Fifteen years ago, in 2005, Trivium issued their classic sophomore long-player, Ascendancy. Its critical and commercial reception vaulted them to the forefront of the contemporary metal scene. That said, their ambition wouldn’t let these Floridians rest on their laurels. Led by frontman Matt Heafy, Trivium further astonished critics and fans with the genre-defying masterpiece Shogun just three years later in 2008. It seemed the sky was the limit. Just after that, however, things got weird. The drum chair became a revolving door and in 2014, Heafy damaged his vocals cords; Trivium worried for their future. Thankfully, he recovered, and drummer Alex Bent joined the band for 2017's The Sin and the Sentence to resume their creative momentum and consistency.
What the Dead Men Say finds Trivium firing on all cylinders. Bent's double-kick drum attack and blastbeats have been fully integrated into the band's punishing amalgam of deathcore, prog metal, thrash, melodic death metal, and more. As evidenced by the pre-release tracks "IX" and "Scattering the Ashes," in a Spawn trailer for Mortal Kombat 11, Trivium revisited various sonic eras in their history while moving their music ever forward. The former cut is an instrumental that builds in grandiose intensity for two minutes then bleeds into the crushing title track. As furious as anything on TSATS, it also employs the mind-melting technical prowess Shogun boasted. "Catastrophist" commences as nearly radio-friendly with a hooky chorus before it shifts gears halfway through to become a meld of roaring vocals, twin guitar leads, and spiraling death metal riffs fueled by Bent's triple-time drumming. "Amongst the Shadows and the Stones" takes the opposite tack, emerging as a cacophonous, dark, havoc-wreaking anthem that recalls various tunes from 2011's In Waves, with its screaming, fast drumming, and ominous ever-changing riffs, but then abruptly shifts toward the bridge to clean singing and chiming guitars, before a jarring transition back to chaos. While the plodding, crunchy, and uncharacteristically accessible "Bleed Into Me" may initially seem a debatable choice, it adds necessary ballast and complex textures to this wide-ranging set. Though "Sickness Unto You" commences as a dramatic ballad, it quickly transitions into a powerful, anthemic squall of quick-change throbbing basslines and syncopated drumming. "Scattering the Ashes" is an urgent prog metal jam with unruly basslines from Paolo Gregoletto and jagged orchestral synths. "Bending the Arc to Fear," one of the set's best numbers, is possessed of newly blackened death metal guitar tenets. Closer "The Ones We Leave Behind" showcases not only the command in Heafy's singing, but underscores the knotty, power-driven interplay between him and guitarist Cory Beaulieu. While Trivium have always been stubborn about following their own way, What the Dead Men Say sounds like an intentional gift to longtime fans. Its consistency, diversity, energy, and songwriting prowess put the set on par with the band's very best work.