It feels almost unbelievable to be writing that the forthcoming In The Court of The Dragon is Trivium’s tenth studio recording, such is the energy and freshness they still bring to the metal scene as a whole. With over a million albums sold and half a billion streams, they’re a long cry from the fresh-faced young upstarts who kickstarted their career on the main stage of Download Festival back in 2005. Their commitment and passion for their art hasn’t wavered in the 16 years since though – as shown by the follow-up to 2020’s superb What The Dead Men Say (read our review here) coming under 18 months from that prior release – and In The Court Of The Dragon comes out October 8 and, as with its eight preceding albums, on Roadrunner Records.
With a building and ominous intro giving way to the title track, In The Court Of The Dragon starts extremely strongly; there’s riff-work, songwriting and a chorus to the very highest standard seen throughout Trivium’s entire career. The strings contributed by Ihsahn towards the outro (and also found throughout the length of the album) add a degree of pomposity and swagger, bringing the stunning renaissance style cover artwork to life in your mind as you listen. Particularly noticeable on this track, and indeed the whole album, is Alex Bent playing as if a demon unleashed on drums, with blastbeats and double kick performed at a speed and level of precision many technical death metal drummers would be envious of.
The album also shines particularly strongly on its trio of 7-minute plus songs – “The Shadow Of The Abattoir,” “Fall Into Your Hands” and “The Phalanx.” As they’ve previously shown Trivium really knows how to build a track progressively to a monumental crescendo, and this is particularly displayed with the closer, “The Phalanx.” Taking a journey through three acts within the one song, an opening ballad leads into to virtuosic lead guitar lines and vitriolic screams over palm mutes, before the whole album is brought to an emotive conclusion with those orchestral strings brought back again enhancing the impassioned vocals of Matt Heafy perfectly.
With everything positive said about the album its pacing and peak do need to be mentioned. “In The Court Of The Dragon” is one of the finest tracks Trivium has ever written and, consequently, the remainder of the record fails to match the momentum built by the first song proper. It’s particularly stark as the title track flows into what could be a forgettable The Crusade-era sounding song in “Like A Sword Over Damocles,” which is in turn proceeded by “Feast of Fire” – a great track but, as a band-admitted ‘simpler’ one in the vein of “Dying In Your Arms,” it doesn’t reignite the album’s flow as it should – and it never really recovers until “The Phalanx.”
There are also some questionable vocal style choices dragging the album down as well, unfortunately, with a return of the much-maligned shouting-not-screaming style over the aforementioned “Like A Sword Over Damocles” (hence The Crusade reference), and a heavily effected verse on “From Dawn To Decadence” reminiscent of Dream Theater at their cheesiest (and weakest; certainly not what you’d expect on a Trivium album).
Many reviews have already been published proclaiming ‘Trivium has done it again’ and, disappointingly to write for a fan as well as reviewer, unfortunately, I don’t feel they have. When In The Court Of The Dragon is compared to the standard of its two predecessors What The Dead Men Say and The Sin And The Sentence its lack of consistent quality shows – there’s half a great album here, but half that can’t be classified as anything better than just good against their back catalogue. Standout moments are excellent, but too few and far between – specifically being at the start and end of the album – and there are too many misses to give an entirely positive verdict to In The Court Of The Dragon.
In The Court Of The Dragon Track Listing:
2. In The Court Of The Dragon
3. Like A Sword Over Damocles
4. Feast Of Fire
5. A Crisis Of Revelation
6. The Shadow Of The Abattoir
7. No Way Back Just Through
8. Fall Into Your Hands
9. From Dawn To Decadence
10. The Phalanx
Run Time: 52:18
Release Date: October 8, 2021
Record Label: Roadrunner Records