On April 24th Trivium release their ninth studio album, What The Dead Men Say, via Roadrunner Records. (Read our album review here.) It’s been over 20 years since their inception and about fifteen years since their true explosion onto the metal scene with 2005’s Ascendancy, their Roadrunner debut, making the Florida four-piece relative veterans. Ahead of their new release, we virtually caught up with one of the band’s cornerstones since that catalytic album, guitarist Corey Beaulieu, for a long conversation about the group’s history, new album, and how we might be getting even more new music sooner than we’d have thought.
There are many who, looking back, would be surprised that the fresh-faced band the world met in the mid-2000s would not only still be around come 2020, but in fact, that Trivium would be going from strength to strength. Beaulieu confirms there has always been some sort of lasting vision for the band, with a degree of a pleasant surprise to current circumstances as well. “We always had long-term goals of what we wanted to achieve, but I guess in the early days you didn’t really know any better, you’re just taking it day by day and enjoying what was going on. It’s nice being able to look back now and seeing what we’ve accomplished and just for being in the game for so long. Seeing so many bands that were popping off when we first started and are now no longer around, it’s like ‘oh wow,’ we’re very fortunate that our music has connected with the fans so well that they’ve given us some lasting staying power, and we’re very lucky that still nine records in we’re on the same label, we still have fans as excited as ever and things keep growing which is fantastic.”
With the forthcoming release of What The Dead Men Say there’s further promise still. “The last two records, starting off with The Sin And The Sentence, the upward trajectory of the band has really picked up from where we were over the last couple of records. It was, not really stagnant, but it wasn’t big crazy pop off. It’s been really awesome to see how the last two records have sparked this big resurgence in interest in our band – so it’s fun times in weird times!”
For a band that has headlined sizeable venues around the globe to date and found themselves higher and higher up on festival bills over the years, it’s no surprise that forthcoming plans and goals are very touring-centric. “We have the big tour in the States with Megadeth and Lamb of God that’s planned, and will happen someday, but (it’s) just getting to that next step on live touring. We have a tour in the works for Europe that’s all really big venues, a lot of them arenas, so we’re keeping on growing on that side of things. Touring has been a huge thing for Trivium over the years with making fans and reaching out to people – that’s always been our thing, we always love playing big shows, playing all the festivals or big headlining shows with production, that’s always been something we’ve always been really into doing. We’ve only played about four shows since last June, so with the new record and having the first tour being Megadeth, Lamb of God, Trivium we were really excited – just because the tour is amazing and worth getting excited about anyway – but then the fact that it’s the first bunch of touring for a new record and we haven’t toured for almost a year, which will be even longer now. We’re just really excited to get back out on tour with the new record. New songs to play, new production that we have planned and then the rug got pulled out from under us so now we’ve got to wait a little longer.”
The challenges of launching a record at this time are all too clear to the band, with Beaulieu confirming that there’s been a lot of virtual and phone interviewing going on for the press, as well as a ‘virtual signing’ announced where fans can get CDs dedicated to themselves live on stream. The impossibility of doing something more musical as a group has hit home, however: “We had all these (other) plans for the record release, doing a bunch of live performances when the record came out, performing new songs on Twitch because Matt (Heafy)’s big on that and the Twitch people are really supportive of us. We were planning this big live performance Twitch thing and then everything happened. Because half of the band doesn’t live where the other half lives it’s hard to get everyone together when there’s travel issues, so we’ve been trying to rethink and figure out what we can do in the circumstances, but we had a bunch of stuff planned.”
Despite not being able to catch some of the tracks from What The Dead Men Say live in person any time soon, Beaulieu opens on up some causes to be excited for fans. “We’ve already started writing and preparing, you know, if we can’t tour, we might as well put some new music together so it’s not being time wasted. We’re just adapting as everyone is doing, we at least wanted to get the music out for people to enjoy as an important thing, and then do what we can to be productive as a band. The doomsday people say, there’s going to be no touring until sometime in 2021, and our record might be a year old by the time we actually get to play any of it. Maybe we’ll just do another record and tour on two albums that people haven’t seen live – so who knows?”
It’s an impressive work ethic from a band with an album yet to drop, and Beaulieu mentions that the fans are a big part of it. “We’re just excited – the fan reaction to the new music has been so positive that it just gets us pumped to want to write more stuff, so that’s basically what I’ve been doing. I’ve written a couple of songs already, demoed them and showed them to the guys. And there’s a bunch of stuff that we wrote for What The Dead Men Say that we had too much material for the record, so there’s that left over which we could possibly dive into and see what we can do with it.”
At the point of our conversation there had been three tracks released thus far from the new record: “Catastrophist,” “What The Dead Men Say” and, on the day which we spoke (April 16th), “Amongst The Shadows & The Stones.” Touching on his favourite of the three, Beaulieu picks one out immediately.
