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Trivium - "Shogun" (CD)

Trivium - "Shogun" CD cover image

"Shogun" track listing:

1. Kirisute Gomen
2. Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis
3. Down from the Sky
4. Into the Mouth of Hell We March
5. Throes of Perdition
6. Insurrection
7. Calamity
8. He Who Spawned the Furies
9. Of Prometheus and the Crucifix
10. Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven
11. Shogun

Reviewed by on February 8, 2009

"The opening riff to 'Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis' is the kind of thing Adrian Smith was writing for Iron Maiden in the mid-1980s."

With expert musicianship married to a Maiden-meets-Metallica sound, Trivium is a very good band. But it isn't one that's shown the kind of creative independence needed to make a band one of the greats, a fact that becomes apparent on the band's fourth album, "Shogun."

Things start off promisingly with the album's best track, "Kirisute Gomen," which features an elegant melodic intro before going into thrash mode. The song is reminiscent of tracks like "Ignition," from the group's previous album, "The Crusade," but with a little more of a sense of melody — at least until the screaming starts.

The metalcore scream singer/guitarist Matt Heafy used to great effect on "Ascendancy" is back — and not quite as good as before. The problem seems to be that Heafy is trying a bit too hard to heal the rift between the band's fans who liked the screamy sound and those who preferred the melodic vocals of "The Crusade."

In doing so, Heafy applies a bit of each style on nearly every song on the album. That creates a sense of sameness that really makes the album seem a lot longer than its 66 minutes. You can pretty much guarantee that when the band slows down, Heafy's howling will start — and unlike Shadows Fall's Brian Fair, Heafy hasn't quite mastered the art of blending the scream with the melodic singing.

Instrumentally speaking, the album has more than its share of high points. The opening riff to "Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis" is the kind of thing Adrian Smith was writing for Iron Maiden in the mid-1980s. The title track, "Shogun," is a nearly 12-minute opus that really shows off Heafy and fellow guitarist Corey Beaulieu's ability to play in any number of divergent styles, from beautiful slow passages with minimal distortion to warp-speed thrash.

Trivium's real unsung hero, though, is drummer Travis Smith, who manages to keep all those divergent sounds from descending into chaos. He isn't the most distinctive drummer, but he has a great sense of what a song needs to hold it together rhythmically.

Producer Nick Raskulinecz's deft touch can be felt all over the album, particularly on the single "Into The Mouth Of Hell We March," with its catchy chorus and hooky guitar licks.

The problem, though, is that Trivium has yet to make a definitive artistic statement that is theirs alone. It's impossible to listen to "Shogun" and not start thinking that "this riff on 'Throes of Perdition' sounds like something Iron Maiden would play" or "that vocal on 'Insurrection' sounds just like James Hetfield."

Still, if the worst thing you could say about this band is that it is derivative of two of the greatest acts metal ever produced, that's probably not too harsh a criticism.

"Shogun" is a good enough album, but lacks the kind of creative spirit that would make it a must-own.

Highs: The album's opener, "Kirisute Gomen," the high level of musicianship on all the tracks.

Lows: Singer Matt Heafy's metalcore growling.

Bottom line: "Shogun" is a good enough album, but lacks the kind of creative spirit that would make it a must-own.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)