I have a great love and hate relationship with TRIVIUM’s music. From the beginning I have felt that there has always been something that has held the band back from being themselves. Firstly, it was the just the style of music they played and then it felt as though they were trying too hard to be METALLICA. They needed to find a balance and find their own sound. And I think that sound has finally been found.
“Shogun”, officially their fourth album, has the band finally mixing and matching some of the styles and elements from their first releases into something more unique and fulfilling than anything they’ve done yet. Granted it’s still not quite up to par with the talent that I believe the band has in their sleeves but it’s a great start for them to start really tightening the screws on their own sound. “Shogun” showcases some great stuff for the band though.
Let’s start with the positives on this album for TRIVIUM. Firstly, the band is finally using a lot more instrumental layering to keep up some of the energy. Instead of focusing on catchy hooks and fist pumping rhythms, the band is using the energy and songwriting to keep one’s attention and it just shows how much the band has matured. Secondly, the performances are stellar in the instrumental sections. The drumming from Travis Smith is impressive to say the least and the guitar chemistry between the bassist and two guitarists is finally explosive.
But, as with every TRIVIUM album, “Shogun” also has some weak points. Matt Heafy (vocalist and guitars) uses his voice in many new ways. He brings back his roaring bark, he uses the James Hetfield inspired harsh vocals, and he also does a ton of clean singing on the album. And although I enjoy the wide variety of his vocals this time around, a lot of the clean ones sound forced and unnatural. At times he nails it but he just sounds more comfortable doing the Hetfield or the barking ones than the singing. With time it will be better I know, but for now it’s a little shifty. Also some of the songwriting feels a bit forced. Not really the songs but the length of them. Almost all the songs reach a natural climax (a sign of good songwriting!) but then the band just keeps going for another 1 or 2 minutes – far beyond what it could have been.
So once again, “Shogun” shows my mixed feelings for the band. It’s the best of TRIVIUM’s career, easily overshadowing their earlier work and it has some great things going for the band. Simply said, they have finally found their own sound. Thank you. Now if they could take it and run with it then I would be happy. But for now, I’ll take “Shogun” and easily enjoy it.
Songs to check out: “Insurrection”, “Down From The Sky”, “The Calamity”.
(Online October 14, 2008)