Sound — 9
It may just be that Trivium took the public's reviews of it's last album into consideration when they once again returned to the studio. I'm sure many of you will recall that The Crusade was met with mixed reviews because it took a dramatic turn to the melodic, vocally speaking. The screams were replaced with more of a James Hetfield-like singing style, and not every Trivium fan was on board for the change. So whether or not public opinion played a role in their writing, Trivium has returned with Shogun, an album that has a distinctly more brutal songwriting approach, yet still thrives on the amazing technical abilities of vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy, guitarist Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and drummer Travis Smith.
With over an hour's worth of material, Shogun takes you in a million different directions musically. Just when you think you have one song figured out, Trivium might decide to alter the tempo or make a sudden shift from aggressive screaming to a beautifully sung chorus that takes the song out. The opener Kirisute Gomen is a fairly good representation of the rest of the album, and melodically it is one of the strongest among the 11 tracks. The song begins with a beautiful lone acoustic, which quickly is joined by an almost primal drum beat. The electrics jump in soon after, and it's at that point where a variety of musical sections take turns with one another. Screamed sections are abruptly interrupted by solid melodies, and vice versa. At one point everything stops completely as if going to the next track, but oh no - there's still more to come. It's a solid track in terms of songwriting and is memorable introduction for Shogun.
Trivium still draws from the masters, but the quartet is skilled enough as musicians that they make a positive out of it. The James Hetfield vocal similarities are still present on Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis, a song that actually has a Megadeth-like guitar line running throughout as well. While they don't quite live up to these icons, Trivium still manages to create a pretty good balance between screamed thrash sections and accessible melodies. As you might expect guitarists Heafy and Beaulieu still put on quite the show with their solos, and if it's possible, they're even more impressive. Highlights in this area include Into The Mouth of Hell We March (if you like a little speed in your solos, you'll get it in full during this one) and Shogun (an 11-minute epic that includes electric insanity, restrained acoustic work, and everything in between).
The band deserves credit for including multiple unique sections in each song, even if there might be a few tracks with a base melody that doesn't hook you immediately. The chorus in Down From The Sky might get a little repetitive or Of Prometheus and the Furies tends to sound too similar to what has done before in the metal world, but as a whole Shogun is still leaps and bounds a better album than The Crusade.
Lyrics — 8
There is certainly a dramatic aspect to Trivium's musical content, and the lyrics match (if not surpass) the larger-than-life flair of the band. Shogun features quite a few songs that deal with battles and the way of the sword, and it may lay it on a bit thick for some listeners out there. But for as aggressive as some of the songs are, you have to give the band credit for creating a vivid picture to match what is going on musically. One of the most descriptive songs is Throes of Perdition in which Heafy sings, Vultures circle above; Hyenas mocking the kill; Excrement drooling down their chins; Atop the cliffs I look down, into the starving Hell-mouth; The rabid foam crashes hard on it's teeth; Their mouths' salivate. The lyrics definitely have a fascinating aspect to them, but they are also the kind that fans tend to love or hate.
Overall Impression — 9
While there were plenty of listeners who did enjoy The Crusade, Trivium should appease a much larger fan base with Shogun. Whether or not you enjoy screamed vocals, they take the songs in a completely fresh direction and it makes the sung, melodic segments all the more powerful. Each member of Trivium gives his all to Shogun, but it's hard to not gush a little extra about the guitarists once again. They have delivered so many incredible riffs, solos, and breakdowns on the new album, it will take multiple listens in order to appreciate the full scope of their compositions.