Metalcore vets Trivium are dropping their ninth full-length, What The Dead Men Say, and as usual, they’ve crafted something with a vast range of emotions and dynamics within their sound. The record sits firmly in their typical metalcore sound while further exploring elements of melodic death metal, black metal, thrash and more.
As one of the primary writing forces within Trivium, bassist Paolo Gregoletto is offering us a closer look into the inner workings of the record. From the instrumental intro track “IX” all the way to the soaring melodies on closing song “The Ones We Leave Behind,” Gregoletto is walking us through each one of Trivium’s new song’s creation.
The first track and the track that proceeds it, “What The Dead Men Say,” run together. A lot of the musical themes in the instrumental track are just variations of stuff that come in the next song. When we were writing it, we did it as one piece, but when it came time for the album order, we decided to lop off the front part of it because it felt like such a big instrumental track. It felt like it needed its own track, and [we] let it just run into it. We wanted to have a track where it would be like a playback when we come out because we never really had that where we actually play it when we come out, so that was the thinking behind it.
“What The Dead Men Say”
Every time I go into a record, I’m trying to think, “What’s something we haven’t done? Where’s new territory we can go to?” With this one, some of the lyrics I was writing for “What The Dead Men Say” even before I was writing the title, I felt like I was thinking about a lot of the hologram tours and stuff, which made me get into this mindset of thinking it’s weird that people can die, and they never really go away because we have the ability to never let them stop doing what they do. They can go on tour forever with someone. It’s this idea of it not just being entertainment but literally touring and making money off someone that doesn’t exist anymore and their likeness.
When I was writing the lyrics maybe a year ago, the pandemic wasn’t even something people were thinking was going to happen this year of course. It’s always one of those things [where] you see a news article pop up of scientists warning that we’re not prepared for this or that. So, it’s not totally a shock that the lyrics would be very fitting to now.
One of the books I was reading at the time I was writing lyrics was The Uninhabitable Earth, which was a pretty alarming book to read about the climate crisis. It was definitely getting me in that mindset of things breaking down and how would that work and how would that feel for the people who have to live through the world once I’m gone.
I feel like this pandemic has condensed the time frame of things because it’s a fast-moving thing, and things change every day. In a way, it’s taken on a new relevance I could never have predicted. Maybe people listening to the song are going to take it as being about the pandemic more than I was originally thinking, but I think that’s cool. Lyrics can change with the world changing.
“Among The Shadows & The Stones”
I love the song title, and the original demo that Corey [Beaulieu, guitars] had [featured] the screaming, which was great because it gave me a placeholder for where vocals could go. He told me where he got the title from, so I just sat with it for a bit and tried to think of something beyond the initial idea he gave me. I don’t know if he got it more from older wars, but I just thought it could go into the 20 years of destruction that the war on terror has brought to other countries.
I wanted to frame it in the other people’s perspective, the people who are caught in the midst of it with no real way out. It’s like this rubble of buildings and shadows cast by these structures that are still there, but nothing is in them, and it just casts this shadow upon the area. I was using that as a reference, and it’s definitely a heavy track. I wanted to lyrically make it as intense as the music.
It’s a little different, but I know metal never shied away from songs about war, but I felt like this could be a different thing because I don’t know if there’s a lot of songs that view it from other people’s perspectives other than the ones shooting the weapons at people.
“Bleed Into Me”
When we’re writing, we’re always mindful of what we’ve written before it, and we try not to tread in the same water as other songs. I felt really strongly coming in with this one and working on it because it feels different, and it was definitely a bass-dominant track, which for a band who’re mostly guitar-driven, I think it’s nice to have something change. Obviously, I play the bass, so I’m partial to that, but it was more of a different feel starting with the bass and getting into a 6/8 feel. If you’ve ever listened to something by A Perfect Circle or Tool, you know the vibe I’m talking about. It’s a different feel, especially with a lot of songs that are in the standard 4/4.
It just set things apart, and this was a song where the vocals and the lyrics were really the driving force of the song. I’m very pleased with how this song came out, and I wanted it to be about people in your city that are often not paid attention to, and sometimes there’s this other world around you that you don’t pay attention to until there’s a moment that causes you to. Coming back to the pandemic, it created that moment I was thinking of and is a good way to explain the thought that all of the people doing the jobs you don’t think about—how they’re the focus of everything and the lifeblood of what’s keeping things running.
