Matt Heafy – Trivium ‘Writing What We Like Is How We Operate’

Trivium are a band who have not only earned their stripes over there twenty-one-year career, they are a band who have credibility and depth. I have been fortunate to have followed the band throughout their career, and I have seen the development of the band, as both a songwriting unit and a musical juggernaut. I remember the debut Ember to Inferno (2003) and then Ascendancy (2005) and how it tore straight through the scene, and brought together the “nu-metal” scene and traditionalists together, in unison for Trivium. I then saw them develop as songwriters, both lyrically and musically, and I have been fortunate to see them grow as a live act, having caught them in Australia five times.

So now in 2020, the band are about to release their next studio album, number nine, entitled What the Dead Men Say. I can’t see any fan being disappointed by this album, I was sincerely impressed from the opening track to its close. What really struck me were the vocals; Matt Heafy is an amazing singer and he has developed his voice through blood, sweat and tears – well, sweat and tears anyway. Their brand of metal, the fusion of melodic death/thrash metal and melodic rock, is the theme of the soundscape here and it sincerely leaves no room for boredom or complacency. I have always found it difficult to critique an album when it is first released, as I believe the best albums have the propensity to ferment within the psyche as a listener becomes more familiar, and only at this point is it possible to pass a credible judgement.

However, I don’t have that luxury here, with the album set for release in late April, so all I can say, is on initial ‘digital spins’ it sounds fantastic and I am not in a position to fault anything I have heard. At this point I had the chance to catch up with Matt Heafy.

Matt, how are you feeling about the new album What the Dead Men Say now that it is ready for release?

We are so happy and excited for people to hear this album. We have new things happening around it and we are revealing it all slowly because we are excited and we want people to get excited about it too. We are so connected these days so we wanted to find a way to keep it a secret. We are over the moon and can’t wait to get it out but we want to do it properly and for it to be exciting for everyone.

How did the songs come about for the album?

It’s hard to say exactly, but really just straight after the last album we were riffing. The guitar players start off writing a riff, or an entire song. Then in a room we jam it out and make it into a Trivium song, and it doesn’t become Trivium until this happens. So it is all about creativity, and for that to happen, when we feel inspired. We don’t operate mechanically, we need a few songs to write. Let’s not make what people may like, let’s just write what we like and put it out. That’s how we operate.

The track ‘Catastrophist is an epic number, with an epic clip to match. How did the concept come about for the video and why was this song released as the first track of the album?

Originally, I wanted to go with the title track but everyone talked me out of it. As we sat with it, with our producer and other crew, they said that ‘Catastrophic’ really spoke to them, and looking back it does. It has all of the elements of the album. So it was the only choice really.

Trivium, over its back catalogue, have developed its own sound and stayed true to its origins, how do you see the evolution of the band’s sound?

What is crazy about us, you know there are a number of bands that sound the same, and this isn’t a criticism. They use patterns and structures which create and remain true to their sound. But we try and make music that is different, we have reflections of similarity but with points of difference. You don’t know what you are going to get, and nor do we. So we have elements, and not a perfect ratio, but Trivium are best when we have everything in there. But as I said, we write for us. We did have a time in our carer when we stayed in a lane, but we don’t do this now.

What tracks from What The Dead Men Say stand out for you and why?

My favourite is ‘Defiance’ it reminds me almost of an Ascendancy track. But you know, I am happy with this whole album. Josh, our producer, was jumping up and down and excited for it at times and this has bled into the album. It has a great energy and we can’t wait to get it out.

What do you most liken the sound of this album to, as an album sitting in your back catalogue?

I actually think it is the best presentation of what Trivium is. If no one has heard us before it is hard to hand them like Crusade as a whole you know. With this album, it has everything we have ever done on one record. The album sits above but also within the catalogue.

To focus a little now on Trivium’s career, what sits in the back of your mind as highlights for yourself?

That is a good question, there are so many things and times. I am trying to pertain it to something right now, but how about Australia. The very first time we played there was the Big Day Out festival, and we were the only metal band who played and we went down so well. To do a festival and have a connection with the country straight away was amazing. So this was a big moment for us and me.

What’s your opinion of the metal scene at the moment, and what bands are you listening to?

The metal scene is doing so well right now and this is great. My 2019 record list is massive as there is so much out there that I am listening to. Soilwork’s latest album is the best they have ever done, it is amazing, so this is definitely something I am listening to. But there are so many great bands out there and I feel the scene is strong.

Lastly, is there any chance of Australian fans seeing Trivium on the back of this album, obviously if the world calms down a bit?

We have to come over. There are no formal plans but I would like to come back sooner rather than later. Australia has been left in a hole since Soundwave. My glory memories of that first headlining tour was amazing, and we love it, the cities, the people and the food. We have great connections to Australia and we will be back. No formal plans but we will be back.

It was a real pleasure to have a chat with Matt and a privilege to listen to What the Dead Men Say ahead of its release. Trivium are sincerely firing on all cylinders in 2020 and I can’t wait until they can make their way down this way.

Interview by Mark Snedden

What the Dead Men Say is released through Roadrunner Records on April 24.
Pre-Order here.

trivium what the dead men say

Trivium – What The Dead Men Say tracklisting

1. IX
2. What The Dead Men Say
3. Catastrophist
4. Amongst The Shadows And The Stones
5. Bleed Into Me
6. The Defiant
7. Sickness Unto You
8. Scattering The Ashes
9. Bending The Arc To Fear
10. The Ones We Leave Behind


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