“…Shadows & The Stones’ is one of my babies. I definitely have a lot of interest in that song because I wrote pretty much the whole song. I was really excited for people to hear it because I know fans get really amped up when there’s really intense fast Trivium stuff. So I’d say that song, even taking out the fact that it was one of the songs where I brought the main idea to the table. We don’t really have many songs that start right off vocals in your face right out the gate, so it definitely has a surprising vibe you’re not really expecting from Trivium.
“Usually we have these more drawn out intros to songs, riff out a little bit, so to have a scream right off the bat was something that I know was definitely going to get people’s attention. I think that the song vibe-wise is really intense, really energetic. The very end, after the last chorus where it goes into the thrash part, if you need to get the blood flowing for a workout or something that always gets me fucking amped up. So I knew that song would definitely get people excited and plus, being the third song, people have heard three songs in a row that all distinctly have their own vibe.”
Again, the close connection with fans comes across as important to the whole band when talking about the reactions which have been seen with these preview tracks online. “Waking up this morning and thinking ‘oh shit – song dropped’ and then just opening up social media and seeing all the comments of people being really excited and pumped up. Most people aren’t used to being stuck at home the whole time, after a few days it can drive you a little stir crazy with boredom, not being able to go somewhere and do something or see people. I know that the songs and the music that we’re putting out has become more important to people for a release from everything. We’re happy that we have a record coming out that people can lose themselves in for part of their day, to enjoy some music and have fun and not worry about all the other stuff. We didn’t want to delay the release so that people weren’t bummed out after getting all excited for having a couple of songs come out and then having the record taken away. We’re excited that everyone else is super excited, and hopefully, everyone gets their copies on time.”
For what to expect from the rest of the album as a whole, and hearing that the ten tracks which made it are cherry-picked from a larger array of options, Beaulieu is confident in the impression fans will get. “There’s a couple of other total bangers, and there’s two songs that people who know our catalogue will know that we always have some songs that are more radio oriented, more simplistic, more melodic to balance out from all the crazy fast techy stuff that we’ve done – so there’s two songs that are more straight to the point like that ‘Heart From Your Hate,’ ‘Dying In Your Arms’ kind. Not super long songs, not crazy techy, big melodies, big singalong choruses and stuff so there’s some of that, and there’s some other headbangers, some really fast stuff. It’s basically like what you think of makes up Trivium. We didn’t do any crazy 180 turns from the last record to this one that people were just like ‘what the fuck happened – what’s going on here.’
It’s a continuation of The Sin And The Sentence with some other twists and turns thrown into it to make it interesting. I think the way the fans are reacting to the first three songs they’ve heard there’s a lot of others on the record that are going to become some fan favourites. Reading the comments some people are like ‘oh this sounds like this record,’ and everyone’s idea of what record they relate it to is completely different, so it’s interesting to see how people connect the new songs to the past. There’s even some songs, like ‘The Defiant,’ which has a very Ascendancy, Ember To Inferno kind of feel to it in the riffing and the song. So it’s nice when there’s some familiarity and it hits people in a certain way and reminds them of when they first heard a certain record; stuff that they love from our past, and that brings some excitement to the table. I think there’s a really good combination of songs that makes the record a really fun listen, each song fits in its own place and brings something that the other songs don’t.”
With their process of writing and recording album, there’s some consistency from the prior release with a similar approach taken. “We go into a room by ourselves and just sweat it out garage band style and play the songs over and over again like we’re rehearsing for a tour. So by the time we record the songs, it’s like we could play them live – they’re so well-rehearsed and I think that comes across on the record. We’ve done other records where the producer was like ‘I don’t want you guys to rehearse too much because I don’t want you guys to be too married to an idea if we change something.’ And then once we do the record and we go play it live there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t feel natural, it’s kind of choppy and doesn’t feel how we would play a song. It makes a lot of the songs from certain records feel like ‘I don’t really want to play it, it doesn’t feel good to play as a band.’ So when we go into rehearsal we work out all the stuff so that it feels very natural and the way Trivium does things, so when you hear the songs on the record it’s very rehearsed and written in a way of how we would want to play a song live where it’s got a lot of energy and the movements and arrangements are very smooth to us.”
Part of the consistency comes from continuing to work with Josh Wilbur from The Sin And The Sentence (who also has prior experience with huge metal groups such as Lamb of God and Gojira as well): “Josh is great because personality-wise he fits with our band dynamic with his style of producing – we’re a very hands-on band, like ‘let us do our thing and get out of our way”. Our record label’s very hands-off, ‘just let us be Trivium – we have a vision of what we want to do” – and Josh is very similar. He’ll come in after we’re thinking we’ve got the record, we’re 95 percent or more there on the songs and the idea of what we want to achieve with them and what we want them to sound like. He then brings his expertise with mixing and production, he knows how to make every instrument sound really great, and then he has a lot of producer things like with vocals we’ll add extra background stuff or extra tracks and layers to make it sound as big and epic as possible.
