Looking Back

Trivium talk 20 years of Ascendancy

The metalcore scene leaders reflect on the breakthrough success of their major label debut ahead of their 2025 co-headline tour with Bullet For My Valentine

For heavy metal fans, the mid 2000s was a golden era. 

With the sounds of nu metal giving way to something heavier, bolder and more emotive, a new wave of music was hitting the heavy scene; one that Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto found himself swept up in.

Graduating in a year soundtracked by groundbreaking heavy metal albums such as Lamb Of God’s Ashes of the Wake and Mastodon’s Leviathan, upon finishing high school in the summer of 2004, Gregoletto joined forces with vocalist Matt Heafy, drummer Travis Smith, and guitarist Corey Beaulieu.

The trio having released their debut album, Embers To Inferno, the previous year, Gregoletto filled a position left vacant by former bassist Brent Young, quitting his day job at a local hamburger joint to follow his lifelong dream of becoming a touring musician. Following countless nights spent rehearsing at Heafy’s parents’ home in Orlando, the newly formed four-piece began navigating the realities of a life in music together, bouncing from tour to tour with Dillinger Escape Plan and Danzig.

“It was a great learning experience for us. I had just come out of high school, so that felt like going into college,” Gregoletto recalls.

“We were playing shows with bands who had it together, and they showed us how to be on the road and how to perform. After that, we felt invigorated to go and record the best songs we could. Looking back, we were in the right place, at the right time, with the right album about to come to life.”

Whilst touring their debut album, Trivium had garnered the interest of Roadrunner Records. With a contract signed by late 2004 and sights firmly set on their major label debut, the band rounded out the year with a US run alongside Machine Head and Chimaira, and the quartet began sprinkling demos of new songs into their live sets. Here, crowds were introduced to ‘Rain’, ‘Like Light to the Flies’, and ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’, and in September 2004, Trivium headed into a Florida studio with producer Jason Suecof, channelling their collective energy into crafting the best album they could.

Trivium - Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

“I remember playing ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’ on that tour, and Machine Head’s tech guy was like, ‘It’s awesome, but the chorus sucks’. He was right! The original chorus wasn’t bad, but it didn’t rise to the level it should have,” the bassist admits.

“We got into the studio and reworked the ideas that we had with Jason, and it became apparent that we had some cool songs. We still didn’t know how they would connect with people, but when we heard the mixes at the end of recording… It felt like such a complete record. I’d never played on anything that sounded that great.”

Having assisted on the band’s debut, Suecof was the natural choice for the band’s follow-up record, with ‘Ascendancy’ serving as his first major production credit. A learning experience for everyone involved, the team spent the next few weeks navigating clashing egos and technical issues, overcoming the building pressure to create a collection of songs that would serve as everyone’s breakout moment.

“Younger guys are generally pretty cocky, but I think it can be a way to mask any anxiety or fear about what you’re doing,” Gregoletto shrugs.

“You go headfirst into it, and there’s a lot of freedom that comes with that experience. It gives you a sense of invincibility, and you want to experience everything you can with the band and push it as far as possible. There was nothing holding us back, and we did whatever we could.” 

Playing over 200 shows within a year of Ascendancy’s release, from then on Trivium found themselves in a state of non-stop forward motion. With a whole host of touring experience under their belt by the time they crossed the Atlantic for the first time, as they set foot on UK shores the magnitude of their success truly set in. Suddenly standing on stages that their idols had once stood upon, they weren’t just dominating the intimate US club scene anymore – they were in the big leagues. 

Trivium - A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Ascendancy wasn’t our debut, but it was the first record that a lot of people heard from Trivium,” the bassist says.

“When we got to the UK, the explosion felt immediate, especially when we played Download Festival in 2005. It was cold and wet, and that was the first time we got to stand on a big stage with a big empty field in front of it. We were the first band on, which was really intimidating, and we had a tiny backdrop up and no backline.”

“When we started our set, we all thought, ‘What the hell is happening?’ There was a surge of energy, and it felt as though we’d all blacked out. You have to project a confidence that you really don’t have when you’re in positions like that, and you can’t let on that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”

Thousands of festival goers braved the morning cold and trekked into the arena for the first band of the day, so the Floridians were clearly doing something right. Delivering a blistering performance to the Donington crowd, it wasn’t long until word of their Download debut made its way back home, the newcomers finding themselves playing to a packed-out audience at 2005’s Ozzfest just a few weeks later alongside metal mainstays Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Rob Zombie.

“Our success in the UK created this momentum. People were talking about us, and there was this mystique building from what had happened. By the time we played Ozzfest, it was obvious that people knew who we were,” Gregoletto recalls.

“We were suddenly being offered tours with Children of Bodom and Amon Amarth, and everything changed for us. It changed my entire life, and it was hard to believe that just a year before that we were still in school.”

Their success in the UK also sparked a fire within a wave of upcoming British metal bands, including Welsh newcomers Bullet For My Valentine. First hearing Ascendancy whilst recording their debut album, The Poison, in early 2005, in 2025 the two long-standing metal heavyweights will embark on a world tour to celebrate the 20th anniversaries of their respective breakthrough records.

“I remember when I first heard ‘Hand Of Blood’, I couldn’t deny the similarities between our band and Bullet For My Valentine. There were differences too, but it was incredible to watch another band running parallel to us,” Gregoletto reflects.

“It never felt like there was a competition between our bands, just a mutual admiration. We shared this moment, and now we’re coming back together 20 years later to relive it. Everything comes full circle, and the fact that both of our bands have stood the test of time is unbelievable.”

Promising the biggest shows the world has ever seen from either band, it’s a chance to celebrate the legacy of Ascendancy. Sparking a whirlwind that catapulted Trivium from Floridian metalheads with a dream to leaders of the metalcore scene, 20 years ago none of them could have predicted the impact their dual guitar passages and gripping screams would have on heavy metal’s future.

Trivium - Dying in Your Arms [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

“You need time to truly comprehend what happened and how big of a moment it was,” the bassist says.

“Now, people tell us that this was the album that got them into music, and we meet other bands who tell us that Ascendancy was life-changing for them. It’s a chance to celebrate what these records mean to the fans that were there at the beginning, and to those who never got a chance to see some of those songs live back then.”

Currently building a full recording studio in their hangar space, whilst a large portion of the year will be spent rehearsing songs they wrote two decades ago, Trivium are still looking towards their future. Ready to relive their past and bask in the enthusiasm of their younger years, they’re hoping that the fearless energy of Ascendancy will seep into whatever comes next for their band. 

“Once we have that studio space, we can write what we want whenever we want to,” Gregoletto finishes.

“I’m excited to see what that’ll lead to. We’ve never done the nostalgia thing before, so it felt like we owed it to ourselves now. Our next record will be our 11th though, so we’ve not rested on our laurels for the last 20 years. We’ve kept up that momentum, and for a lot of the fans that have stuck with us, it’s the new music that has kept them around. We have such a unique chance now to relive something, celebrate it, and see what we can cook up at the end of it all.”

Trivium join Bullet For My Valentine on the Poisoned Ascendancy tour in January 2025. Tickets are on sale now here.

Read Bullet For My Valentine’s take on The Poison, and on their new tour with Trivium, here.

Photo credit: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images