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Trivium > The Crusade > Reviews > Demon Fang
Trivium - The Crusade

Butter Baron Wasteland - 40%

Demon Fang, February 11th, 2024

Having achieved success with Ascendancy, one would assume that they’d stay the course with its follow-up – that is to say, retro metal with a modern sheen. Seems to have been working for Kreator! But Trivium ditch a lot of the more modern elements like the screaming and drop D tuning, replacing them with a more standard approach to speed/thrash metal like it’s 1986. Though it did come across as an attempt to placate their detractors, much of the music comes out more than naturally enough for it to be a more organic move – backed up by interviews where Matt Heafy had said that the band weren’t really into playing screaming music, and weren’t really fans of the bands within the melodic metalcore scene for that matter. It’s likely the success of Ascendancy gave Trivium some leverage over Roadrunner Records in wanting to record this album as it would become.

So, what it was to become – apart from being divisive on the whole, with oldheads not liking it and even fans of Trivium at the time either still enjoying it or not quite able to make heads or tails out of what seemed like a regression – was, and still is, an okay album. Granted, any album that starts off with “Ignition” and “Detonation” should be a home-run, since these are some surprisingly splendid slices of more melodic-inclined thrash that Laaz Rockit and Xentrix, uhh, “forgot” to put on their albums. A consistent barrage of speed/;thrash riffs driving the pounding rhythms whilst Smith’s kinetic percussion lights up the energy in the room. The pounding chorus of the former and the build-up from the mid-tempo slightly disjointed riffs to fucking THRASH in the latter certainly help to give the album a strong first impression. Not to disparage any other song on here, of course – “Tread the Floods” has some real electrifying riffs with an especially rousing chorus; and hell, I’d bat for “Becoming the Dragon” any day for its marching rhythms...

...but then you listen to songs like “This World Can’t Tear Us Apart” with its vapid sappiness, “To the Rats” being like somebody blended a rough cut of “Tread the Floods” with something Pantera left on the cutting room floor, and “The Rising” which is a shitty plodding “anthem”, and The Crusade winds up showing its weaknesses. A partial weakness, of course, being that it could stand to cut a few tracks off the album (and it’s pretty clear which ones), as they run redundantly with the better songs from the first half of the album. I guess if they wanted to go full ham on a nostalgia trip, they’d opt for an 8-track album – and certainly not fucking 13.

As for the actual songs, while there’s certainly a cohesiveness to the song structures (which is more than what can be said of much of Ember to Inferno), apart from a bit here and there, they’re somewhere between decent and quite boring. “Entrance of the Conflagration” and “Unrepentant” has some fist-pumping action in their punchy riffs here and there, but apart from the fiery “ENTRANCE! OF THE! CON! FLA GRA SHUNNN” with the speedy riffing and some real kicked up percussion, there’s not a ton of substance to the songs. The riffs and general energy are there, but what they compose are vaguely fist-pumping at best. Which is better than what could be said for “The Crusade”, which is what happens when you get “Orion” from the 33 cent store right next to the can of expired plankton. I mean fuck, there’s like a skeleton of an epic, multi-part instrumental here. It’s just that every section, every rhythm and every riff devolves into a malaise of mediocre thrash instrumentals you’d half-expect to be regular thrash songs – nevermind an “Orion”-esque track!

On that note, a lot of this album’s notoriety is because of how goddamn similar it is to Metallica – particularly Master of Puppets, or at least at a rather elementary level. Trivium understood that Metallica nailed the punchy rhythms and how they could construct those into the most infectious tracks ever. They got what made “Creeping Death” a motherfucking classic, and when they showed that, we got the “Ignition”/“Detonation” duology, as well as “Becoming the Dragon” and “Tread the Floods”. But when it’s at a more aesthetic level – a surface level understanding of the music – you get the decent tracks. The ones that have a good moment, a good riff or a potentially cool motif, but don’t have much long-term appeal as the riffs aren’t striking enough, nor are the melodies all that strong. There’s a semblance of a good-to-great song within, but what is there end up being okay riffs at best or mediocre verses with a moderately catchy chorus. Even “And Sadness Will Sear”, with dense downtrodden riffing that’s more Nevermore than Metallica, ends up falling within that paradigm nonetheless.

Given all of this, it would seem like The Crusade didn’t quite work out. Straight throwback releases needed something extra to stand out. The Teutonic trio (and, to a lesser extent, Megadeth) managed to make their albums sound modern enough while still being thrash. Especially Kreator with the melodeath-isms. Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust may have been new thrash bands just like Trivium, but those two bands made use of extreme metal influences Hibria had that 80s attitude down at an aesthetic level, but the hyper-dynamic instrumentation across the board kept it sounding limber (Defying the Rules is a 4-track EP, after all). But Trivium had… that one song that sounded like Nevermore? Travis Smith’s drumming had dynamics to them, but not compared to how they were on Ascendancy. In fact, it’s like in wanting to just play thrash metal that the instrumentation took a step or two down, almost as if it seemed like it had to adhere to certain specific tropes and musical structures. Ascendancy definitely had speed and thrash metal riffs aplenty, but ironically, in having to try and adhere more to what the metalcore scene half-expected from them, they were able to just fucking go for it! Here, it’s weirdly restrained, which leads to the 9 not-good songs feeling quite underwhelming – again, outside of select moments or some shit. From here, Trivium would end up going back to the drawing board, and while the burgeoning neo-thrash movement would explode into the rethrash movement following this, perhaps it’s for the best that Trivium didn’t continue down this path.