TRIVIUM — Ascendancy (review)

TRIVIUM — Ascendancy album cover Album · 2005 · Melodic Metalcore Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
adg211288
A Journey Into Metal Part II

The tale of how I first became a metalhead through the most unlikely of sources, Metallica's St. Anger, has now been told. It is advisable that you if haven't read it that you do so now, so that this next chapter of the tale may be taken in context. And if you have read it, possibly read it again as I revised the first part quite considerably before starting this next piece of work, as many memories flooded back to me.

Okay, all caught up?

One can become a metalhead through just the one starting album. But that hardly completes our tale. Much like metal itself was started by Black Sabbath, it later become refined by the likes of Judas Priest and Rainbow with albums like Sad Wings of Destiny and Rising respectively. It was perhaps only by the time of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that we might consider metal to have been fully formed as a genre. Or at least, the first genre of it, heavy metal itself. An individual metalhead can form much the same way. Although many will probably cringe at the comparison, St. Anger was to me what Black Sabbath was to the formation of the genre. Which means the second chapter of the story into metaldum is the refinement stage. The turning point, if you will, before one can consider themselves the person and metalhead they are today.

But first, it's important to get caught up.

I gradually picked up the rest of the Metallica albums. And my view of Metallica basically went that the first five were excellent. I did not know enough about metal at this point in my life that I even realised that the Black Album was considered a different genre to the first four. I knew all five sounded a lot better than St. Anger though, so I wasn't listening to that album too much. I did not think much of either Load or ReLoad, but I liked the covers album Garage Inc. I thought that was pretty fun. I think I may have listened to S&M once and have not bothered again to this day.

In the wider metal world Dimebag Darrel had been murdered on stage in 2004, which was a rather Earth shattering experience for both my best mate 'C' and myself who'd both got heavily into Pantera in this time. That kind of thing just didn't happen to metal guitar idols in our world. Looking back I believe we took his death quite differently. I seem to recall that 'C' started listening to Pantera more, especially poignant tracks like Cemetery Gates and Hollow. I, on the other hand, found it difficult to listen to Pantera's music with the same enthusiasm for a long time. Every time I put it on I just imagined Dimebag getting gunned down while playing. My young mind could not handle it. And so Pantera never really had the chance to become the stepping stone band that they really could have been for me. They were certainly the most extreme thing I was listening to at the time. They were the spark, at least, but not the true turning point. That was to come soon though.

The year was now 2005, almost two whole years since the release of St. Anger. This was my last year in secondary school. One thing that did happen when that school year came to a close is that a lot of the group mentioned in Part 1 drifted apart. I still see 'C' to this day, but sadly have lost touch with some of the others. I was glad to see the back of 'L' though. 'L' really took things too far in 2005 by taking the piss out of the Dimebag murder. I'd never given a fuck about what 'L' thought of the music I liked but that crossed a line. I like to think that a few others realised what a dick he was by that point, but probably not. 'L' was just one of those people that others gravitated toward and became sycophants to. I have no idea what happened to 'L' after school finished. And I don't much care. Wherever he is I don't expect his taste in music has improved.

Things had changed at home with the arrival of a computer with the Internet the previous year, but I hadn't yet discovered YouTube, which first launched in early 2005. I expect that discovery came in 2006, which I see as the pivotal year as that's when my household first got Sky TV and I found the Scuzz station that led me to many early interests in metal. But in 2005 itself things hadn't improved much. 2006 would also be the year I subscribed to Metal Hammer, so the amount of progress made between St. Anger and then was pitiful. Foo Fighters and Nickelback were still in heavy rotation. The former had released In Your Honour (which I know I'm spelling wrong but sue me I'm English and we invented the language!) and the other had released All the Right Reasons. It had a pretty angry song on it about Dimebag's murder that really resonated. The late guitarist even played on it by virtue of a sampled guitar solo. Both albums were well liked by yours truly at the time, so that's evidence that my taste hadn't really moved on all that much. I look back more fondly on one of those albums today than the other. See if you can guess which one. 2006 would also mark my discovery of Iron Maiden, who at the end of that year became my first proper concert. But for now we're stuck in 2005 and the album that is the ultimate subject of this story was released. Ascendancy by metalcore band Trivium.

Before Metal Hammer, Scuzz and YouTube changed everything, it was actually a guitar magazine, which wasn't supposed to be metal specific but often did seem to focus on it, that provided the much needed resource that my younger self required. 'C' also benefited from this. It is how we found Pantera. We liked the guitar track the magazine had put on the CD for Cemetery Gates so much that I bought Cowboys From Hell without ever hearing Phil Anselmo's vocals. Total Guitar's free CDs though were also notable for sometimes including album tracks and this was how I got my first taste of growling vocals. I don't recall if it was Avenged Sevenfold or Arch Enemy I heard first, but both were among such bands featured. However the first such album I bought was Ascendancy. I do not actually remember when or how I first heard Trivium proper. I suspect they were featured as an album track with Total Guitar, or else maybe I'm misremembering the dates of all this and I didn't discover this album until it had been out a while. It was about fifteen years ago after all. Either way, Total Guitar was certainly how I first became aware of Trivium. There was a lot of Trivium hype going around at the time which carried over into Metal Hammer and online, as those avenues were opened up to me. They got airplay on both Kerrang and Scuzz. An important factor that piqued my interest was their branding as the next Metallica. 'Next Metallica' quickly became apparent as something that people in the media just liked to say. Mastodon got saddled with it as well around the same time.

