Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. The year is 1999. We’re in the ‘TRL’ phase of music in pop culture. Nu Metal is controlling the charts, both in hard rock and the pop charts, with bands like Limp Bizkit, KoRn, Staind and Disturbed blowing up. Though their studio, self-titled debut was still three years away and the band members were in middle school at the time, Trivium formed in Orlando, Florida. 22 years later, In the Court of the Dragon is the 10th studio album from the band, who’s still going strong and putting out great, heavy music. In the Court of the Dragon, out Friday October 8, 2021 via Roadrunner Records, is 10 tracks with a run time just shy of an hour, and it comes in hard for the duration.
The album opens with “X,” an eerie instrumental with some gothic chants that got me more excited for this album than I had any right to be. It transitions right into “In the Court of the Dragon,” a song that possesses everything I love about Trivium. As you may know from my prior reviews, I believe lead singer Matt Heafy is one of the best vocalists in the game, both clean and heavy. The track opens up with an impressive guitar riff and intense vocals. The beat is feverish and the guitar and bass work is mind blowing. The guitar run in the chorus, when Heafy goes clean for the first time, is nothing short of mesmerizing and the breakdown and solos are truly just the band showing off. Trivium is so musically talented from top to bottom and that’s on full display here. The tempo and key changes are frequent but they tie together fluidly.
“Like A Sword Over Damocies” grabbed my attention right away with more chants and another technically sound, impressive riff. The transition to the chorus has a progressive melody and the chorus opens up to a very light, engaging tune. This one is powerful, for sure. “Feast Of Fire” really impresses on all fronts. The bass line in the verse steals the show for me, proving that Paolo Gregoletto is easily one of the best in the business. The chorus is a huge moment and I cant get it out of my head. There’s something about the vocals being so gritty and haunting that really appeals to me. “A Crisis of Revelation” is heavy as hell from the get-go. It’s a wall of sound with another driving bass line. The guitar riff in the verse is nothing short of magic and the clean, half-time chorus is unexpected and refreshing. The guitar solos in the transitions add an extra element, making this song a real highlight for the effort.
I could spend a paragraph just breaking down the introduction to “The Shadow of the Abattior.” I won’t, but that bass line is everything. The quiet, deep, clean vocals are hollow and engaging. Easily my favorite on the album, this track may be one of the best Trivium songs of all time. It slowly builds, adding drums and gets heavier piece by piece until it explodes, and the payoff is tremendous. The ensuing breakdown has a call and response from the bass to the guitar and then explodes into an even heavier feel. “No Way Back Just Through” is another classic Trivium-style song. It has an anthemic chorus with huge crossover appeal, all without sacrificing the heavy. After the guitar solo there’s a moment where the vocals ring out in silence with no backing that gives me chills each time.
“Fall Into Your Hands” starts with a sweet drum solo. I was expecting it to take off directly from there but instead was hit with a haunting, minor melody. The build up to an explosion is there, it’s just delayed, which I appreciate. Trivium is the best in the world at telling a story with their instruments and challenging your expectations, and this track is a great example. “From Dawn to Decadence” is probably the heaviest experience on the album, possessing a unique vibe and feel. This track is fast-paced and takes off with dual heavy vocals that are so engaging. But the chorus is all Heafy at at his best. “From Dawn to Decadence” is bound to be one of the biggest (commercial) successes on the album, being enjoyably intense from bell to bell.
The album comes to a close with “The Phalanx,” pushing a solid intro that sets the tone for a song that has a million twists and turns. Huge moments in the chorus and crisp guitar work highlight a track that is pleasing throughout. The chanting leading up to the chorus gets me pumped up every time I hear it, with my favorite piece of the experience being the transition to the song’s conclusion. The band uses the last two minutes to unpack the hour that preceded it and unwind, deconstructing what feels like a massive build to the final moments.
I don’t think I’ve been able to fully process this album at the time of writing this review. Each of the last few albums from Trivium have found me catching little callbacks and moments that stand apart, months down the line. What I do know is that this may be the best chapter in the band’s storied history and you don’t want to miss In the Court of the Dragon, available everywhere on Roadrunner Records, October 8!