Far be it from me to defend the likes of a band who has achieved such a high level of success by doing little more than filtering the highlights of METALLICA's career into a watered-down glass of Kool-Aid for the metalcore kids to slurp down like they were rockin' it in Jonestown. On top of that, over the last year or so my interest in TRIVIUM has stopped and started with the mildly hilarious lyrical interpretation videos that have made their way across the Internet. However, 2008 is one year that will go down as being marked with changes throughout the world and TRIVIUM has caught that fever and released an album that deserves to be taken seriously.
No, "Shogun" isn't a metallic masterpiece that is going to send the contingency of TRIVIUM haters to their knees begging for forgiveness, but it sure in the hell is a huge step up from "The Crusade". One of their most aggressive tunes to date, "Kirisute Gomen", makes for one bold opener with its minor-key melody that bursts into fist-in-the-air, thrash-o-rama. Interspersing his Hetfield-ian barks with forceful screams and surprisingly fitting melodic passages, Matt Heafy has proven himself a front man to be reckoned with. At the very least, his performance is telling of the lessons learned from touring with the likes of Robb Flynn (MACHINE HEAD) and Burton C. Bell (FEAR FACTORY). Complete dissection of "Shogun", even by the most biased set of ears, will unearth more hits than misses when coming across the shred-happy beast of a track, "Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis". Despite the predominance of "core-ish" riffing on "Into The Mouth Of Hell We March" and the anthem-like "Like Callisto To A Star In Heaven", these are far from one-trick ponies with the amount of both melodic and metallic elements tastefully crammed into the arrangements. Throughout this disc, I sense an air of confidence from TRIVIUM that has been lacking from previous efforts. This could come from the aftershocks of the destructive "Insurrection", the flirting with Euro-power that they've done with "The Calamity", the multi-faceted, twelve-minute title track or the cutthroat dueling between Heafy and Cory Beaulieu. Whatever it is, the effects are well-received.
As well-written and far-removed from the TRIVIUM norm as "Shogun" is, keep in mind that this album is less an evolution and more a (pretty damn big) step in the right direction. A number of the criticisms that have been hurled at the band can still be found on the disc, they're just not as prevalent or obvious. For the die-hards, this is your Shangri-la. For the rest of you, "Shogun" is at least a good excuse the bust out that TRIVIUM shirt you've kept hidden in the back of your closet for the last two years.