Editors' Notes Though much of the band’s material has traditionally been written by guitarist, vocalist, and founding member Matt Heafy, Floridian metal squad Trivium took a different path on their ninth album. The bulk of the lyrics and a fair chunk of the music on What the Dead Men Say were written by bassist Paolo Gregoletto, who nicked the title from a story by Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi giant whose work has been adapted into films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. And that wasn’t the only thing on Gregoletto’s reading list that influenced the record. “There’s not a definitive narrative, but if you listen to some of the songs, you maybe pick up on things that relate to one another,” the bassist tells Apple Music. “I was reading books like [David Wallace-Wells’] The Uninhabitable Earth and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, where it’s this concept of people using disasters—whether man-made or things like we’re experiencing [with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic]—to gain an edge or profit while other people are left to pick up the pieces.” Below, Gregoletto tells the tale behind each track.

IX
“Originally, this was attached to the next song, ‘What the Dead Men Say,’ as the intro. When you're listening to it, it's meant to be a continuation—the two go together. The music is foreshadowing what’s to come. It’s a lot of the same melodies and chord progressions you hear in the next track, but played a lot slower and with a different feel. It’s our ninth album, so that’s where the Roman numeral comes from.”

What the Dead Men Say
“I got the title from the Philip K. Dick short story. I felt like the words I was coming up with were about this sci-fi, trippy type of in-between state and the way we deal with death and grieving in the digital age. I’ve always loved Philip K. Dick books and stories because a lot of them are still really relevant and ahead of their time. So I found this short story and I liked the title a lot—it was really intriguing. I think some of the best titles and lyrics are stuff you can’t totally explain.”

Catastrophist
“This is one of the first things I wrote for this record. I was just piling up riffs for this song and it seemed to get longer and more complex. It had this epic feel to it, so I knew the lyrics were going to have to fit that. I was reading The Uninhabitable Earth and The Shock Doctrine and just thinking about these crises that happen in the world and how some people can benefit from them but a lot of people have to suffer and pick up the pieces or are left to their own devices. And what you do in the world kind of determines what people who aren’t even born yet are going to have to deal with.”

Amongst the Shadows & the Stones
“This was a song that [guitarist] Corey [Beaulieu] brought in. He already had the title and he had recorded the screams on the ‘amongst the shadows and the stones’ part, which is pretty much where it is now. It’s a great hook, so I took that and started writing lyrics. I ended up thinking about how we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the war on terror, and what the real consequences have been—not only for us, but for the people on the other end. So it’s about the aftermath, when the dust has settled and there’s just rubble and nothing.”

Bleed Into Me
“A lot of times I write on guitar, but I started writing this song on bass, so bass is a pretty prominent feature of this song. I used one of our lower tunings, which can really benefit more groove-oriented stuff like this. The lyrics came from when I was riding the L in Chicago and saw this dude shooting heroin in the front of the car. So I started thinking about how people are able to ignore things or pretend that things around you aren’t happening. But I made eye contact with this person and for a moment I got to see their world. You can’t look away, and you have to reckon with what that means for you, for them and for everyone around you.”

The Defiant
“Matt brought in the demo for this one, and right away I felt like it had an almost [Trivium’s 2005 album] Ascendancy-type vibe to it. When I wrote the lyrics, I had just watched that R. Kelly documentary, and I was thinking about how bad people don’t always just happen in a vacuum. There’s people behind them that are assisting and facilitating things. And these kinds of people can live how they want openly, because shamelessness is a defining feature of our culture now. And just because you’re a bad person, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get what’s coming to you.”

Sickness Unto You
“This is another song that Matt brought in. It just felt like we needed something to let loose and be heavy and fast. That’s the stuff that we excel at. There’s an almost Rush-type vibe in the middle that comes from [drummer] Alex [Bent]’s part, and I can’t praise him enough for his playing on this record. Matt wrote the lyrics, which are definitely more sombre-type lyrics about loss, and I came up with the title of the song. I don’t even know where I got it from—it just felt interesting.”

Scattering the Ashes
“Corey brought in this one, along with some lyrics and the title. His grandfather died last year, and the lyrics describe the process of scattering his ashes out into the ocean. So I took that and turned it into a story of a father and son, or these people that have a falling-out over something but they’re never able to reconcile it. Then losing someone and having that loss compounded with the fact that you weren’t able to get over this or say you were sorry about something. Musically, it makes me think of that Finnish band Sentenced, who make this very melodic but really dark music. This song isn’t as dark as Sentenced, but it’s our version of that.”

Bending the Arc to Fear
“This was the last song I brought into the record, and I just wanted to riff out. I also love having outros that go in a totally different direction than you were expecting. For the lyrics, I was thinking about that saying ‘The long arc of history bends toward justice.’ If it can be bent to justice, it can be bent to all these other negative things. Then I started thinking about the Ring cameras that everyone has on their houses now, and the culture that has built up around them. It breeds paranoia, really. You’re living your life through these little glimpses outside your door and it can just whip up all this fear.”

The Ones We Leave Behind
“This was a song that Corey brought in, along with the title, and it started out way different than what you hear on the record. It started slower, with more clean guitar parts. When we were jamming it, I just had the very cliché metal idea of ‘What if we play it faster?’ So we started playing it faster and faster, and the riffs kind of changed a little bit to what you hear now. With the lyric, I started thinking about how people are left behind by the culture we have where it’s a winner-takes-all kind of mentality—which is a very American way of thinking. But if the winner takes all, what are the other people left with?”

SONG
IX
1
1:58
 
What the Dead Men Say
2
4:45
 
Catastrophist
3
6:28
 
Amongst the Shadows & the Stones
4
5:40
 
Bleed into Me
5
3:48
 
The Defiant
6
4:29
 
Sickness Unto You
7
6:14
 
Scattering the Ashes
8
3:24
 
Bending the Arc to Fear
9
4:45
 
The Ones We Leave Behind
10
4:56