Review Summary: Shogun may well rankle the traditionalists, but in going back to basics Trivium have returned to a solid base."Nothing mars a good metal record like so-called harsh vocals."
The above sentiment opens Rolling Stone
’s review of Trivium’s 2006 album The Crusade
, the Florida metal group’s third and most successful outing to date. Not only does the above quote say just about everything that can be said about the magazine’s dated philosophy (“everything was better in the old days, even when it clearly wasn’t”
), it’s indicative of the trap the band fell into while making the album. Regardless of whether The Crusade
was musically accomplished or not, most saw it for what it was- it wasn’t a cheap Metallica knock-off, but it was still a bargain basement Metallica record, and a lot of people called them out on it. Trivium became one of the biggest acts in commercial rock, but in doing so they had sacrificed many of the elements that had made them special to begin with, an outstanding group within an increasingly derivative NWOAHM movement.
, Trivium appear to have taken much of the criticism to heart in a constructive way. Frontman/guitarist Matt Heafy’s Metallicophilia is still rampant in places, but here it is much more individualised and in tune with the band’s metalcore roots: the singer could now actually pass for somebody who’s been influenced by James Hetfield, rather than somebody who’s trying to become him. Opener ‘Kirisute Gomen’ demonstrates the point neatly. Beginning with a decidedly ‘Battery’-like baroque guitar motif, the track kicks into gear with harmonised leads and a galloping thrash riff around the one-minute mark, but from thereon in it sounds more like the Trivium of old. Heafy’s pig-squeal vocals during the verse gel well with the strained melodic pre-chorus, while Travis Smith’s renewed love affair with the blast beat is, at least it becomes clear he can’t snap out of it, a welcome re-addition to their sound.
By and large, though, Shogun
is less a compromise as it is a retreat. As befits a commercial rock band of the populist bent, Shogun
lives and dies by its “singles.” The three pre-released promotional cuts, ‘Kirisute Gomen,’ ‘Into The Mouth Of Hell We March’ and ‘Down From The Sky,’ are easily the most accomplished of the album’s eleven tracks, the latter two holding more-or-less faithful to the formula of big riffs, breakdowns, harsh vocals and layered melodic choruses that caused the band to blow up in the first place. Even the rare exceptions- the mainly sung ‘Of Prometheus And The Crucifix’ and the elegant pop-rock of closer ‘Shogun’- sounds less forced and more organic than the majority of the last album. Now if only Heafy could do a Colin Meloy and stick to butchering one mythological tradition per album instead of two within the one song.
may well rankle the traditionalists- rest assured, Rolling Stone
have already forgotten about ”one of the few contemporary metal bands that matter”
- but in going back to basics, Trivium have at least returned to a solid base upon which to re-develop their sound. Shogun
is by no means an outstanding metal album, but it should be enough to satisfy both fans of their older material and those attracted to the meatier hooks of ‘Anthem (We Are The Fire)’ and ‘Entrance Of The Conflagration.’