REVIEW: Trivium – Shogun
Trivium divided their fans with the release of The Crusade in 2006. Some loved the shift to melodic vocals, instead of the screams of the band’s previous releases. Others felt they’d gone too soft, and called for a return to the sound of the prior album, Ascendency. It seems that with Shogun, Trivium has in part listened to the fans, and in part followed their own path. The melodic vocals return, but the blatant Hetfieldisms have been tamed down. The screaming is also back, and the balance between the two styles gives the band some flexibility: now where screaming is required, there’s screaming, and when singing is needed, there’s singing. Sounds simple, really.
And it works. Trivium may have had more than their fair share of detractors when they first started out, because how the hell could dudes so young play so convincingly and kick so much ass? The old school metal community felt that Trivium were pillaging the precision riffing of classic thrash, throwing modern screaming on top, and trying to pass it off as an original sound. Then when The Crusade was released, the accusations that the band was just trying to re-record ‘…And Justice For All’ were almost as loud as the album itself. With Shogun, they move closer to defining their own sound, and by balancing the melodic and chaotic vocals, they’ve created a hybrid that can appeal to older headbangers and younger ones alike.
Opening track ‘Kirisute Gomen’ (which loosely translates as “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to take your head” combines blunt force trauma and razorblade-sharp riffage, with a melodic chorus which would be right at home on Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Magnum Opus’ CD. Guitarists Matt Heafy and Corey Ballieu bring out the old school shred and thrash-inspired rhythm gallops like it’s 1987 again, but faster. ‘Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis’ has some syncopated interplay which reminds me of Dream Theater, and it even includes a bass solo. ‘Down From The Sky’ has a memorable chorus and more groove than should be legal from a metal band, and ‘Into the Mouth of Hell We March,’ while sounding a little muddled between singing and screaming, has a cool neoclassical solo, further playing up the Yngwie vibe for those who are looking for it. ‘He Who Spawned The Furies,’ is a little flat with its overly laboured black metal influences, but it gets points for having a title that sounds like something I would put on my business card.
The album is capped off with the title track, an epic shredfest which takes some unexpected twists and turns, and makes full and intelligent use of its 12-minute running time. It can be hard to sustain the listener with a song that long, but ‘Shogun’ is packed with variety and shifting moods, and lots of intense guitar playing.
Is ‘Shogun’ the ultimate Trivium album? Nup. I think fans will still like Ascendency more. And even though I really enjoyed ‘The Crusade,’ I think ‘Shogun’ is the right choice for the band right now, because it could win back the fans who were alienated by ‘The Crusade.’
‘Shogun’ is out now on Roadrunner Records.