We're just a bunch of metal kids playing metal. That's just what we do and who we are."

That kind of self-effacement is to be expected from a local band displaying a bit of rehearsed false modesty in the hopes they will one day be more than just a "bunch of metal kids playing metal." It's a statement that establishes genre credibility while stressing the populist strain that courses through quality metallians.

In the case of this particular quote, however, that's not the case. Trivium guitarist Matt Heafy is speaking from his Orlando home, which, technically means that he's a member of a local band. Considering he's only 22, he could be considered a kid. However, Trivium is — as anyone remotely versed in the hierarchy of contemporary metal bands knows — far from being in the same league as the legions of black-clad headbangers bashing out riffs on open-mic night.

Heafy has gone from winning Best Guitarist at the 2002 Orlando Metal Awards (when he was still going to Lake Brantley High School) to being named Best International Newcomer at the 2005 Kerrang! Awards, and Trivium's new album, Shogun, has been hailed as one of 2008's most anticipated metal releases. Trivium's rise to the top tier of the heavy metal world has been fast, and not without controversy.

"With the last record `2006's The Crusade`, it was heavily — for positive and negative — compared to Metallica," says Heafy. "Lately, for the last record especially, we were the band that it was cool to hate. For us, we were thankful that at least it kept our name out there.

"We're one of the few bands that have had to grow up in the public eye," says Heafy. "That Lifeforce record `Trivium's 2003 debut, Ember to Inferno, released on German label Lifeforce Records` came out when we were 16 or 17, and a lot of dudes come into it in their mid-20s or 30s. `The criticism` was hard the first couple times, but then you realize that it's just part of it. No matter what profession you're in, there are going to be people who don't like what you do."

Employing the cheapest, easiest metric, the phrase "Trivium sucks" brings up 221,000 hits on Google. Back in 2006, Heafy and bassist Paolo Gregoletto got bombed with piss-filled balloons by the crowd at a London gig opening for Iron Maiden. Much of the vitriol churns up from a metal underground that has difficulty correlating Trivium's early (and now out-of-fashion) metalcore sound with their recent sound, which plays up their thrash and true-metal roots. Despite their "cool to hate" status, it must be noted that "Trivium rules" brings up 292,000 hits.

"When we came out with `2005's` Ascendancy — looking back at it now, people seem to think that everyone was 100 percent positive about it, but when that thing first came out it was really split between ‘This new band sucks' and ‘This new band rules.' Since then, a bunch of other new bands came out, doing that scream thing, incorporating elements of Swedish melodic death into traditional thrash with clean singing. So we got lumped into this category, this genre thing where people were like, ‘Oh, you're a metalcore band.'"

With Shogun, Trivium has grown weary of the easy references. The album reflects the individual members' increased maturity and abilities and, finally, a style that can truly be called their own. Heafy still engages in the scream-sing vocal style that brought so much metalcore opprobrium onto the band and the guitar parts are still heavily influenced by riff titans like Testament and Metallica, but the natural, fluid aggression of tracks like "Into the Mouth of Hell We March" and the relentless "Kirisute Gomen" show Trivium marking out their own identity. All it took, according to Heafy, was a little time, a little effort and a whole lot of focus.

"We started `the album by` having everyone in the band write guitar demos in GarageBand on their Macs. Whether the songs came back harder or softer or in a new direction or whatever, it didn't really matter, as long as we liked it," says Heafy. "We took the 20 best songs and lived with them on the road for a while, playing them over and over again, and after that, we decided to go ahead and make a real demo, so we did all the guitars, vocals and bass in a bedroom in my house, and the rest was done in this shitty little warehouse in Winter Park.

"We decided — after having a talk with Bob Flynn from Machine Head after he checked the demos out — that this demo process was really important, that we needed to really hammer out these songs in the demo phase," he continues. "So we went back and re-recorded the first 10 songs, recorded another 10 for the first time, went to Nashville `to record the album` after that. It was six months of recording, re-recording, mixing, re-demoing. It really helped evolve the songs in a way that we've never experienced before. For the last record, we just did a week of pre-production, and went in and recorded the songs. Which was a great thing, but this time, we wanted the evolution to happen to the songs this way. All that demo work really allowed the songs to live and breathe and grow into their own thing.

"I think this record states what we are to become. It's more our sound than anything we've done before. It's starting to sound like Trivium."



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