Music Review - Alloy by Trillium
An absolutely engaging heavy metal offering from one of the best voices in the industry!
Do a quick search of the name Amanda Somerville on any search engine, and you’ll find a songstress who has been all over the symphonic metal scene for quite a few years, maybe even featuring on songs that you didn’t know she had a hand in. With a powerful mezzo-soprano voice, classic beauty, and undeniable stage presence, she’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. In fact, if this were a few decades ago, her voice would likely have been heard on the radio alongside greats like Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, and Lita Ford (yes, she’s that good). Which is why it’s so frustrating that her more mainstream metal band, Trillium, remains relatively unknown. While a slight departure from her symphonic metal leanings, Trillium’s first album Alloy still retains a somewhat symphonic feel, while residing primarily in the heavy metal/hard rock realm. One might even be mistaken in the initial assumption that Trillium is solely another showcase for her amazing voice. But that would be a disservice to the rest of the band members, as Alloy is chock-full of well-written and catchy tracks, with solid contributions from all instrumentalists. And while it may read as Amanda Somerville’s Trillium on certain pages, their first album feels nothing if not completely coherent and cohesive.
Vexed and offended again, I ache, you take, it’s such a familiar subject.
What frustrates me the most is that when I first discovered Trillium, I truly had no idea what I had stumbled across. I was solely interested in opening track Machine Gun (which is so well written and catchy AF), and truly never gave the rest of the songs a solid listen. But, while on overtime one day at work, I was just randomly picking albums to help pass the time, jamming with headphones to help keep the sound pristine. And that’s when I truly “heard” Amanda; where on the track Purge the instrumentation cuts out, and it’s just her voice with subtle reverb echoing back & forth. She belts, she croons, and she totally dominates the song, turning an above-average offering into something truly special. From then on I was hooked, and finally gave the album the listen it deserved. And I’m glad I did, as it remains one of my favorite modern metal albums, and gets pretty frequent rotation wherever I am.
So how about that opening track? Well, Machine Gun still remains one of my favorite Trillium songs. It has hooks, it has chops, and there’s some amazingly clever wordplay going on with the lyrics. It’s a chugging riff-a-thon, starting out with a plodding bass-driven verse before kicking into hard rocking high gear. The “take the power back” focus meshes well with the many allusions to firearm terminology, and the mid-section break down gives Amanda the chance to vocally taunt her abuser, before she turns the tables and the song finishes with a rollicking guitar solo and a powerful crescendo. And while the drum work isn’t going to necessarily blow you away, the mix gives the kick drums some pretty good oomph.
Too bad for you, you’re not the right caliber.
Coward is up next, and is a slow to mid-tempo affair, with power chords aplenty and Amanda singing across a broad vocal range. While not nearly as catchy as Machine Gun, whenever she says “coward”, you can feel the ire and the disgust lurking in her voice. I would NOT want to get on her bad side, as she delivers biting remarks with a power that cuts. Aside from the aforementioned ire, this is a mostly subtle song, with the instruments just as prevalent as Amanda’s voice.
But where Coward is a subtle, more meandering affair, the third track Purge features a truly great chorus over some great music. It’s not a heavy track by any means, and that’s ok, as it still features a great guitar solo and some head-nodding drum work. But just when you think you know how the song is going to go…the magic happens. A little after the halfway mark, the music cuts away and we are left with Amanda singing the chorus to no accompaniment, showing nearly her full vocal talent, with only reverb to help set the tone. And what a tone it is! Without any instrumentation whatsoever, she elevates the song to another level, and my only complaint is that this part simply isn’t long enough.
The fire burns the skin, but it can cauterize the sin.
Utter Descension is the next song, and is another slower affair, with more focus on the guitar and some subtle strings playing in the background. What is amazing about this track (and most songs on this album) is that everything is mixed at the same level, but the vocals are always clear while never overshadowing the music. Most singers would likely have wanted their vocals mixed much higher than the instruments, but that is wisely avoided here, which only helps contribute to the cohesive feel of the album. All-in-all a solid if somewhat moderate offering.
Though the previous three songs kind of kept the tempo slower, Bow To The Ego brings the pace back up a little bit, bringing more of the heavy and giving Amanda the chance to really cut loose and belt out the chorus. The stuttering guitars and stomping drums help this track march along, giving it an anthemic feel. The sultry vocals help give the song a bit of slinky kink to it, and any lyrics with the word “vexed” in them will always get points from me. This one just rocks!
The catchy chorus continues with Mistaken, a mid-tempo rocker with breathy verses and a penchant for self-examination. Neither bad nor amazing, it’s a decent offering that is sandwiched between two powerful tracks. Because following on the heels of Mistaken is…
Scream It. This one features alternating vocals between Amanda and Jørn Lande, and the contrast between gruff and beautiful vocal delivery works wonders on giving this track its own identity. It’s not continuously heavy, but the parts that are tend to be some of the heaviest music on the album. I honestly wish they had done at least one more collaboration on the album, as this track just has some serious zing to it. Keyboards filter in and out, providing a bit of ambience over the guitar & bass assault, and the breakdown slows things down to give both vocalists a chance to sing their asses off.
Come closer and you’ll see that my name is your disaster.
One of the most beautiful songs (at times) on the album, Justifiable Casualty features my favorite vocal delivery from Amanda next to Purge. Another mid-tempo offering, this one is more defined by the vocals than the music. I can’t even say that it’s one of my favorite songs per se…I just love how her voice sounds here. Again, the music all just fits together, blending seamlessly with the singing to create a pretty awesome track.
Oh, we quickly forget the sound of regret.
Unfortunately, for me anyways, the last three standard songs on the album don’t quite reach the heights set by their predecessors. They aren’t terrible songs by any means, but they tend to blend together a bit and just aren’t as engaging. Path Of Least Resistance is up next, and it almost sounds like it could have been an Evanescence song. It has all the requisite stylings, and the vocal delivery is somewhat in line with how Amy Lee sings. That’s not to say that the song is derivative, but it does have a somewhat familiar sound to it.
Into The Dissonance features string accompaniment, a quick chorus, and a restrained approach to the music. Even with a decent guitar solo, it struggles to stand out from the rest of the tracks.
And the final standard track of the album, Slow It Down, does exactly as the title says. This is the slowest song on the album, essentially serving as a ballad. Amanda’s voice over piano is never a bad thing, and her vocals soar here. Better than Into The Dissonance by a smidge, it’s a solid, if somewhat subdued final track.
But the end is not the end! Some of the versions of the album also feature the bonus track Love Is An Illusion. Extra Trillium is never a bad thing…the only downfall is that this song doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself from the few songs that came before. Amanda is always at her best when she’s belting out catchy choruses with witty wordplay, and the lack of any serious hooks hurt this track.
Like most albums, Alloy starts out strong, with some truly captivating tracks and wonderful vocal work, but somewhat slips on the tail end. Unlike most albums, there’s really not a bad track to be found here. Some are better than others, to be sure, but there’s not a cringe inducing or skippable song on Alloy. And I can honestly say that Amanda’s voice is one of my favorites of the genre. I mean, this industry features some amazing vocalists, from Tarja to Elize Ryd, and from Simone Simons and Floor Jansen, but in my opinion Amanda Somerville trumps them all. There’s just something raw about her voice that resonates. So no, it’s not a perfect album, but Alloy by Trillium is absolutely worth your time and deserves a listen ASAP!
4 out of 5 large caliber and hot loaded stars!