Released: 2008, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Next to Slipknot, I cannot think of another band that has polarized metal fans as much as Trivium. All sorts of ludicrous claims and insults have been shouldered by the band but it has not slowed them down one bit. Whether being labeled “emo” for the cleanly sung choruses on ASCENDANCY or Metallica wannabes on THE CRUSADE, Trivium have soldiered on and brought legions of fans into their circle with sizzling guitarwork and a melodic songwriting sensibility. On their fourth album, SHOGUN, Trivium does a little of the old switcheroo by combining the screamed vocals of ASCENDANCY with the singing style found on THE CRUSADE—a highly-raised middle finger to all detractors if there ever was one. Combine that with enough melody and axe wizardry to turn even the most steadfast metalhead into an air guitar-wielding maniac and SHOGUN is an undeniable victory.
First the good…
No one can deny the fact that Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu know their way around a guitar. One listen to “Like Callisto To A Star In Heaven” and “Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis,” with impressive guitar interplay and moments of shredding glory, and it becomes immediately clear these two bow at the altar of their heavy metal forefathers. Likewise, their keen ear for writing melodic riffs on “Into The Mouth of Hell We March” show they can do more than just hammer away on whammy dives and arpeggios. Drummer Travis Smith really shines on this record, too, most notably on “Throes of Perdition” and “Kirisute Gomen.” Whether pummeling through double bass salvos, militaristic grooves or reserved, progressive sections, Smith remains a strong presence and impressive force within the band. As they did with the brilliant “Entrance of The Conflagration” and “Anthem (We Are The Fire)” on THE CRUSADE, Trivium peppers their songs with unforgettable vocal hooks and choruses. Look for “He Who Spawned The Furies,” “Down From The Sky” and “Into The Mouth of Hell We March” to follow the path of those two songs into fan favorites and live staples. At the same time, “Insurrection” finds the band at its heaviest and most intense which should translate into sweaty moshpits full of flailing arms and raging kids.
Now the bad…
At nearly seventy minutes, SHOGUN is simply too long. The first four songs are among the band’s best material to date yet by the time “The Calamity” and “Of Prometheus and The Crucifix” kick in, boredom sets in for the listener and it is clear some much-needed editing would have benefitted the record as a whole. Case in point: the twelve minute title track that closes the album. After nearly an hour, enough is enough and no one wants to sit through a self-indulgent track that pointlessly meanders through several tempo changes from neo-classical shredfest to JUSTICE-era Metallica. It’s almost like three songs pieced together into one endless test of patience for the listener. Secondly, no one missed the screams from ASCENDANCY that Trivium themselves denounced when THE CRUSADE came out, even citing the fact they didn’t like bands with that style of vocals. So why bring them back?
SHOGUN, despite its glaring flaws, showcases a young band still finding its footing and trying to discover an identity. No artist wants to be accused of repetition but going back to an old vocal style that the band was openly critical of seems like a curious move at this stage in Trivium’s career. On the flipside, this record is full of ripping moments of metallic nirvana that many will latch on to immediately. It’s doubtful there is anything here that will convert those people whose blood boils at the mere mention of Trivium’s name and when the chips are down, I would have to say THE CRUSADE is the superior album, but despite its bloated length, SHOGUN still manages to squeeze out a solid recommendation.
KILLER KUTS: “Kirisute Gomen,” “Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis,” “Down From The Sky,” “Into The Mouth of Hell We March,” “He Who Spawned The Furies,” “Like Callisto To A Star In Heaven”