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Shaolin Death Squad - Intelligent Design CD (album) cover


Shaolin Death Squad


Progressive Metal

4.20 | 65 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Another case of an unknown masterpiece.

SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD, an American group nobody knows about, has delivered in a grandiose way with their 2006 album Intelligent Design, a brilliant album full of great musicianship, innovation, creativity, and entertainment.

We can call this music progressive-metal, but not your typical DT-style prog-metal. We hear some elements of traditional bands, but mostly we hear an eclectic mixture of all kind of different influences, which combine to create a distinct, unique sound. We hear avant-garde elements, we hear some tech- metal touches here and there, we can detect musical passages that sound like DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA but also moments when we're reminded of ARCTURUS. There's some thrash metal in here, too, with many fast riffs and pounding rhythms. Some alternative rock has managed to infiltrate the music as well. As you can see, a complete blend of many colors in the metal spectrum. But the influences we could say are the most important in SDS's sound are definitely two: PAIN OF SALVATION, but even more, FAITH NO MORE. Yes, SDS's sounds owes a lot to both Gildenlow's outfit and to Patton's deceased group.

A very important element in SDS's music is the quality of the musicians and specially of their singer. All the instrumentalists are more than capable, showing their skills but never falling for the easy show-off. But it's "The White Swan" who steals the show. Here we have a vocalist capable of switching styles with ease and tremendous creativity. He can go from a melodic, clean voice to a black-metal styled, high- pitched growling in a matter of seconds, in both cases managing to deliver a very compelling vocal performance. Again, his main influences are the same as in the overall sound of the band: Gildenlow, but mostly, Patton. It's his way of phrasing the words, the rhythms, and sometimes also the tone that remind us of that great singer of FAITH NO MORE and MR BUNGLE fame. "The White Swan" doesn't stop here though; he can also sound a little grungy (we can detect a hint of ALICE IN CHAINS in one of the songs) and, in the last track, he evokes Jonathan Davis, of much-maligned nu-metal band KORN. Yes, the guy has quite a range of possibilities in his voice.

The music goes from the burlesque to the violent, from the atmospheric to the grotesque, from the cold mountains of China to the exaggerated joke of a circus; there's anger and insanity, there's laughter and even some light; we travel from the traditional to the modern, from progressive-metal to thrash metal to space-rock to avant-garde.

An unquestionable 5-star rating, if there ever has been one. One of the best cds of 2006, a year when many lost gems like this album or DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA got buried underneath a pile of over- hyped records. It's a shame that this disc has been self-released. Let's hope SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD is allowed to give us their talents in a second effort in the future, with a label that can guarantee that more people will be exposed to great music like this.

The T | 5/5 |


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