He’s very ‘let us be who we are,’ he’s not one of those rockstar producers who comes in thinking ‘I’ve gotta get my hands all over this project, get all my influence in the songs and rewrite stuff.’ So it’s nice, we know what we want to sound like, we know what our band’s supposed to sound like, and he’s there like ‘I’ll try to make you sound like the best Trivium I can possibly do, and not have to get all my writing ideas into your music.’ It’s just let us do our thing and I think that’s really helped the last two records be what they are because there’s not another person there trying to get their fingers into the ingredients of what makes our band tick, and letting us make our presentation of our music. It’s the same thing with the artwork and videos, we have our way of wanting everything to be presented and luckily we have a great team and label and everyone that’s totally supportive of us in whatever vision we have for every project. We’re very fortunate that we’re able to have control over how everything’s presented and sounds. Josh has been an amazing addition to our circle of people we work with.”
Beaulieu also spoke more about his approach as a guitarist, and what keeps him motivated to improve and strive for more at this stage of his career. “There’s definitely a lot of amazing guitar players out there – you can just go on Instagram and scroll through your feed and run into someone that makes you think ‘damn, I’ve gotta start practicing more.’ I don’t really sit around and just practice all day though – the majority of the time I’ve got a guitar in my hands it’s usually writing. Sometimes, when we’ve been off tour for so long and not having a whole lot to do once we got the record finished and everything, I’ll be on YouTube and watch three hour Joe Rogan podcasts with whoever it is, just listening to the conversation, and I’ll pick up a guitar and noodle around and play. During those times I’ll come up with a riff that really strikes me, and that’s usually then my obsession every time I pick up a guitar, playing that riff, or trying to figure out other parts to go with it –usually a song will build up over time through playing guitar while I’m doing something else. Then eventually if I get enough material that it’s worth the time I’ll dive into the whole recording world and try to make a whole demo of it.”
As far as songwriting tips go, Beaulieu’s one of having guitar playing as a secondary activity is something that he leans on and feels works for him. “Most of the stuff I write that’s on this last record and that I write now I have my guitar and don’t plug into an amp and just play acoustically. For some reason the riffs seem to come out pretty heavy when you’re basing how aggressive a part is when you don’t have any distortion. It’s a neat little trick that’s helped me. Then, playing guitar when it’s the secondary thing I focus on, ideas just happen without trying to force yourself to write. It just comes out and then your brain goes ‘Oh! I’ve got to pay attention now’ – that’s pretty cool. A lot of the cool stuff that I end up writing or the band writes is usually when you’re not thinking about writing music, you’re just playing guitar. Matt always mentions in interviews we don’t really set writing times, and that works as a band and works as individuals – I don’t pick up a guitar and think ‘I’ve got to write a song right now.’ Usually that doesn’t happen – instead, you’re just noodling around on your guitar watching TV then a fucking riff happens and you just know ‘I’ve got something here.’
Now with quarantine and lots of Netflix, that’s pretty common nowadays. I actually wrote a whole song watching a Netflix movie and I just called the demo that. I’d decided to watch the movie, then just came up with a riff and then a whole song came of it – I needed a name and thought the movie title will work so just used that, I’ve done it a couple of times. I guess the visuals from the movie stimulate your brain, and if you’re playing guitar at the same time visual and audio go really well together mood-wise. (Plus) movie soundtracks are a big thing that conveys a lot of emotion, so if you’re watching something that’s really intense or has emotional content that strikes you that can also inspire a lot of musical ideas. Usually if I watch a movie by myself I’ve got a guitar nearby just in case.”
With What The Dead Men Say due to drop in a matter of days, writing new (potentially Netflix-themed) content demonstrates the attitude to constant evolution and improvement that has underpinned Trivium’s longevity and consistent growth as a band. Speaking with Beaulieu has brought across the level of passion the group has for what they do, as well as their confidence in their forthcoming release and where they want to go next. “I’ve definitely heard a lot of people comment that they can’t wait for shows to happen again because they want to be in the pit for a track – that’s the best metal Yelp review for a song – if people want to get in the pit for a tune they’ve just listened to on their computer it’s a good sign that it’s doing the right thing! We have (touring) plans, and it’s pretty epic, but it’s cancel season right now so it’s hard to announce something when there’s so many unknown factors in play. Luckily, we know the record’s coming out and touring’s just going to be a bonus in the future.”