Welcome to Choice Cuts. You’ve stumbled upon the butcher shop themed segment where I pull out the entire hulking piece of meat that is a band’s entire discography, and slice you off the finest slab of choice cut, the best of the best. Sometimes I’ll be praising the standout piece of material in an otherwise passable career, other times I’ll be highlighting the best work found in a stellar band’s illustrious back catalog. Or maybe I’ll just be alerting you to some good beef you might’ve missed. Let me get to telling you what I’ve got for ya on the table today.
Today I have more of a “best of the best” situation for you. I’ll be chopping up the 2000s metal band Trivium and their discography, leaving you only with the most choice cut. Trivium has really released some solid material throughout their career. “Ember to Inferno” was pretty cool, albeit easily recognized as the work of an immature band. “Ascendency” was one of the better metal records of the early metalcore genre they’re lumped in, even though Trivium has always been much more metal and significantly less core, like almost none, when compared to other bands of the genre. “The Crusade” was pretty enjoyable too. “In Waves” had some amazing songs and some radio crap, and it looks like “Vengeance Falls” will be similar. In between “The Crusade” and “In Waves” was Trivium’s masterpiece though, “Shogun.”
“Shogun” is a prog metal masterpiece, completely unique in its styling, identity and sound. The band’s riffing and writing, and Trivium truly is a band when it comes to writing music: with all the members contributing riffs, is top notch, both progressive and complex, and pounding and metal. There are no cheap frills. There’s no simple breakdowns, the solos are both incredibly complex and tasteful, never entering the realm of wankery that bands like Dream Theater thrive in. And that’s the best way to hit the nail that is “Shogun” on the head: naturally and easily complex and progressive. “Shogun” is an evolution of the bands previous work, all of the enjoyable melodies and incredibly entertaining riffing, only better and perfectly completed by the technicality and progression of the parts that naturally resulted from the band members increase in talent.
After the thrash metal tribute that was “The Crusade,” Trivium came back completely reinvigorated. The changes in riff and writing style were perfectly complemented by Matt Heafy’s reinvigorated vocals. While his cleanest cleans only got better, his screaming style came back, after much of a break on “The Crusade” with a vengeance. Though the basic essence of his harsh voice was the same, his technique was very improved. Because of this, he sounds much more like a seasoned performer than an angry kid yelling his lungs off. This new, more polished, style perfectly suits the new style of music
Lyrically this album covers much more serious and impressive topics. We have nuclear war, Japanese history, hence the album title “Shogun,” Jesus Christ and the Romans, Greek mythology, and heaven, hell and god. Not surprisingly, this is Matt Heafy and Trivium’s best lyrical work by far. These mature and interesting topics have a clear point, interesting metaphors and wordplay, and a maturity that matches the mature style of progressive metal that Trivium crafted on “Shogun.” The lyrics lend themselves to some grandiose moments, the bridge during ‘Into the Mouth of Hell We March’ where the lyrics begin with ‘We crawl out from the wreckage’ perfectly compliments the absolutely stunning music that is underneath these lyrics and vocals.
This album perfectly combines emotional power with musical prowess. “Shogun” moves through emotional passages, catchy choruses, crushing riffs, winding verses, and shredding solos, all without missing a beat or losing a step. As I said before, this album is a natural effort, nothing feels forced at all. The soft parts do not exude the wish for radio fame as some of the bands newer work does, and the heavy parts never feel stale, as if the band was purposely trying to create music that is hard to enjoy, as other bands have. Though the band had created compelling material before “Shogun” and some the material after has been largely hit or miss. Some of the songs have been just as good, four songs I can think of definitely are, as anything on “Shogun.” “Shogun” is a snapshot of Trivium at their absolute best, and to me it looks like they’re never going to reach that point again. “Shogun” is a completely unique, honest, prog masterpiece that is worth listening to in full for anyone who considers himself or herself a fan of metal.