Knitting Factory Presents
Trivium – The Sin and The Sentence World Tour
In life, two options exist: death or growth.
On their eighth full-length offering The Sin and The Sentence [Roadrunner Records], Trivium choose the latter once again. In fact, the record represents an apotheosis of every element that at once defined the Florida group since its 1999 formation. Moments of malevolent melodicism give way to taut technical thrash, black metal expanse, punk spirit, and heavy heart tightly threaded together by the musical union of the quartet—Matt Heafy [vocals, guitar], Corey Beaulieu [guitar], Paolo Gregoletto [bass], and Alex Bent [drums]. Unsurprisingly, these eleven songs resulted from an unquenchable hunger for improvement.
“It was a do-or-die moment,” exclaims Heafy. “There were no two ways about it. We’ve always had this will to be better. I started taking inventory of everything we’ve done right or wrong, and it made me apply that thinking to the new music. What ended up coming about was, in my opinion, a combination of the best things we’ve ever done. We all agreed, ‘We have to make the best record of our career right now.’”
Given their global success, this goal proved nothing short of a tall order. 2015’s Silence in the Snow ignited something of a renaissance for the boys. Moving 17,000 copies upon debut, it bowed Top 20 on the Billboard Top 200 and claimed the #3 spot on the Top Rock Albums chart. “Until the World Goes Cold” arrived as their biggest single to date, achieving the band’s first Top 10 at Active Rock and generating a staggering 17.1 million Spotify streams and 14.9 million YouTube/VEVO views and counting. The Guardian, Classic Rock, Ultimate Guitar, and more praised Silence in the Snow as they sold out shows worldwide.
Despite the explosive nature of the previous campaign, the musicians quietly commenced work on what would transform into The Sin and the Sentence, collating ideas and assembling songs on the road. Without telling anyone outside of the inner circle, they retreated to the Southern California studio of producer Josh Wilbur [Lamb of God, Gojira] for just a month in 2017.
“By the time we got to Josh, 99% of this was written,” explains Heafy. “With Vengeance Falls and Silence in the Snow, we came into the studio with about 50% completed. When we’re as prepared as possible, we make our best music. This was more like Ember to Inferno, Ascendancy, Shogun, and In Waves where we brought a cohesive vision into the studio. Josh pushed us to refine that and make it even better. We made the kinds of songs we wanted to hear.”
An important first, Gregoletto took the reins writing lyrics. The results freed up Heafy to soar on the mic.
“Matt and I were really collaborative in the studio writing a lot of the lyrics for Silence in the Snow right before he went in to track them,” he recalls. “On The Sin and The Sentence, I pushed for lyrics and vocals to start much sooner. We devoted the same amount of time to them as we do to the riffs, drumbeats, and music. We put the lyrics through the ringer. I’ve helped Matt a lot in the past, but I wanted to learn more about the craft and technical side of writing. I was reading books and trying to glean different things. By the end of it, I was picking up more about how to use rhymes and how words bring momentum to a song.”
“This thing was like a film,” adds Heafy. “Paolo was the writer. Josh was the director. I was the actor. I feel like I was able to actually get into different headspaces singing the lyrics, because I wasn’t the one attached to all of them from creation to completion. I think Paolo did an incredible job.”
Without so much as a social media plug or formal recording announcement, Trivium broke the silence about their latest body of work and uncovered the music video for the first single and title track in the summer of 2017. It arrived to a groundswell of fan enthusiasm, racking up 1.9 million YouTube views and nearly 1 million Spotify streams in just four weeks’ time. The near six-minute lead-off charges forward at full speed on a double bass drum gallop, thrash intricacies, and hummable guitar lead as Heafy delivers one of his most powerful and ponderous vocal performances ever.
“The idea is condemnation, being ostracized, being pushed aside, and not quite understanding how to deal with those feelings,” remarks Heafy. “This is definitely reactionary to the world and things that have happened to us.”