Ascendancy remains one of only a few metalcore records I ever bought. The others mainly either being also by Trivium or were bought in second hand shops for no other reason than they were that cheap, the best result of such pot luck being the discovery of Protest the Hero. I'm sure there's probably stuff of more worth out there than I've heard, I have in fact in more recent years been drawn to a couple of acts like Converge and Erra. There's something very different about those bands though than the kind of metalcore played by Trivium and other more household metalcore names of the time though like Bullet for my Valentine, Caliban and Killswitch Engage. And in general it became a genre I don't hold much love for. Much like with St. Anger and it's sound that most accept as alternative metal, which was the genre a lot of my early metal bands belonged to, discovered both before and after this album. But although I don't much care for these genres these days and don't actively seek them out, they were both very crucial stepping stones for me. Which is why like with St. Anger I still hold a lot of appreciation for Ascendancy.

There's a big difference with this album to that one though. It is actually really fucking good.

My metal peers of the time, by then not generally people I grew up with but people I was encountering online, on the then very new YouTube (which was a much different website much then with much better community features including groups that served as a minimalist forum (my first experience with such a platform)), heavily disagreed with the hype of Trivium. In fact they were so put out by Trivium (like they'd been personally offended by their existence) that they'd start dedicated hate channels for the band on YouTube and take every opportunity to dish dirt on them, about where they'd stolen this or that riff from and so forth. Yeah, the spirit of metal wasn't doing too well in them days. While the 'experienced' metalheads were bashing bands like Trivium for all they were worth, the kids were starting rap verses metal flame wars and shouting about TR00 Trash Metal (accurate spelling of the day). All in all it was a much more toxic community than was really healthy for the developing metalhead.

Much like with the initial disapproval of my folks and peers over starting to listen to metal with St. Anger, this reaction from the supposedly more in the know metal crowd only fuelled me to stand against them. Hey, I was a teenager, we're supposed to rebel against our elders and their beliefs. Trivium was a band that allowed me to do that. It also in hindsight scratched an itch for more extreme music that proved a catharsis over lingering anger over Dimebag's murder that even Metallica's early thrash couldn't scratch.

But I'm in my thirties now and I have say that I think those 'in the know' metalheads of the time were wrong about Trivium, especially over this album. While it's true that Trivium is not a band I return to often, I still think that Ascendancy is a very accomplished album from the then young band, perhaps even a classic of its era. An album that does possibly show adolescence in its song-writing, but honestly it's more forgivable here considering the age of the band at the time. Matt Heafy was only 19 at the time of the album's release and that was only a couple of years older than I was! Old school metalheads of the time probably thought the kids should be looking up to the same bands as them (and maybe now it's our turn we do the same to the next generation and don't even realise it) and so vehemently rejected Heafy and his band Trivium, but to us who were of that sort age he was a figure to look up to.

Tracks like Rain, A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation and Like Light to the Flies still find their way into regular random rotation from my PC media player and other tracks less frequently so. Because the YouTube haters of the day I'm afraid I can't listen to Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr with a straight face any more because of a rather infamous misheard lyrics video which last time I checked could still be found on YouTube.

Unfortunately Trivium probably took the whole 'next Metallica' thing to heart, so their next album was The Crusade and it seemed designed to imitate Metallica as much as possible, which ultimately just gave fodder to their haters. But for me personally Ascendancy was the album that opened me up to extreme metal, broadened my horizons and opened the floodgates for all kinds of exciting new genres of metal that I began getting exposed to the following year during my gap between school and college. Like with St. Anger, I'll always hold a special place in my heart and collection for it. If it wasn't for this particular would I have become interested in other metal genres like death metal and black metal? Well probably eventually, but this album sure seemed to speed up the process. I was certainly starting to check those out on that first computer at home soon after this. It was the album that spurred me onward. I found genre after genre from that point on. Progressive metal through Dream Theater. Folk metal through Cruachan (one guy I met on YouTube was so insistent that I listen to Cruachan that he emailed by every song from Folk-Lore track by track - highly illegal of course, but Cruachan remains my favourite folk metal band and I own every album they've made so I think they'll forgive us). Black metal through Immortal. I could list every genre with a key band and it all branches out from Ascendancy, another album that was often maligned, although not to the extent of St. Anger.

This concludes the second chapter of this tale and I think it also has to be the last. The branching out starts here. I began to become fully formed as a metalhead. I'm still living the third chapter of this trilogy. Some probably thought I'd grow out of metal music and that would bring the story to a close.

I don't think it's going to happen.
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666sharon666 wrote:
23 days ago
I kept up with Trivium up until In Waves but have not bothered with later ones. This is the one I remember most fondly. It doesn't hold any special meaning for me, but it's a solid metalcore album and unfairly bashed by some at the time of release.
Vim Fuego wrote:
27 days ago
OK, that's actually pretty fucking decent. I wouldn't buy it, but I wouldn't turn it off either.
Vim Fuego wrote:
27 days ago
Great story! I have never heard this album. I have a reasonably free afternoon, headphones on, near the end of The Satanist by Behemoth, I'll give it a spin!

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