Trivium have never been the kind of band that stays still. They’ve always bobbed and weaved, zipped and zoomed around the metal scene: a little metalcore here, a little thrash there, maybe the occasional dip of the toe into the stream of progressive metal. Their 2011 album In Waves pushed their sound into a new atmospheric level and won them plenty of new fans, and it positioned itself as a very difficult album to top. So how would the Florida four-peace approach its follow-up? The answer is Vengeance Falls [Roadrunner]. It’s at once familiar and unlike anything Trivium has done before. The crushing riffs and virtuoso twin guitar solos are still there, as is the finely honed production aesthetic that worked so well on In Waves. But Vengeance Falls finds the band putting Matt Heafy’s vocals in the spotlight like never before. To that end Trivium enlisted the help of Disturbed frontman David Draiman to produce the album. And although Draiman remains respectful of the Trivium sound and approach, there are definite moments – not many, but very apparent when they happen – where the band taps into a similar directness and melodic drive to Disturbed, stopping short of sounding like a franchised version of Disturbed yet miraculously succeeding in grafting some of that band’s wider appeal onto their own still-too-heavy-for-the-mainstream sound. If any album has the potential to smash Trivium square into megastar status, this is it.
This album is heavy but full of melody too. How do you feel looking back on it?
I love it! Everything we wanted to do with the album, the overall goal of the record, we were able to accomplish. We were able to incorporate all the elements of what we do as a band and also what we like about metal and make it into this album. The way we wrote the songs, and the way we wanted the songs to be, it has everything a metal fan would want. It’s heavy and aggressive, high energy, and it’s full of melodic hooks which was a thing we really wanted to push forward. On the other records we used a lot of screaming as main vocal stuff, and on this record we wanted to establish Matt’s vocals as having a cohesive sound instead of jumping around between different vocal stylings. And I think having a main voice that you can understand and that also has melodies throughout gives it a seamless sound. And also being able to understand what Matt’s singing, and more than just the chorus having hooks, makes for a bigger record. Matt wanted to establish himself as the frontman singer using his singing voice because he’s developed it over the course of five records. We could have just put screaming on a lot of the stuff but there’s so much more to the songs when there’s that kind of melodic singing. It adds so much more of a dynamic that I really enjoy about metal. Screaming’s cool and we use it on the record for impact but it’s not as up in your face as some of the other stuff we’ve done. It’s the kind of vocal approach that I grew up loving about metal.
Having David Draiman produce it was a really cool but unusual choice. There are moments where it’s like “Oh, I know who that vocal melody came from” – he put his stamp on the band without turning it into Disturbed.
We all sat together in preproduction listening to the songs and coming up with arrangement changes or ideas that take a risk or take it further. And we’d never sat down and worked on vocal parts during preproduction before. Matt had a lot of stuff mapped out for his vocals and David helped him perfect them, giving him ideas on how to do certain cadences, or take a note and accent it with a higher note – just to fine-tune was Matt was going for. And Draiman being a classically trained singer, he had a singer’s approach to it. They had a really good back-and-forth together with developing ideas. He really wanted to make it Matt’s standout record.
I started on my signature three years ago, and went through two different versions with the body shape and everything like that. Then a year and a half ago I came up with the concept for this guitar. Once we’d sketched out the dimensions, worked it all out and built the first guitar I was like “This is it, this is the one.” And then we developed more of the features of it. It took a long time to get the body shape designed, but once that was done it was just the minor things I wanted to put on it, the bells and whistles and so forth. I love the way it came out. It’s a pretty metal guitar.
And it has the Seymour Duncan Blackouts active humbuckers. What drew you to those?
My old artist rep that worked for Seymour Duncan years ago approached me. I had Seymour Duncans already and she asked me if I was interested in trying the Blackouts out. I think I was one of the first people who got to try them before they came out. After I played them I just loved the way they sounded. I loved the whole EQ range and how much output they had. They’re the perfect pickup. I haven’t really had any desire to play anything else after I did that. And all my amps are dialled in with those pickups. I’ve been using them for so long that I know how it works with my sound.
What amps are you using on the record?
On the mix we’re using a Kemper. We tracked with a Peavey 5150 like we normally do, and in the mix stages once everything else got finalised the guitars just needed a little bit more to ’em than what we had tracked with so we ended up re-amping it with a Kemper right into the board.
You guys started so young. Were your family supportive of you embarking on a career in music?
Yeah, my family’s been amazing. All our families have been. My dad has a Trivium tattoo. When I said “There’s this band I know who are looking for a guitar player,” my mom said I should try out. So definitely from the beginning they were very supportive. They come out to the shows, they collect Trivium stuff, they buy stuff on eBay and whatnot. They’re huge supporters. And also Matt’s dad managed the band at one point, Paulo’s mom managed his previous band before he joined Trivium, so everyones’ families are really into supporting the band and supporting their kids.
I guess a lot of kids out there might have parents who grew up with metal. It’s now something that kids and their parents can share together, instead of fight over.
Yeah! My parents really weren’t ever into metal until they started getting into a lot more stuff once I was in the band. They learned more about the whole metal genre and lifestyle. My dad’s got Metallica CDs, Killswitch Engage and stuff like that. They listen to the metal station on SiriusXM on the way to work to keep up on things.
So you guys are doing the Soundwave festival again!
Yeah! Soundwave is an amazing festival. We love doing it. You get to play in front of a lot of people and there’s a lot of great bands on it. It’s always fun to see all the other bands you’re friends with and to meet new people. And it’s such a well-run festival. We’re always happy to be a part of it, and hopefully this time we’ll be able to fit in some sideshow headliners. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play a longer show down in Australia, so fingers crossed that ends up happening.
What are you going to be using live in terms of amps? Will you bring the Kemper?
We’ve been playing since the end of July and we’ve been using the Kemper straight into the PA. We have them in fly racks so we just fly with them wherever we go, so we always have our exact rigs no matter where we play.
I was talking to Dino from Fear Factory recently and he said he loves his Kemper so much he’s used it to profile his Axe-FX presets.
Yeah! I’ve talked to him. We did some shows and we had a geek-out about rigs.
And he’s another Blackouts user.
So besides that, what are your tour plans?
We have our headlining US tour all the way to the end of the year, and then next year we have a bunch of stuff planned that’s still being worked out as far as scheduling and everything like that. But after Australia we should be doing a full Asia tour. Nothing’s been completely confirmed yet but we hope we’ll be able to announce stuff soon.
Trivium are playing Soundwave 2014. Vengeance Falls is available October 15 via Roadrunner Records Australia.