Even though Ascendancy may be the album that Trivium may be best known for and the general favourite, many (including myself) find Shogun to be their best. With previous effort The Crusade being a more straight up thrash release than Ascendancy, the band decided to return to their roots while maintaining the thrash sound. Frontman Matt Heafy described the album’s sound “the past, present, and future of Trivium, all on one CD“, the seeds of future releases were definitely sown on Shogun. Heafy’s screaming vocals also make a welcome comeback, returning Trivium to their roots. The album title comes from the high ranking military general, with Heafy adding that the name “sparked all this vivid imagery and storytelling“. With lyrics about ancient Japanese military customs, ancient Greek mythology and Christianity, the memorable lyrics paint vivid images, indeed.
Personally, Shogun is one of my favourite albums, after buying the album at Virgin Megastores (God that makes me feel old even as a 21 year old) I listened to it repetitively. For one week I didn’t listen to anything else, it might as well have been glued into my CD player as Hell had a bigger chance of freezing over than the album disappearing from my CD player. Every single track on this album is recognizable and memorable in their own way. Whether it’s the anthem of ‘Down From The Sky,’ the melodic ‘Of Prometheus and the Crucifix,’ the heavy ‘He Who Spawned the Furies’ or the 11 minute title track, this album has so much to take from it. There isn’t really a weak link in Shogun, obviously some tracks are better than others, but nothing dismantles the album. Even the bonus tracks are of high quality, the Megadeth-influenced ‘Poison, The Knife Of the Noise’ and a decent cover of Iron Maiden‘s ‘Iron Maiden.’
Matt Heafy’s vocals are absolutely wonderful, his cleans shine throughout the album, specifically on ‘Of Prometheus and the Crucifix,’ ‘Throes of Perdition,’ ‘The Calamity,’ and on the tender, calm before the storm moments on ‘Shogun.’ While his harsher vocals dominate on ‘He Who Spawned the Furies,’ and album opener ‘Kiristue Gomen.’ The perfect balance is found so no track is a rehash of another. Musically, it’s wonderful and it’s such a pleasure to hear all the band members in sync, presumably with cheesy grins on their faces in the recording studio. The riffs and solos have the power of Zeus and yet the grace of a swan while the drumming and bass playing is tight and natural. In conclusion, this is a near perfect album which ultimately causes problems. The follow up albums have still been immensely enjoyable with catchy as hell songs (‘In Waves’ and ‘Built To Fall’ on In Waves and ‘Brave This Storm,’ and ‘Strife’ on Vengeance Falls being particular highlights) but have failed to replicate the magic on Shogun. I can only hope their next release is as good as this masterpiece.
I will go out on a limb and say it was one of the best albums of the decade, it’s up there with Iowa, Toxicity, Leviathan, From Mars to Sirius, Dopethrone and The Blackening in terms of influence, memorability and sheer craftsmanship. A monumental achievement that cemented Trivium’s place as one of the future big players in the metal scene, with future releases only confirming it.
Best Tracks: ‘Down From The Sky,’ ‘Throes of Perdition,’ ‘Of Prometheus and the Crucifix,’ and ‘Shogun.’
1. Kirisute Gomen
2. Torn Between Scylla And Charybdis
3. Down From The Sky
5. Into The Mouth Of Hell We March
6. Throes Of Perdition
7. He Who Spawned the Furies
8. Of Prometheus And The Crucifix
9. The Calamity
10. Like Callisto To A Star In Heaven
12. Poison, the Knife or the Noose
13. Upon the Shores
14. Iron Maiden (Iron Maiden cover)