Vengeance Falls is the 6th (counting Ember to Inferno, which most people don't for some stupid reason) album released by the metalcore/thrash metal quartet Trivium. For those who know Trivium and their previous work, I'll tl;dr this for you right now. It's not Shogun 2. You can all go home now. Everyone else, back to the matter at hand. Vengeance Falls is the follow up to In Waves, which is regarded by a good number as an over-produced pile of dung that recycles riffs like hippies do plastics. That said, I have only a couple issues with In Waves. It's not amazing, true, but the weak point comes with Trivium abandoning their thrash roots and becoming more "melodic", as the critics seem to call it. This is, in all honesty, total horseshit. Shogun was more melodic than this. The really change lies in a change of style that doesn't work well, which was only partially carried over into Vengeance Falls (thank God for that).
For those of you less than familiar with Trivium, you might wonder why I mentioned "Shogun" before. Shogun is the 4th album by Trivium and is highly critically favored and generally regarded as Trivium's best work so far/since Ascendancy (second album, considered to be their breakout album)/Ember to Inferno (depending on who you ask). Many expected this album to be a second Shogun, but it's not that, but bluntly.
Production: The album is produced by David Draiman, the lead singer of Disturbed. Anyone who knows Disturbed can recognize Draiman's voice from a mile off, so people wondered if that would influence the album at all. My response to that wonder is the following list.
1. Brave This Storm* (1st pre-release)
2. Vengeance Falls*
3. Strife* (Single/2nd pre-release)
4. No Way to Heal (3rd pre-release)
5. To Believe*
6. At the End of This War
7. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone
8. Villainy Thrives*
9. Incineration: The Broken World
10. Wake (The End Is Nigh)
11. No Hope for the Human Race
12. As I Am Exploding*
13. Skulls... We are 138
The songs with asterisks next to them are songs that have a particularly large influence by Draiman on the vocals. As a result, personally, I don't like many of those other than Brave This Storm, because it has such a strong thrash metal influence that I can get over the vocals. Some might enjoy the "Draimanized" Heafy vocals, but many in the metal community seem not to. Draiman's production role was not to just change vocal stylings, however. The mixing is excellent, and that's a large feat for many metal bands (when listening to one of the new Gorguts tracks this morning, it sounded like I had driven my car into a lake for the duration). Additionally, Draiman sought to emphasize the strong points of the band's approach, while tweaking other things. Heafy claims Draiman added 4-6 notes to his upper vocal range, but also was encouraged by Draiman to utilize his powerful low range to his advantage (as can be heard on Wake; those low notes are apparently real, completely unmodified). Draiman also shifted the tremolo in Villainy Thrives from the middle to the beginning. All in all, his production is good, despite his tampering with Heafy's usual Hetfield vocals.
Instruments:The style of the guitarists, Corey and Matt, remains the same as considered usual for them, heavy thrash influences punctuated by chugged verses and choruses and long, legato-laden solo riffs. Personally, I'd like to see them return to the more progressive style they used in Shogun, with more varied influences (see the blues solo in the middle of the track "Shogun"), but the quality of the riffs is good, although the repetition should have been lessened quite a bit, as the same riff is used several times to cover one verse/chorus, rather than just once or twice. The drums are the product of the new drummer, Nick Augusto, who has worked with Trivium since In Waves. The drums are much less interesting and skilled than Travis Smith, the previous drummer, and that hurts the impact of the songs dramatically (for an example of Smith's drumming, the tracks "Kirisute Gomen" and "Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr" are good picks). The bass is there, not extremely prevalent, but this is thrash metal that has heavy influences in Metallica (ask Jason Newsted how being a thrash metal bassist works out), so the mix isn't really in favor of the bass.
Vocals: As stated, Heafy does an excellent job of being Draiman 2.0, but his old vocal style shows through on occasion. The most glaring change is the drastic reduction of harsh (screaming) vocals. They've been cut out almost in their entirety. I listen to Brave This Storm and when I sing along, I do the choruses in harsh vocals out of habit. The typical nature of Heafy is to use harsh vocals primarily or to back up clean vocals, but there are not many songs prior to Vengeance Falls (excepting The Crusade, for obvious reasons) that don't utilize harsh vocals. Additionally, the quality of Heafy's lyrics has dropped quite a bit. Where previous albums featured songs with interesting lyrical themes (see all of the mythology-laden Shogun), this album features songs with no particular direction, just a bunch of songs about the grand, ambiguous theme of good and evil and the seeming futility of the future, which I can't deny is a aspect that Draiman heavily introduced, just based on the nature of his usual lyrics. The strongest point of the vocals comes with Wake, where Heafy uses his extreme low vocal range to catch the attention of the listener.
Strong Songs: The strongest songs on the album come on the second half. The real strong songs are everything past To Believe, with the exception of Villainy Thrives, which is more average than the rest. Easily the strongest track is Wake (IMHO), due to the progressive nature of it. It was the one track that reminded me of the creativity present on Shogun, and while listening to it a thought occurred to me: even if all the other songs absolutely sucked, this song was worth it. Why? It shows that Trivium can still make tracks like this, which are what a large part of the fan base want. Interestingly enough, the whole album was originally to be entitled Wake and there were to be three movements: Wake 1 (Brave This Storm), Wake 2 (Wake (The End Is Nigh)), and Wake 3 (Incineration: The Broken World). Heafy spoke about this during his takeover of Sirius XM's Liquid Metal (Channel 40) and I thought it was worth mentioning. It would be interesting to see if this concept would have improved the album at all, but the progressive nature of it might have been deceiving.
Rating: I'll give it a 7.5 out of 10. Not the strongest thing they've done, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a low point either. The production was good over all, and the talent and potential is still there, Trivium just needs to pull their shit together and really put effort into their work again, like with their older albums.