Upon listening to Trivium's The Crusade for the first time, it seems remarkable that this is the same band that recorded Ember to Inferno a scant three years ago. While last year's Ascendancy hinted at what was to come, it still doesn't prepare the listener properly. The former thrash metal band from Ember to Inferno disappeared and was replaced by this insanely talented quintet that plays an aggressive form of syncopated, intense progressive metal. With vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy, drummer Travis Smith, guitarist Corey Beaulieu and bassist Paolo Gregoletto, Trivium should be ready for the world stage at this point, and this album should clue in those who think is speed metal is some passé form of rock music. Check the twin guitars in "Detonation" as Trivium weave dynamic, melodic passages around a crunching riff. Or the vocal chorus that opens "Entrance of the Conflagration," before it erupts into kick drum-driven mayhem without ever delving into cliché. Sure, early Metallica are an influence on Trivium (the Metallica who released Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, not the current incarnation who left those guys in the dust to become a respectable rock band). This is not to say that thrash doesn't have its place in the mix -- check "To the Rats." Never has a drummer sounded so crisp and so completely in control of the beat than Smith does here. The quick yet devastatingly tasty guitar riffs that Heafy and Beaulieu concoct are creative, knotty and canny. Other notable cuts on this fine outing are "Becoming the Dragon," "The Rising," and the eight-plus-minute title cut that closes the set.
Let's face it, though it's made and listened to primarily by the young, as a genre, metal has grown up and become far more sophisticated than it's given credit for. If anything, it's the only place in rock & roll music where innovation and creativity are flourishing because other than electricity and volume, there are no rules; the musicianship is top-notch, the writing gets better all the time, and production techniques are not the focus, music is. Trivium's The Crusade is a perfect example of what's possible. Along with other American bands like Mastodon and Slayer -- and an entire slew of groups from their home state of Florida -- Trivium are redefining the genre.