Trivium never asked to be described as "the next Metallica" by a hyperbolic British magazine or two, but because they tried to make the best of the opportunity instead of wilting away with apologetic shouts of "We're not worthy!," they've taken a hell of a lot of guff from radical heavy metal fans, already stirred up over the group's signing to the closest approximation to corporatism in their world: Roadrunner Records (who actually dare work with non-metal bands -- curse them!). Admittedly, the youthful Floridian quartet (whose confidence has been frequently misconstrued as arrogance) didn't help matters when the band followed its impressive sophomore album, Ascendancy, with an undisguised bid for wider commercial appeal via its inconsistent third album, The Crusade. Thus came something of a backlash even among their supporters, bringing, in turn, the stylistic retreat toward more uncompromising metallic terrain embodied by the group's fourth album, Shogun. On this outing, Trivium elevate their new millennium thrash to -- by their standards -- largely unprecedented heights of intensity and complexity, stacking riff upon riff (really good ones, too) into densely structured highlights such as "Down from the Sky," "Throes of Perdition," and the especially devastating "Kirisute Gomen" (which supposedly means "Pardon me while I cut off your head off" in Japanese). Corey Beaulieu and Matt Heafy's shred-intensive guitar solos also pepper every track, flying every which way like vengeful hornets, and the latter's always varied vocalizing once again prizes Hetfield-ian growls and guttural screams over more sparsely distributed (and therefore more impactful) melodic singing.
Certain cuts may feel like they're jammed with a few too many different hard/soft/harder personalities for some listeners' tastes (e.g. "Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis," "Into the Mouth of Hell We March"), but most headbangers are bound to appreciate these very contradictions, which the band extrapolates to a monumental climax on the multifaceted 11-plus-minute album-closing title track. As for the lyrics: if these song titles didn't make it obvious already, Heafy's penchant for untowardly bookish vocabulary and obscure mythological references remains intact (see also "Of Prometheus and the Crucifix" and "Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven"), and will probably delight as many metalheads as it irritates, but at least he's no longer forcing unrelated words together as though he were simply reading the dictionary every night (which certainly seemed to be the case on The Crusade's confusing "Entrance of the Conflagration," for example). And yes, Trivium still show no qualms or remorse about emulating both the sounds and epic scope of vintage Metallica, but what's so wrong with that? After all, Metallica tried to do the same thing on their own 2008 return to form, Death Magnetic. In short: Shogun is easily Trivium's most challenging and ambitious album yet, and even though it isn't likely to spawn any hit singles, it was clearly the album Trivium had to make in order to get unduly prejudiced metalheads off their backs and finally silence undue suspicions over their abundant talent and devotion to heavy metal.