Ascendancy celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. How does it feel looking back on that record now?
“When we wrote Ascendancy we had no fans, no supporters. We played locally and sold a couple of shirts to an aunt’s friend or high school buddy, it wasn’t like what we have today. We just made the music we loved based on our vast influences. I just talked about death metal but Ascendancy was influenced by the classic metal greats, melodic death metal, black metal, metalcore, hardcore… I was into bands like My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional, and mixing those things into everything else going on is what made that Trivium sound. We allowed everything to be there – from the simple and melodic like Dying In Your Arms to brutal and fast like Declaration. But we wanted to make the music we wanted to make. Everything we make that feels the most Trivium is the stuff that we make with just the four of us – we get in a room together, I make sure I can play it and sing it, we know it by muscle memory and we rehearse the hell out of it before we record any of it. That’s what we did on Ember To Inferno (2003), Ascendancy (2005), Shogun (2008),In Waves (2011), The Sin And The Sentence (2017) and What The Dead Men Say (2020). Those were the six where we didn’t let anyone in, it was just the four of us before we allowed a producer in.”
You were just a teenager when you found global success. That must have been crazy.
“I look back now and I wish that I’d given myself a minute and looked around a little bit. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I wish I’d paused for a moment and allowed myself to just sit and look around. We were just so in the middle of it and doing it that we had no time to do that – especially with the Download show [in 2005]. I woke up 30-40 minutes before the set, I was still hungover, my voice sounded like crap, I didn’t really warm up, I didn’t change my strings, we put our postage stamp-sized backdrop onstage… We weren’t ready for that show, but for some reason when we walked onstage everything worked. For whatever reason we were able to pull that last thread that was there in our bodies. When I was walking off is when I realised we needed to be more serious.
“I remember the time we did the double sold-out nights at the Astoria and were presented with the gold records onstage, and that’s insane, that doesn’t happen to bands like us – it hasn’t happened to us since then. I remember going up to the dressing room after and the four of us being in a screaming match with each other, I won’t go into why, but it showed that a part of the band was ready to go to that next level and a part of it wasn’t. I’m not putting that on any one of us, but we weren’t ready for what it needed to be.”
So why did you decide to make The Crusade next?
“It was my decision to rebel against everything we just did. I looked at Ascendancy and thought we did everything right. Can we do everything right again? I don’t know. And I looked around and thought everyone is doing screaming and singing, everyone is doing breakdowns and solos, and everyone has a ton of double-bass – so let’s do the opposite. Let’s make a record that sounds like it’s from the ‘80s, that’s really thrash, I’m gonna sing entirely, no breakdowns, go back to standard tuning.
“I’ve thought about what would happen if we made Ascendancy Part 2 instead, and the UK and the U.S. would have been happy, but I don’t know if the rest of the world would have picked up the way that it did. I know we wouldn’t be exactly where we are now, and where we are now is a place where we’re able to try something different on every single record until recently. While Sin and Dead Men aren’t drastic differences from each other, it’s that same idea of allowing everything to happen. I don’t think we’d have made a record like Shogun, Sin or Dead Men if we didn’t do The Crusade. And at the time of The Crusade, the screaming was starting to feel pretty terrible; I should have learned to scream like I can now and it not hurt. It felt like my throat was bleeding every show.
“Everything you do in life leads to where you’re at now and you need every failure and every success, but Ascendancy was such an interesting point. It was the first and only time in our career where Trivium were winning awards, getting magazine covers, features – we were a band that the press would talk about. That was the only time in our career that it happened and the only place it really happened was the UK, which is why we love it so much. But it’s been an interesting relationship in that transition from Ascendancy to The Crusade, that transition from, ‘You will be the next biggest band in the world’ to, ‘You are the worst band in the world.’ That was an important life lesson for a 19-year-old to learn.”