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Thursday, October 02, 2008

CD Review: Trivium - Shogun

Trivium - Shogun
2008 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I tell this story perhaps too often, but the longer Trivium stays in the game and takes one step closer towards reaching metal immortality, the more astonished I am they just get better and better with each step.

Flash back five years ago to a group of 18 and 19 year olds opening on a coveted slot with Iced Earth and Beyond the Embrace. Had Iced Earth not put on a metal clinic, particularly with their impressive theatrics to bring their epic tune "Gettysburg" to life onstage, the night would've easily belonged to Trivium. Already exhibiting fierce determination, a feral command of their space and deeply impressive writing prowess as of their debut album Ember to Inferno, there was no doubt in my mind this band was going to be the class of their generation. Thus I approached the young Matt Heafy and requested a future interview. Still wide-eyed and slightly nubile, it was like going to high school and finding an up-and-coming band ready to break out of their teenage molds and jump headfirst into a more adult way of being, musically and mentally. That night I hung with guitarist Corey Beaulieu and the other bands in the venue's parking lot in one of the more memorable evenings in my journalism career and I told Corey "You guys are going somewhere, trust me." He smiled, shrugged and we said nothing more of it.

2005 comes and I'm covering Roadrunner Records' Road Rage Tour and in a quick deuce, Trivium are the headliners. After interviewing Still Remains, 3 Inches of Blood and The Agony Scene, I hooked up with Corey Beaulieu once again (after getting my first interview with Matt the year prior) as the Triv was unloading their gear and sure enough, the transformation to adulthood and a sense of assuredness glowed all over Corey. Quite a difference maker as headliner of a major underground tour, Corey was self-contained, confident and cavalier, even as the ladies passed by us, vying for his attention.

Though I've interviewed Trivium three times now, I can't say we're intimate buddies, but I do feel proud of these guys for plowing through relentless tour packages and developing into one of the truly great metal bands of the revival scene. Earlier in the year, I declared Bullet For My Valentine to be the first truly larger-than-life metal band of this era, and now, as of Shogun, consider Trivium in the same league.

Trivium has taken their share of both laud and lumps over their career, but they're one of the most focused bands I've ever seen. All four members are experts of their instruments and their songwriting structure is downright enviable. Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu are, in my opinion, the most formidable tag team shredders out there, and they could teach the Dragonforce lads a lesson in discipline. Not that what Dragonforce does isn't impressive beyond words, all due respect in that regard, but when Beaulieu and Heafy take off together, it's a literal flight that brings their listeners along, then quickly drops them off, leaving them wanting a much longer ride. That's true soloing, the art of demonstratively articulating but always within the parameters of taste and always leaving an audile salivating effect thereafter.

Shogun is Trivium now in full possession of their wares. Though Matt Heafy was originally criticized for his vociferous barking on Trivium's first two albums, he responded with a largely all-clean delivery on the band's last outing, Crusade. Now, on Shogun, Heafy answers his turnabout critics who got on his case yet again by this time mixing his game perfectly with hard and clean vocals and he, along with All That Remains' Phil Labonte, is one of the best-risen vocalists as a result. In turn, Trivium answers Heafy's boisterous outcries with one hell of an artful performance on Shogun, an album that could be the heroic soundtrack to a Westernized big budget chop socky flick.

Ever since one journalist declared Trivium the next Metallica as of their second album, Ascendancy, the band has inadvertently been expected to live up to the moniker, and in certain respects they have. Even the verses of the multifaceted opener "Kirusute Gomen" on Shogun is reflective of Metallica, largely in the stamping drives and the way Matt Heafy snarls uncannily like James Hetfield. However, the rest of the six-minute song bounces to Trivium's own tune with mid-tempo marching, agro bellowing and harmonious choruses, all stitched together splendidly with drum rolls from Travis Smith (who is marvelously precise throughout the entire album) for the ambitious song's intro and outtro.

Driving with the same affluency, melody and aggression on songs like "Down From the Sky," "He Who Spawned the Furies" and "Into the Mouth of Hell We March," Shogun dazzles with both temperence and force and as previously alluded, each solo section is anticipatory, delectable and tasteful, much as George Lynch mastered for Dokken. The difference for Trivium is they are far heavier with their brute thrash blasts on a cut like "Throes of Perdition," while they have a tenacious capacity to interface mosh tempos with straightforward power metal as on "Insurrection" and "Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven." The latter demonstratively whips between speed, hammering crushes and a massive breakdown section that is so unlike their peers it hinges itself upon the song instead of detaches and eventually it becomes a top layer to the main melody. All you breakdown-happy kiddos, take note, please.

For their naysayers, Shogun is Trivium's revenge. For their fans, it's instant gratification. For this writer, all I can say is you're witnessing greatness in the making album by album...

Rating: ****1/12


Lars said...

roger that :)

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