Review Summary: With "Shogun", Trivium have finally created their own sound, but it still has that same "love or hate" feel about it.
"Shogun" is Trivium’s third album for Roadrunner Records, and the follow up to 2006's "The Crusade", an album that spawned the "I hate Trivium, those Metallica wannabes" attitude. Part of the reason for this was because "ascendancy", was such a success within the metalcore genre, and for changing their sound to a modern thrash one, it definitely divided the fans. "Shogun" concludes the band's evolution, as it combines everything they have done in the past, and surpasses it.
Fans will recognize "Becoming the Dragon", from the previous album, as one of the only songs with any screamed vocals that were the main form of vocals in "Ascendancy". In this album, the vocals are similar in proportion to this song, a combination of screaming and Matt Heafy's "singing", similar to that of James Hetfield (apologies for the second Metallica reference). On most of the songs, the vocal formula is similar, cleanly sung verse, screamed pre-chorus, and a melodic chorus. Although it does seem somewhat repetitive, it works, even though the listener may find themselves predicting what the next song will be like. It is best described as a compromise; people missed the screams on "The Crusade", so here they are, aggressive as ever and combining well with the cleaner sections.
So on to the songs themselves, lead single "Down from the Sky" is quite a catchy, melodic song, which I would recommend as a touchstone for the rest of the album, as it encompasses all of the elements found in the rest of the album. Fans of Trivium's heavier side won’t be disappointed with the aggressive "insurrection", which switches the formula slightly, instead of a screamed pre-chorus and sung chorus, its reversed. "Throes of Perdition" is another stand-out track, with an interesting guitar introduction and a good chorus. Listeners listening for more anthemic songs will find this in "Into the Mouth of Hell We March", arguably one of the best songs on the album.
Half-way through "Shogun", things start to get a little boring. "He Who Spawned the Furies" is a rather mediocre track, as is "Of Prometheus and The Crucifix", as it seems that the formula is somewhat overused as this point. "The Calamity" is a pretty weak track, with an intro disturbingly similar to previous songs. The final track, "Shogun", is interesting. It is about ten minutes long, and shows Trivium throwing everything they have into the song. If it wasn't for the Ballad-like middle section with a bluesy solo, I would simply dismiss it as another weak song, because as a normal song, it is lacking. Its length is its saving grace, as after the middle section, there are some heavier passages and a final anthemic chorus that is given extra power thanks to the previous section.
Now, lyrically, it is easy to draw another comparison to "Becoming The dragon", as this song was about some Japanese legend about a warrior becoming a beast of some kind. If you like this sort of thing, the lyrics are perfect for you. Most of the songs make obscure mythical references, especially in "Of Prometheus and The Crucifix". Japanese cultural references are also made clear in frantic opener "kirisute Gomen". I personally don’t find much satisfaction in hearing an entire album about myths and what have you, but on another level, the lyrical content can be interpreted metaphorically, without the mythical imagery, for example, perhaps "Like Callisto To a Star in Heaven" can be interpreted with the view that one must look further than looks: "hate not, the flesh that makes me, but seek what lies beneath".
Instrumentally, all the members of the band are on top form. Trivium has always been praised for its riffs and solos, and "Shogun" doesn't disappoint. Solos from each guitarist are featured in every song, and the riffs sound fresh, not simply reused guitar lines so frequent in metalcore. Drummer Travis Smith provides a solid base, along with the bassist, who even has a few solos on "Torn between Scylla and Charybdis". All solos are executed with precision; it’s pretty much a shred fest, with the exception of one solo in the title track, which works surprisingly well.
So, the question is, "will I like it?" If you've never liked Trivium don't bother, this is Trivium, nothing else. If you're one of the many fans that were put off after "The Crusade", and were massive fans of "ascendancy", then it’s worth a listen, as it is at best, a compromise between these two albums. "Shogun" brings back elements of the metalcore found on "ascendancy" and "Ember to Inferno", without losing their modern thrash edge.
- Fresh sounding songs
-very technical, but at the same time is memorable
-more aggressive than "The Crusade"
-Weaker Tracks ruin consistency
-songwriting formula can seem repetitive
-Heafy definitely got carried away with his Japanese mythology....