I think we realized the song needed to be more of a throwback to Trivium’s older records like Ascendancy where it’s more in your face, fast and just lets things go. We’re a band that have always been very forward-looking, and we’ve tried not to get hung up on nostalgia too much throughout our career. We’ve never done a tour for old records for an anniversary. When we write, we definitely think, “What else can we do that we haven’t thought of?” It was nice to see it has a certain vibe that we’ve done in the past, so let’s just roll with it and see where it goes.
I thought it was cool because it’s full circle, and in some ways, it does feel reminiscent of stuff we’ve done before. I don’t think Trivium on Ascendancy would have written the same song back then as we did now. It still felt like progression, but it does feel like the roots of Trivium coming through in the song. It was a real fun one to write, and I can’t wait to play it live because it has a ton of energy to it.
“Sickness Unto You”
What I always try to tell people when we’re writing is we have a certain unwritten rule of when a song has heavy stuff, if it tips too far into one direction of extreme music, it starts to not feel like Trivium anymore. We’re capable of doing very extreme stuff, but also our sound has such a broad mix of things. I think we’re more mindful of [knowing that] we’ve always had these elements of melodic death metal and death metal itself or black metal and all of those things, but the underlying melody is always in our sound.
For me, when we’re in writing mode, I know Alex can do anything imaginable. We’re always trying to figure out how to give this a more Trivium vibe than just writing a death-metal song or a black-metal part.
“Scattering The Ashes”
Every song really has everyone in Trivium’s fingerprints on it. We know who brought in the initial riffs, so we’ll know like, “This is a song that Corey or I brought in or Matt [Heafy, guitars/vocals],” but by the time we get to the studio, everyone’s put so much into it with their own feel. It still feels like a personal song, not any of our personal stories necessarily, and something people can relate to.
Corey had told me he had come up with it when he went back to Maine, where he’s from. His grandfather had died last year, and he was telling me about the experience of going out onto this boat and letting his ashes go, so that was the inspiration for the concept and the title. I wanted to make it a song with more of a tension, [where] there was this issue between these two unnamed people that was never resolved, and by the time you wanted to resolve something, it was too late, and [you had to] let go of someone.
It made it a story that a lot of people could fill in the blanks, and it wouldn’t feel like a connection to whatever their story in life is. You only have so many words you can fit into a song, and sometimes it’s about what you leave out of it that matters the most.
“Bending The Arc To Fear”
That was one of the last songs we wrote and one of the last ones to have lyrics for it. I do feel like some of the last songs you write on a record are some of the hardest because you usually have some of your best stuff out of the way already. That’s always the struggle. With this one, I was thinking, “I want to go somewhere different with this and give it a different concept.”
I was thinking about those cameras on people’s doors and living in this neighborhood-interconnected surveillance system and people just sitting behind their doors watching and surveilling their surroundings and thinking about those apps where it’s like community watch groups. The things around us just help people descend into paranoia and the regular daily dose of watching local news gets people so fearful of everything around them, and [they] live behind this screen. You always see that thing of the long arm of justice or bending toward justice or whatever, and I thought, “That’s true.” But, if it can bend toward justice, it can bend toward counterforces, too.
“The Ones We Leave Behind”
That song started a lot different. When Corey brought in the demo, it was like a ballad but a lot slower and almost a clean heavy type vibe. We started playing it. It was cool. I didn’t love the melodies, but it didn’t have a fire to it yet. We started trying it a bit faster with each go and got it to a tempo that felt right, but all of a sudden, it took a turn that we didn’t expect. From there, all of the riffs and ideas flowed, and it became a real intense song and really fast.
I like the juxtaposition of these arpeggiated chords that Corey plays, and the riffs are laid back, but the drums are like speed metal. I like having those two different things happening. The vocals and lyrics have this really cool vibe going with Matt singing, and it’s melodic but forward-moving and very intense. I think with Trivium now, we’ve learned how to wield that dynamic sound where things can be very open and big but all of a sudden, very intense. Or we can flip it around with intense parts dropping into melody, and that can almost make it pop so much differently while still being heavy.