Shogun is a band that originated the late 90s in Boulder, Colorado (where I live now). I first saw them play at Kilby Court in Salt Lake City when I was still living in Utah. Totally raw, totally intense and totally memorable. At the time, and still to this day, they were known for their unusual time signatures and technical tempo changes in addition to their awesome heaviness.
As it would turn out, I left Utah to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I pursued a degree in English Literature. I soon found out that the vocalist of Shogun had been an English major at CU as well. That would explain the well written, literature-influenced lyrics.
“Nation of Masochists,” the first song on the Iconoclast album, opens with a sample from Conan the Barbarian. Thulsa Doom, played by James Earl Jones, delivers this line: “Infidel Defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood. Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they will learn why they fear the night.”
Listen here: Nation of Masochists by Shogun
This song is a criticism of Christianity, especially the American denominations of the religion. After the Conan the Barbarian sample, the song opens with the lyrics: “Gluttons for punishment // all of you// flogged to the beat of two thousand years of misery”. Here, Christianity is described as masochistic behavior. Tapping into their quiver of famous motifs, Shogun references Edgar Allen Poe’s coffin motif in the following lines: “sleep your whole life // spread the sadness // worship madness // wake up, pound on your coffin // let your savior hear you, // pound on your coffin, let your savior find you, // pound on your coffin, let your savior save you, // pound on your coffin, let your savior fuck you.”
“Cacozielical Irony”, the second song on the Iconoclast album is something of a criticism of our system of grammar and the way we learn about English literature. Here, Shogun points out the rarity of true originality in our everyday speech and writing and claims that we merely repeat ideas that we have picked up along the way, especially when it comes to diction and grammar.
Through out the song, Shogun alters between various points of view. The first half is mostly first person—filled with examples and descriptions of the way they see the modern English language. Then, beginning with, “Speak like you learned your own language…” the lyrics begin to offer encouragement and advice for the listener to develop their own unique voice. Then the song ends, similarly to “Nation of Masochists,” with a very powerful, in your face, resounding message—this time, it’s the voice of standardized education and pop culture as a whole, yelling, “Worship the gods of grammar—worship, bow down. You don’t have a voice of your own.”
“Your words leave me speechless.
Chop your language into pieces.
Slather saliva on your dictionless syllables
with the ignorant dull knife of your tongue.
Emulate prefabricated nuances,
designed like the rest of pop culture to
create comfort in repetition.
Repetition, familiarity and cliché…
…Speak like you learned your own language.
Articulate like you were born with a tongue.
Don’t just bounce between
the walls of your ears.
Worship the gods of grammar —
worship, bow down.
You don’t have a voice of your own.
Shogun disbanded after their second release, What Sin has Twisted. I have friends that could do a much better job describing what happened to the band members after they broke up. For awhile I heard of a party band called Shoguns ‘n’ Roses that continued to play for a little while. Then, I think Jesse, the guitarist went on to play for Dartanian, a band with the self-described genre of “comedy/happy hardcore/metal”. And then I heard that Jesse was also the track coach at Niwot High School. That’s all for today.
Shogun’s MySpace Bio: Shogun was formed in 1998 in Boulder, Colorado. They released a homemade demo shortly after forming, entitled “Through Separate Eyes”. This lead to their debut album, “Everything I Love Kills Me In The End”, which was released on NOT BAD RECORDS in 1999 with Trevor on vocals. He was replaced by Warren, and Shogun released the “Enter The Equation” 7″ in early 2000. Numerous US tours later, they released their first full length CD entitled “Iconoclast” in early 2001. They released their final CD, “What Sin Has Twisted” in 2002. Shogun played their last show in 2002 at the historic Tulagi’s Club in Boulder, CO to a sold out crowd.
Members: Warren- vocals, Jesse- guitar and vocals, Dave- guitar, Joe- bass, Charles- drums
Temporary Members: Trevor- vocals 1998-1999, Brian- bass/drums 2001-2002, Stuart- bass 2002, Tim-bass 2002
Boulder used to be so much cooler…