Trivium talk new album What The Dead Men Say, finding the right drummer and touring amid the coronavirus outbreak
The founding members of Florida metallers Trivium are both aged just 34, but today (April 24th) sees them unveiling their ninth studio album. That's what happens when you unveil your debut album at just 17.
Over the years, the band's work epic has been relentless, nine albums, hundreds of shows and festival appearances, and a fulsome and unrelenting appetite for the genre they love.
Their latest offering is What The Dead Men Say, a raw, powerful and intense collection, recorded with Lamb Of God/Korn producer Josh Wilbur. It arrives in stores from today.
We spoke to bassist and songwriter Paolo Gregoletto, who opened up about the making of the record, working with Wilbur and how coronavirus will affect their touring plans...
When did you start working on the songs for What The Dead Men Say? Do you write on tour or do you need to get home and decompress?
"We began writing the album around April of last year. We broke the writing session into three separate weeks over the course of a few months, in between summer touring in Europe. We used to attempt to write on tour, but we’ve mostly kept it off tour to give ourselves a chance to enjoy playing shows without the stress of trying to write music."
"Working that way, it also gives us time to live with ideas and make changes when we return to rehearse the demos."
Did you have a sense of what you wanted to do differently from The Sin and the Sentence?
"Our main goal was to level up what we achieved on The Sin and the Sentence. We wanted the production to be even better, more riffs, bigger hooks, and just have fun with the writing process."
"Writing the first song or two is the hardest part because that sets the tone for what’s to come, but we never have any shortage of ideas and everyone brought their best to the table."
You worked with Josh Wilbur again on the album, why did you decide to work with him again?
"Josh mixed Silence in the Snow and that was the start of our working relationship with him. His work on The Sin and the Sentence really helped reinvigorate our sound and we knew that he was the only choice for the follow-up. He’s the hidden gem of metal and rock producers right now."
What does he give you as a producer?
"Josh started his career as an engineer for Andy Wallace who is probably one of the greatest mixers of all time. He is so fast with the technical side of things, which for a band like us who loves to be super prepared heading into the studio, it saves us so much time."
"He’s also a great songwriter and vocal producer, so we can bounce our ideas off of him when we are ready to show him our final demos. We learned a lot of vocal tricks on The Sin and the Sentence that we applied early on to the songs this time during our writing."
This is drummer Alex Bent’s second album with you, it’s the first time for a while that you’ve gone into a new album with the same drummer, do things feel more settled now?
"We definitely feel like we found the drummer we always needed in Trivium. That is not to discount the work that the other dudes did. We are grateful for the work they put into those albums with us. Alex was able to take in playing songs from those records, understand what Trivium is all about, and then apply his expertise to the new stuff. Some of the things he recorded on this new album still blow my mind."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"There is no one theme through this album, but I do feel a lot of songs deal with this sense of urgency in the world and the crisis point we seem to be arriving at all at once. I’d say it feels prescient but a lot of the basis for those lyrics are just reading and observing things that have happened and trying to channel it into our music."
"I think the best thing we can do is to make those themes translate into either a narrative or a message that can resonate with a lot of people, and to pair it to music that both fits the themes."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"The title track was the longest to get right, but that was about two or three days of jamming for us. We work very quickly and try not to get hung up on ideas that aren’t working."
"Matt (Heafy, vocals/guitars) brought in the initial ideas and we worked on it for about four hours before we decided to call it a day and come in fresh the next day. I brought in the other demo that we would take riffs from and then we workshopped these two demo ideas together."
"I have running list of lyric inspiration on my iPhone and 'What The Dead Men Say' was one of the things I wrote down when I was looking for lyrical ideas. The title comes from a short story of the same name by Phillip K. Dick and the theme is in the same world as the story - a sort of sci/fi otherworldly story about being trapped in this in-between state and being unsure what’s real or not. It’s very open to interpretation. I’m looking forward to what fans come up with on this one."
And which came together most quickly?
"The fastest was probably 'Catastrophist' because I had a solid demo coming into the rehearsal. We work very quickly and when something is working we go full steam ahead with it. I also had a lot of lyrical ideas that we were able to test out immediately and that helps to solidify things much quicker."
When did you decide on What The Dead Men Say for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"The two title contenders were What The Dead Men Say and Catastrophist. I really loved both, but we thought it would be wiser to choose something that was much different than anything we had ever done before."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"That’s really going to be up to the Coronavirus and when things get back to normal. The health of the world matters more than any touring at the moment. I wish the lyrics for Catastrophist didn’t fit so well, but what can you do?"
You’ve got nine records now, how will you decide what makes your live set?
"That’s always the hardest decision we have to make at this point. We are fortunate to have a lot of songs people want to hear from all the records. The Sin and the Sentence was so popular we had to add six songs to the set by the end of the touring cycle, which for a band that has so many records is a wild thing."
"Hopefully, we will have the same problem for the new album. We also want to get a few hidden gems from the old albums in when we can. Ascendancy turned 15 this month, so maybe we will play a couple of deep cuts from it."
When will we see you back in the UK? Coronavirus permitting...
"We plan to be back in 2021 and I really hope we will be on the other end of this thing. If not, we will be probably broadcasting from Matt’s Twitch a lot more!"