Review Summary: They're back?9 of 10 thought this review was well writtenTrivium
I wouldn't be alone in stating that 2006’s The Crusade
was not only a major letdown after the promising Ascendancy
, but it was a downright horrendous album. Writing and recording a completely contrived clone of Master of Puppets
does not assure a nearly flawless thrash classic, and while Trivium
raked in plenty of cash for the release, music buffs everywhere grimaced at the more than laughable product. The instrumental aspect of the band had been blatantly dumbed down, and the vocals went from strained screams and poor singing to mimicking James Hetfield yells and equally poor singing. Only a scarce number of interesting riffs and solos saved it from being absolute garbage.
On the contrary, I will be the first to admit that I loved Ascendancy
, and I really was obsessed with it for quite some time. It included a nice balance of heavy and melodic, and displayed above average instrumental skill for such a young band. While it is still enjoyable, I have since moved on. It took a good six months for me to scrape the surface of that album and notice the all too evident flaws within the numerous breakdowns and outstanding solos that it was saturated with. Almost every song was constructed in the same manner, revolving around choruses with stale verses and an exciting breakdown and/or solo during the bridge. Dying In Your Arms
only stood out due to the mass amounts of clean vocals, and it really is more of the same. This was more or less expected for the band’s big-label debut, so it was excusable. Would bringing back some of this old style help a future release?
Through three albums, Trivium
were unfortunately in shambles. They still did not possess the ability to compose a song of their own, or if they did, they hadn’t shown any desire or initiative to do so. After a world tour, they wisely took a few baby steps towards making up for the disgrace that was The Crusade
. They parted ways with producer Jason Suecof and teamed up with Nick Raskulinecz, of Foo Fighters
and Coheed and Cambria
fame. Matt thankfully took more voice lessons, every band member improved instrumentally, and the band as a whole agreed to incorporate elements of Ascendancy
into their next effort, primarily in the form of bringing back the screaming. The easiest way then to describe Shogun is a smoothly-executed blend of the best bits of the band’s two prior releases.
When the album begins with Kirsute Gomen
, the first thing one might notice would be Travis Smith’s drumming. While still not impressive or mind-blowingly technical, it is better than it was on The Crusade
and suits the music, without being ridiculously bland. All the riff work had my head slowly bobbing up and down and a smile slowly began to form on my face, one that would have stayed in hiding had I been listening to The Crusade
. The solo only strengthened the song, and this one is truly a gem. Screeching, brooding and varied arpeggios joined together with rapidly changing tempos are its constituents, and it really outdoes any the band has whipped out previously. Almost every solo on the record is nearly this solid, and they function as the yang to the choruses’ yin, providing an equal amount of ominous toned composition as the catchy, radio-friendly sections provide melody.
The aforementioned improvement of Matt Heafy’s vocals is also a welcome sound. I still can’t say I enjoy the yelling, and many loathe it, but there isn’t all that much James Hetfield left in his voice. Choruses will all expectedly feature clean singing that is solid but tedious after a couple run-throughs of the cd, and the screams are very similar to those from Ascendancy
. Overall they are still lacking, but the steady improvement is appreciated.
An expected complaint with Shogun
in addition to the vocals and the cheesy title is the song structure. It is about as simple as possible, but is fitting for the genre. Since the instrumentals showcased on The Crusade
were so poor, it is better that the band first improved on that front and stuck with basic song structures, rather than shooting for the impossibly difficult task(for a maturing band) of fixing all of their prior miscues with a single album. Almost every song has some enjoyable melodic bits, with Insurrection
being the only truly terrible track, as it is far too reminiscent of The Crusade
. Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis
features some slick guitar harmonization, some of Travis’ better drum work, and never feels as long as its almost seven-minute length would suggest. Similarly, the runtimes of most of these tracks are between five and seven minutes, with a few fluctuations here and there.
have had a few mediocre title tracks, in comparison to their respective albums of course. Ember to Inferno
was a great exposition of “thrashcore” at first, but quickly grew monotonous after a few listens. Ascendancy
was on par with everything else on its album, nothing special there either. Then came The Crusade
, and I remember being quite intrigued by it, and it quickly became my favorite song on the album. This was in fact me clinging onto the nicest sounding piece of that recording session (not counting Broken One
); because I had been an avid Trivium
fan and didn’t want to accept that they had gone from good to plain awful. The “instrumental” was just a bunch of semi-intricate riffs sloppily thrown together. Shogun
is different though. It’s a twelve-minute closer that integrates every stylistic trait the band has used to date, and I actually partially enjoyed Matt’s vocals. The tempo is brought down for a majority of the song, and there is even a short and tasteful Queen-esque solo thrown in for good measure.
If you hated Trivium
before this album, it isn’t going to sway you towards liking them. If you’re a crazed fanboy, you’ll love this. If, following The Crusade
, you were stuck somewhere in that expansive middle, there may be some respectable entertainment value in here for you as well. It is by no means superb, with flaws still shamefully abundant, mainly the vocals and repetition, but Shogun
is a definite improvement. It has the band headed in the right direction, and with a little more originality and some general musical progression, Trivium
could have the potential to release some fantastic albums in the future.