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After a year and a half of touring, getting signed to Roadrunner records, and recording a new album, Trivium finally re-emerged with an album that is hands down better than the previous album, Ember to Inferno. The riffs are beefier, the production is more wholly, and the two new band members (lead guitarist Corey Beaulieu who joined around the time Ember to Inferno was released, and bassist Paolo Gregoletto, who entered the fray when previous bassist Brent Young left for personal reasons) brought a whole new spark of energy and life to the band. Returning members, guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy and drummer Travis Smith really stepped up their game on this one. The drumming is more technical, Heafy's songwriting has improved immensely since the last album, and his vocals are much more powerful and convincing than the very digital overdubbed vocals on Ember to Inferno.
Things start off on a mellow note with "The End of Everything", a short piano/acoustic guitar intro with some choir vocals in the background, before "Rain" kicks in with a thrash metal riff, before morphing into a metalcore song with nice vocals, riffs and an emotional solo thrown in at the end, before ending with a breakdown riff. "Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr", the second single from the album, is one of the album's highlights, and a staple in the band's setlist as the song they usually end with. A technical drum intro, catchy riffs, a guest solo played by producer Jason Suecof, and a chorus to die for are what made this song a Trivium classic. "Drowned And Torn Asunder" continue the momentum, with a melodic intro leading into more speedy riffs, and a thrashy pre-chorus, with a very nice duel solo between Beaulieu and Heafy near the end. The title track is a truly beautiful number with some very creative riffs and great lyrics to boot. "A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation", the third from the album, boasts a duel guitar harmony in the middle that would make Iron Maiden proud, and some bouncy rhythms built for the mosh pit.
The second half of the album starts off with "Like Light to the Flies", Trivium's first ever commercial single. The solo is one of the highlights of the album, as is the melodic chorus. "Dying In Your Arms" is the power ballad of the album, and while some may label this as "emo", there are no emo bands that hold the power, songwriting ability and the musical dexterity to pull this kind of thing off. "The Decieved" brings back the speed, with more anthemic rhythms and a couple of extremely well lit solos, before "Suffocating Sight" brings a bit more darkness to the illuminated areas. "Departure" is another slower number, with acoustic guitars during the main verses and an emotion filled chorus, BUT...things get nice and thrashy during the middle of the song, with some technical riffs and a climaxing shred solo before the rhythm slows down again immensely. "Declaration" closes the main part of the album off with an intro that is truly astounding in it's arrangement, as well as a riff that reminds me of "Cause For Conflict" era Kreator, and a midsection that is in quite epic proportions. The outro is a breakdown riff that continues until it fades...a quite fitting outro to such a great album.
My version is the "Special Edition" re-released in 2006 on Roadrunner, and it includes four bonus tracks and a bonus dvd which includes the music videos from the album and live performances from one gig of the same songs they made videos for, oddly.
"Blinding Tears Will Break The Skies" is nearly the same as the demo version recorded a year earlier, but a lot of the excess fat has been trimmed, in addition to better production and vocals, and "Washing Away Me In The Tides" has nothing that really seperates it from the others when listened to chronologically, but sounds amazing when listened to on its own. The cover of Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" is next and it sounds exactly the same as the original, albeit with E flat tuning. The full cd closes with the "video mix" of Dying In Your Arms, which includes a piano intro and no screamed vocals, but other than that, it's basically the same.
The dvd is kind of cool. The music videos are a nice touch, as is the live performance, but the performance is a bit lackluster. I don't really like the guitar tone used as it makes the beefy originals on the album sound weaker, and Heafy's vocals sound a bit forced...almost as if he's trying too hard to hit the notes, but ending up out of key anyways. Gregoletto's backup vocals sound horrible themselves...I found myself cringing while watching it, because it is not very pleasant to the ears. I know these guys can do better. I've seen them live and collect their bootlegs regularly, so I don't know why they'd include a performance that is so disheartening.
All in all, Ascendancy is one of the finest albums Trivium has released so far, even if a few songs do sound a bit similar, but if it isnt broken, why fix it? The sameness of the album and the obvious digital influence are what gives this a less than perfect rating to my ears. The band would change their style DRAMATICALLY for the next album to try and break themselves from the metalcore mold, and while it excels in some areas, it fails in others, though it seems finding their own style is something they have yet to do...