“I read this book called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” Gregolotto reveals. “It was all about internet shaming culture. The whole thesis of the book was the amount of punishment for something. Somebody makes a tasteless joke and loses a job. I kept thinking about that and the idea of the witch hunts blaming people for inexplicable happenings. It’s easy to pin something on others because you don’t like them. You join the mob by attacking someone over something little. The Sin is the infraction to the public. The Sentence is the pile-on and ruining someone’s life and career. Does it add up? You might be on the other end at some point, so be careful.”
Meanwhile, “The Heart From Your Hate” hinges on a gang chant, fret fireworks, and an undeniable and unshakable clean refrain, “What will it take to rip the heart from your hate?”
“The emotion of hatred is so powerful,” Gregoletto sighs. “It’s the opposite of love. When someone is deeply in love or hate, it can be very hard to change this person’s mind. That was the concept. It’s the inability to kill off emotions like that.”
“We love to have a dynamic contrast,” adds Heafy. “Ascendancy is the fastest thing we’ve done, but it’s got one our simplest songs, ‘Dying In Your Arms’. ‘The Heart from Your Hate’ shows that end of the spectrum.”
On the other end, “Betrayer” unleashes a barrage of intensity driven by black metal percussion, tremolo picking, and earth-shaking screams before yet another hypnotic hook.
“I wrote it around the same time as ‘The Sin and The Sentence’,” says Gregoletto. “They have a brother-sister connection. Matt’s speaking directly to ‘The Betrayer’ who could be a friend, significant other, or someone you thought you knew who ended up using you. It’s personal.”
Everything leads up to the crushingly epic closer “Thrown Into The Fire.” A conflagration of incendiary riffing, guttural growls, and entrancing harmonies, it’s a fiery final word.
“I wanted to build a character like a preacher or televangelist who’s leading his flock and taking and taking from the congregation,” Gregoletto continues. “He’s preaching how they should live, but living the opposite.”
Following the 2003 independent breakout of Ember to Inferno, Trivium arrived as metal’s hungriest contender on 2005’s Ascendancy. Heralded as “Album of the Year” by Kerrang!, it stands out as a 21st century genre landmark. As they went on to cumulatively sell over 2 million units, they scorched stages with idols such as Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and more in addition to regularly making pivotal appearances at Download Festival, Bloodstock, KNOTFEST, and beyond. In Waves and Vengeance Falls both soared to the Top 15 of the Billboard Top 200 as the band staunchly secured its place in the modern metal pantheon.
By growing by leaps and bounds, Heafy, Beaulieu, Gregoletto, and Bent become what they were always meant to be—Trivium.
“With this, we wanted to knock everything down and think from the ground up about how we write songs,” Gregoletto leaves off. “We enhanced everything we’ve done.”
“I want everyone to know we made this with our hearts and souls,” Heafy concludes. “It was all or nothing; we gave it our all. We’ve been through lots of ups and downs and felt like this had to capture that. It had to summarize everything that is Trivium. I feel like we did that.” – Rick Florino, August 2017
A dark, twisted circus sideshow that’s built around bombastically grooving melodic death n’ roll is swinging forward with captivating glee, mesmerizing merriment and the plundering power of lethal pirates toward those brave souls who hand over a ticket to be torn by Avatar and their Black Waltz, the fourth album and first proper American release from the Swedish masters of mayhem.
Within Avatar’s diverse songs, a steady focus on the fluid and organic power of the riff (recalling the thunderous foresight of heavy metal’s original wizards, Black Sabbath) takes flight combined with an adventurous sprit veering off into the astral planes of the psychedelic atmosphere conjured by pioneers like Pink Floyd back in the day.
Avatar has found a footing that combines the best of rock n’ roll, hard rock and heavy metal’s past, present and future into an overall artistic presentation that is thought-provoking, challenging and altogether enchantingly electric. With the grandiose showmanship of American professional wrestling, the snake oil salesmanship of early 20th century vaudevillian troubadours and the kinetically superheroic power of early Kiss, Avatar lays waste to lesser mortals with ease. Whether somebody gets their rocks off listening to Satyricon or System of a Down, they’ll find something suitably deranged here.
“We’re in this weird field, caught in a triangle between extreme metal, rock n’ roll and what can be described as Avant-garde,” confesses Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström. The all-enveloping theme park vibe of the band’s music and visual counterpart means that, naturally, “it’s turning into something bigger.”
