Shogun – The new Trivium

By Chante Daries

In the metal community, you either love or hate Trivium. This very young band has garnered a lot of success in a very short time. They have released four studio albums and have headlined in Europe and in America, this is impressive considering that the average age of the band is 24.

Shogun is the band’s fourth studio album and was released on 22 September 2008. The band chose not to work with Jason Suecof who produced their previous three albums but rather with Nick Raskulinecz of Stone Sour and Foo Fighters fame. This change in producer comes through in the album and emphasises the cleaner vocals and technical musicianship.

Shogun is a hybrid album that mixes elements of Ascendancy and The Crusade. The James Hetfield sounding vocals are gone as well as the overly thrashy riffs that was prominent in The Crusade. Enter a new era for Trivium, in Shogun the Florida metallers have created their own brand of metal. It was very hard to classify their sound when listening to the album and this will benefit them in the long run because people like listening to music that does not have a definitive label. Most of the songs on Shogun are between six and seven minutes long with the title track clocking in at almost 12 minutes. The album is filled with muscular guitar riffs and technically impressive bass work followed by the animalistic yet technical skill of drummer Travis Smith.

Shogun is an improvement on The Crusade but it will not silence Trivium’s critics. It still sounded like something was missing from the album and the formulaic approach to the song structures almost makes the album too generic. Very little variation is present but the impressive and talented musicianship makes up for this lack of originality.

The songs that caught my attention were Torn between Scylla and Charybdis, Kirisute Gomen, Like Callisto to a star in heaven, Shogun and Throes of perdition. Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu are two of the most talented guitarists of their generation and their skills as song writers really come through in these three songs. The bass solo in Torn between Scylla and Charybdis is extremely technical and showcases why bassist Paolo Gregoletto is one of the best bassists in the metal scene. I would have liked there to be more bass solo’s because then there would have been more variation between the guitars and the bass.

Travis Smith’s drumming has improved since the last three albums and has become more technical, tribal sounding and almost machine-like. At times it sounds too perfect but that showcases his extreme talent. Heafy’s vocals have always been under scrutiny, he has been criticized for sounding to much like James Hetfield from Metallica but in Shogun he has adopted a cleaner vocal approach followed by more technical screaming from Ascendancy. He silences his critics by really coming into his own on the album.

But there are also the weaker sounding songs on the album. Songs like Down from the sky, which is also one of their most commercial sounding songs off the album, Insurrection, which I think belongs on The Crusade because of its thrash orientated guitaring and blast – beat drumming. The calamity is the weakest song on the album. It has no originality and it bores you with the formulated structure and its attempt to be too technical.

The lyrical themes of Shogun are very interesting to listen to. They incorporated Greek mythology as themes for songs like, Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis, Like Callisto to a star in heaven, Of Prometheus and the Crucifix, Into the mouth of hell we march and He who spawned the furies. They also incorporated Japanese mythology in songs like Kirisute Gomen and the title track Shogun. The structure of the songs are very intricate and when listening to it, it feels like you are listening to a brand of ‘smart metal’ because the lyrics have a deeper meaning that has to be Googled or researched.

The album is a definite improvement from The Crusade but there is still room for improvement. I have to admit for a band that is still maturing they are one of the best of their generation and I hope it will just get better from here on. With Shogun they have really created their own sound and that is very rare for a contemporary metal band. Trivium is a band to watch out for, they have the potential to be the poster boys for the metal community and surpass Metallica and Iron Maiden.

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