By: Nathan Ladgen

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Support: Heart of a Coward | website and As Lions | website

O2 Academy Oxford | March 25, 2016

Trivium returned to the UK, where they have always been so well received, in 2016 on a tour promoting their new album, Silence in the Snow. It was also a tour which sacrificed the country’s biggest cities for those smaller ones, which are often neglected by touring bands of their stature. Many may have been of the opinion that Trivium were selling themselves short by doing this, but those at the sold out Oxford O2 Academy certainly didn’t seem to mind as tickets sold fast and anticipation for their arrival was high. The achievement of selling out the venue is rendered all the more impressive in light of the fact that on this Good Friday evening While She Sleeps were playing close by and competing for the attention of Oxford’s relatively small metal scene; thus, to some extent at least, justifying the band’s decision.

It was due to this atmosphere of high expectation that many ended up arriving early for the first support band As Lions. An offshoot from Rise To Remain, As Lions are a very new act with only one song officially released, so you could forgive the Oxford crowd for not responding to their arrival with the greatest of enthusiasm. They earned their place on the stage however with a solid performance. Austin Dickinson (son of Iron Maiden’s famous frontman) struggled to capture the crowd at first, particularly as he wasn’t exactly on top form with his guttural vocals, but his performance improved throughout with the crowd reacting accordingly. There was certainly nothing wrong with his clean vocals and he demonstrated what a good frontman he is capable of being with the kind of crowd participation that most opening bands wouldn’t even attempt, never mind pull off. The problem was though, when this wasn’t going on the songs themselves got ignored by large portions of the crowd. Perhaps this will be helped when they actually release some more songs, but even in spite of this it was a decent start to the night by a band who may well be ones to watch in the future.

Heart of a Coward were clearly far better known by tonight’s audience who responded to their entrance with a huge roar, although that was nothing compared with the lead singer Jamie Graham whose thunderous vocals more than succeed in filling the whole room. They only had six songs to make an impression on those in the crowd who were not so familiar with their material, but they certainly did that, drawing from all three of their albums with their set-list. It only really took them one song to get the whole crowd involved in some way or other, with the evening’s first mosh pit opening up in the middle and headbanging going on pretty much everywhere else. This reached its peak with the band’s last song ‘Deadweight’, which got a terrific response from the audience with the kind of crowd participation any headline act would be pleased with. It is easy to see why Heart of a Coward are considered to be something of a rising force in the British metal scene at the moment, as they have some very good songs in their repertoire and a live show to match them. They’re not exactly the most innovative band around, but they’re nevertheless definitely ones to see if you get the chance.

Needless to say, the now packed venue is plenty warmed up for Trivium and this was heightened even further when ‘Run To The Hills’ blares out from the PA system before the band comes one by one onto the stage to the cinematic introductory song ‘Snofall’. Composed by Ihsahn, it’s the introductory song from their new album and sure enough, it is predictably followed by the title track ‘Silence in the Snow’. Given the new vocal-centric style of Trivium’s latest release, I was interested to see how the new material would hold up live. The answer is that it held up very admirably, as Matt Heafy and Paulo Gregoletto were both excellent in terms of their vocal performances and the songs went down very well even with those who were hearing them for the first time. It wasn’t all about the new songs though, as they soon delved back into some old favourites in the form of ‘Into the Mouth of Hell We March’, which certainly got the crowd moving once again. Another popular track ‘Strife’ from more recent times then followed and again got the Oxford crowd testing out their vocal chords. In fact, Trivium spent most of the night alternating between their heavier and more anthemic tracks, and always to good effect. It’s easy to still think of Trivium as a relatively new band and forget just how many excellent and well-known songs they have to choose from when it comes to a live show. As much as I would have appreciated them playing more newer songs, they clearly wanted to spread tracks out from their entire discography with not one album left untouched by the set-list. They weren’t afraid to delve into their lesser-known tracks either with songs such as ‘Requiem’ from their first album ‘Ember to Inferno’ being received almost as well as the songs which helped make them one of the most popular metal acts in Britain over the last decade.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for that enduring popularity is the fact that they really do seem to care deeply about their fans. A particular highlight of the show for me, was when they stopped midway through ‘Down From The Sky’ because of something they saw in the pit, which turned out to be a false alarm; but nevertheless shows how much the people who go to their shows do mean to them. Matt took the opportunity to apologise to the new drummer Paul Wandtke after that incident, as he had to come back into a song he has not known for very long. Mind you, had you not known that he had only been in the band for a couple of months going into this gig, you could have been fooled into thinking he’d been with them for years as he didn’t put a foot wrong all evening, but neither did the rest of the band, to be fair. They capped off the main part of their set with a storming rendition of ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of your Martyr’, which I felt showed off Matt’s abilities as a frontman best as he strode about the stage engaging every member of the crowd he could make eye contact with. It was hard to believe that many in the audience still had any energy left after that, but the best was saved for last in terms of reaction as Trivium came back on for their encore. ‘In Waves’ was really the only obvious song they had left still to play and it closed off a fantastic show in spectacular fashion. Trivium are clearly a band who are going from strength to strength and are not afraid to take risks or put aside convention, and they appear to be getting even better with experience.

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