“I have been in this band for ten years. I grew up in this band,” Eckerström explains. “We’re somewhat veterans on the one hand. But we’re the new kids in the neighborhood in America at the same time.”
Avatar came of age as “little brothers” of sorts of the famed Gothenburg scene that spawned the celebrated New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal. The band’s debut album, 2006’s Thoughts of No Tomorrow, was filled with brutal, technical melodic death metal to be sure but already, “We tried to put our own stamp on it,” the singer assures. While the following year’s Schlacht still contained flourishes of melody, the unrelenting metallic fury reached an extreme peak. “Intensity was very important,” he says, with some degree of understatement.
Where to go for album number three? “We basically rebelled against ourselves,” Eckerström says of 2009’s self-titled collection. “We figured, ‘We can play faster and make even weirder, more technical riffs,’ because Schlacht was cool. But to take that another step would have turned us into something we didn’t want to be.”
Instead Avatar rediscovered their inherent passion for traditional heavy metal and classic rock n’ roll. “We decided to remove some unnecessary ‘look at me, I can play!’ parts and added more groove. We added a whole new kind of melody. It was awesome to be this ‘rock n’ roll band’ for a while. It was refreshing and liberating.”
Black Waltz sees Avatar coming completely full circle, returning to a more aggressive form of heavy metal but incorporating the lessons they learned while jamming on big riffs with album number three. “We finally came to understand what a good groove is all about and what a great fit it was for our sound,” notes Eckerström.
Tracks like the appropriately titled “Ready for the Ride,” the rollicking “Let it Burn” (which dips into some delicious stonerifficness), the anthemic “Smells Like a Freakshow” (a modern day twist of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie) and “Torn Apart” are supercharged with a dynamic range of artistic showmanship on a near cinematic scale and it’s all stitched together by a driving bottom end.
While most European metal acts who dare attempt this level of musicianship, showmanship and attention to detail seem content to toil away in the studio and lock themselves away from the crowds, Avatar have excelled beyond their peers thanks in large part to their continued focus on road work. Careening to and fro on tour busses and airplanes around the world like a marauding troupe of circus performers, Eckerström and his mates (guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson) have forged the type of musical bond that can only be brought forth from massive amounts of time spent together on the stage, in hotel rooms, in airports and partying at the venue’s bar.
Whether on tour with bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquility or Helloween, playing gigantic festivals like Storsjöyra and Sweden Rock Festival or demolishing South by Southwest, playing live is what it all comes down to for this band. “That is the final manifestation of our art,” Eckerström insists. “Of course an album is a piece of art in itself, but mainly it's a means to reach the higher goal, which is doing these awesome shows. Touring is of the greatest importance.”
“We all just love the pirate’s life,” he admits freely. “Sailing into the city on this tour bus thingy, going to kick some ass, have that party and all the while meeting all of these people, entertaining them, encountering a culture that's not your own. We love that.”
The want for this type of lifestyle goes back to early childhood fascinations for the good-humored singer. Reading about superheroes, watching Hulk Hogan on TV, getting exposed to Kiss – these were the first ingredients for what Eckerström would go on to create with the guys in Avatar and what has culminated now in Black Waltz.
The frontman promises that Avatar will continue to create, to captivate and to experiment. There’s no definitive endpoint in sight. It’s always about the horizon, the journey itself. “As long as you're hungry as an artist, there are higher and higher artistic achievements. I love AC/DC and Motorhead and what they’ve established is amazing, but we don’t want to write albums that are kind of like the album before. We want to travel to a new galaxy, so to speak, every time.”
The goal is always to conquer what came before. “That is what stays with you as a mentally healthy musician. Or maybe a mentally deranged one, I’m not sure,” the singer laughs. And part and parcel to that continued evolution will be the ever broadening expansion of the scope of Avatar’s worldwide presentation: Black Waltz and beyond.
“We have great visions of what we want to do and the things we want to give to people on a stage,” Eckerström promises. “These ideas, these visions, they require a huge audience. They require a lot of legroom to be done, so I want to get into those arenas, basically. I know we would do something really magical if we got the chance. This idea is one of those things that really, really keeps us going.”