Review Summary: Would sound great if it could just make up it's mind.
Trivium have always had a tenacious relationship with the metal community and the many, many, MANY sub genres they insist upon. Some of these arguments have merit (You can’t listen to a death metal record and complain about the vocals being too hard to understand). Other’s not so much (Are we honestly going to still pretend deathcore’s a thing?)
From their influences varying from classic metal acts (namely just Metallica) and hardcore bands, Trivium where suppose to be that happy marriage between new and old. Thrash metal solos, meeting metalcore breakdowns. Classic, clean vocals, meeting death growls. But for some reason it never quite happened the way it was suppose to. Like most couples, there was always a power struggle in Tivium’s previous albums, and one side would win out. Their first couple of albums have a distinct metalcore sound to them. But The Crusade, changed things up by doing its best to sound like classic Metallica. And also like most couples, sometimes the band felt the need to bring a crazy, unpredictable third-element (progressive) to the bedroom (studio) to spice things up (make them sound smarter). Okay, so just the couples I know.
The point is, that perfect union was never attempted as hard as it was on Shogun, where Trivium took every damn influence they had, called that sexy, but fickle tease progressive metal for old time’s sake, dragged them all to the bedroom, and set the stage to film what for all intents and purposes, should have been awesome sex. But it turns out, sometimes even with the best intentions in mind, both parties leave only mildly satisfied, and have to admit that the chemistry simply wasn’t there.
Shogun doesn’t so much harmonize all of Trivium's influences as it does bluntly throw them into place, all over the place, for a very messy affair. All the individual bits on their own could make for short, but tight songs. When Trivium wants to sound thrash, they channel a pretty damn good Metallica impression, that’s different enough to be original. But when they make the sudden, abrupt change to metalcore mid-song (singled by what I like to imagine is just Matt clearing his throat) it’s such a jarring shift, that it’s hard to tell whether it’s any good. (I’ll save you the trouble, its pretty average for the most part). Every song feels like this.
They all start well enough, and for the first two minutes or so there isn’t a single song on this album that sounds like it could have been incredible if half a minute was invested in arrangement. The shifts mid-song, are a little out of Trivium’s talent reach to be pulled off. And it only makes you madder, when you hear great instrumentation sprinkled in every now and then, as if they’re deliberately taunting you with how good they could be if they could just make up their minds.
And that’s the biggest problem with Shogun. As far as Trivium’s outings go, it’s the weakest simple because it can never be consistent. Otherwise great songs are either marred by grating shifts into metalcore territory (which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the growls weren’t ear gratingly terrible) or just long drawn out wanking to pad out the song and sound more intelligent. Well, I suppose that’s one way to sound pretentiously, pseudo-genius. The other is to give your song titles long, awkward names (I’m willing to bet not one of them knows how the hell we’re suppose to pronounce Charybdis) , and write lyrics that are just vague enough to sound like the might actually mean something. Spoiler Alert! They don’t. Not a damn thing. Any “theme” the album may have had when it’s opening track ”Kirisute Gomen” ( one of the standout moments on the album) is quickly buried and forgotten by the 2nd track, which the band explains is about that chapter in The Odyssey, where Odysseys is torn between a literal rock and a hard place. Yes Trivium, I took high school Latin too.
Shogun was intended to be a mix of all of Trivium’s past releases to create and explore their own unique sound. The worst part about it all is that the band is actually quite talented. When Matt loses the annoying growls, his clean vocals are surprisingly well done. And the guitar soloing, while clumsily thrown in, is executed brilliantly. This album even boasts some pretty creative dual guitar harmonies. Travis Smith’s drumming gets a little stale too fast (I like blast beast as much as the next guy, but you’d think it was all he knew) but I can hear why he’s gotten such a reputation as a tight metal drummer. With all this great musicianship going around, it’s jarring that as a band, they just can’t sound tight together. Just like how as a band, I’m sure they are proud of this album. Too bad no one else is.