard so far, almost Iron Maiden-esque. The quietness continues throughout the verse, Matt’s vocals being clean and lower than I remember ever hearing them, it contrasting beautifully with the higher guitar and bass notes. It all leads to a massive, ballad-like chorus, the distorted guitars coming in and the drums staying slow but sounding massive. It was awesome, and immediately drops back down again for the second verse when it’s done. It stays heavy after the second chorus, an awesome guitar riff building up more and more as Matt’s vocals become harsher before a great bridge or two leads to another fantastic guitar solo. The faster soloing worked so well over the slower backing instrumentation, but didn’t provide as many memorable moments as the likes of ‘Like a Sword…’ did. Actually, scratch that, the second solo was amazing and up there with some of the band’s best. Way to prove me wrong! For a band that isn’t typically known for their slower-based songs, this was incredible and is another that makes the playlist pretty damn easily. Fantastic stuff!

‘No Way Back Just Through’ picks the pace back up immediately with one of my favourite riffs from the album, heavy and chunky and with some great timing-changing drum work behind it to give it even more punch. At less than four minutes it is the shortest song on the album and gets straight to the point, a solid, straightforward metal song with very little in the way of tempo changes or multiple different riffs. After the last couple of tracks, it’s a nice change of pace to have something closer to ‘Feast of Fire’ again, especially one that is 90% clean vocals again. This feels closer to their Vengeance Falls days as opposed to their Shotgun/Ascendancy days, but that isn’t at all an issue. It’s more radio-friendly than a couple of tracks but it is still heavy, with a great main riff, another awesome solo, and a BRUTAL breakdown to close it out. Another great song on an album of all killer so far.

The longest track on the album, ‘Fall Into Your Hands’, lets drummer Alex Bent again show off his incredible skill with a great opening drum fill that carries on throughout the guitar riff. Proving that they are the modern-day riff machines since MH gave that up with Catharsis, the verse riff is insane and thrashy, and everything that Trivium do so great. Matt’s harsh vocals are back in full force over the top, this track being massively and fantastically heavy so far. The chorus cleans things up vocally but the drums ensure the track is still damn heavy. My entire face scrunched up at the riff that came out of the chorus, it somehow building on the previous one but making it even faster, heavier and better in every way. My god, these guys are insane songwriters. Heck, at one point (the structure had me lost in the best way) it drops down to just a sick bassline and basic drums and guitar chugging. Matt’s vocals over the top were low and had an effect on them that added so much to the already gloomy atmosphere of the track. Said part builds into another incredible guitar solo, technical and quick but also giving enough notes space to breath to give it some emotion. I honestly can’t gush over the instrumentation enough, if you are a musician at all check this out, even if you aren’t into metal! The rest of the track is heavy awesomeness, and one of the best proggier songs the band has ever done, especially with the string outro adding a beauty to it not present before.

‘From Dawn to Decadence’ is another track along the same vein as ‘No Way Back…’ except it has more screams in it. Another straightforward track at just over four minutes in length, it plows through some awesome, quick guitar riffs and still makes time for a damn catchy, clean-vocalled chorus and an awesome solo and breakdown. Then we reach the final track and single from the album, and one of the coolest music videos I may have ever seen, ‘The Phalanx’. I could honestly gush about this song all day, there’s a reason it made it onto our Track of the Week list ahead of the likes of BFMV and more INK. However, this review is already too long as it is, so I shall try to be brief. CHECK THIS OUT. Need more? Well considering how epic the whole track feels as a whole, never mind the absolute top class instrumentation and my favourite chorus on the album to boot, this could very well go down as one of Trivium’s very best songs. Heavy, quick, proggy, and everything else you could want or expect from the band is in here at some point throughout its seven-plus minutes. It’s a masterclass in writing metal that few have achieved before (I would argue maybe only Metallica and Machine Head). Another that makes the playlist, and I don’t care at all that it makes four tracks from a nine-track album in there, it is all that damn good.

Overall: Holy cow, they’ve done it again. I was worried that they would put out an album that would end up at the top of my albums of the year list again and it would look like favouritism, but I cannot even be mad after that album. I feel like anyone who listens to it would agree with me, too. Trivium is now at the end of one of the best hat tricks in metal within just four years. God knows where they go from here, but it must be to the top. Goddamn, I love this band.

The score: 9.5/10

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