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Shaolin Death Squad - Intelligent Design CD (album) cover


Shaolin Death Squad

Progressive Metal

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4 stars So, I was browsing through progarchives for some new progressive metal to listen to. I came across this one with an interesting band name and some seemingly beautiful artwork to boot. As I was floored by the first track's title, I knew I atleast had to listen to this one. And come on, a ninja at the drums, this can't be bad!

Can't say I'm the number one fan when it comes to Avantgarde approach in metal, which I guess this represents. Though I did like an album from Arcturus and this does vocally sound arcturusian at times. Also I had a weird flashback from way back when my dad listened to some band called Sparks, I think. The weird operatic singing probably was a factor here. The album was called Kimono in My House and as these guys seem to draw inspiration from japanese kabuki theater with the costumes and all, I guess it's not so far fetched. Sparked metal with a twist this one could be called. Hey, that sounds like a cool drink. Some rusty nails at the bottom, covered in vodka, served by throwing at your face.

Okay, maybe not that extreme, cause these guys produce some mellow moments from time to time. If you're looking for structure, it's pretty hard to find here. It's all a big mess but with just enough strings to keep it together. At times though, it is a little way out there for my ears. Keypoints to Intelligent Design would be the hilarious and heavy opener "A Terrible Way to Use a Sword". "Choreographer of Fate" goes down the calmer rout with some excellent operatic vocals and almost a playlike structure. "Fall, Rise, Laugh...Fall" introduces more craziness with russian kalinkametal middlesection, or something. And damn what a shredfest is the "A Story Lives Forever" piece.

So I guess friends of weird and unstructured metal will be in heaven here. For us regular and sane people, with a little patience, there are some great moments to be discovered with Shaolin Death Squad.

Report this review (#146099)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, well, well, what have we here?

Admittedly, I found out about this band from another friend, but ProgArchives was the one who inspired me to buy it, after I read all the reviews. I'm proud to announce that I was more than just pleasantly suprised, I incredibly impressed.

Shaolin Death Squad are something of an anomaly in the Progessive Metal genre, in that the music is rather amusing, and funny, rather than hyperserious, like is stereotypical among a great deal of Prog bands. The musicianship is anything but silly; it's tight, flowing and complex, without being overbearing, or making your roll your eyes are their flashiness. None of the instruments are placed above the others, and yet none seem to lag behind, the whole band is incredibly cohesive together, showing incredible restraint without becoming dull or boring. Trust me, you're in for a ride when you start listening.

Now, if you the Progressive Metal monicker is putting you off, hold on a second. If you can tolerate (or in some cases, welcome) heavier vocals, then I highly recommend giving them a chance. Prog Metal not your usual cup of tea? Well, this isn't your usual prog metal band. The music is anything but flash, however, that doesn't mean the music isn't engaging, complex or interesting. It certainly is, but without the usual flare that often makes people avoid prog metal, and aside from that fact, the music iteslf is rather inventive, combining elements from bands like Estradasphere, Mr. Bungle, Faith No More and so on, including Avant Garde elements, with some interesting genre hopping interspersed within the music. Some incredible vocal work, reminding me of both Mike Patton and Daniel Gildenlnow makes for an interesting feel, especially considering the PoS vibe I often get from the music. That is, if PoS had Mr. Bungle or Estradasphere as an obvious influence. It has it's heavy moments, it has it's light moments, and it has it's goofy moments. And yet they all seem to blend together incredibly well, without anything seeming forced or rediculous. Now, if you want all your music to be deathly serious, then I'd probably recommend avoiding Shaolin Death Squad, but if your not, you need to give them a go.

This band really knows how to meld everything together. The vocals are amazing, ranging from falsettos to growls, to shrieks and some very Patton-esque work, and transitioning seemlessly. If anything in this amazing band stands out, it's the vocalist. The rest of the band is by no means less than capable, in fact showing some incredible musicianship, but the vocals really shine threw on this album.

All in all, an incredible release, from a very promising band.


Report this review (#160363)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 realy

Shaolin Death Squad is an unknown band from USA has one album since now from 2006 named Intelligent design. Hmm to tell you the truth I didn't know what to expect from this album, I've red all the positiv reviews here and there and after all I went to take some spins. This band has influnces from many genres and many bands , and it's hard to qualify thier work in one single genre. They are a progressive metal band but with a touch of Zappa, Mr. Bungle, some death metal bands, some Faith No More, Pain of Salvation, a varied album with a lot to offer. The musicianship is excellent, some truly amazing moments on opening track A Terrible Way To Use A Sword , Catasthropic Obedience and Choreographer Of Fate, the rest are ok. The musicians realy know how to use the instruments and create something worth investigated. Realy strange album to my taste, I'm not a big fan of this kind of music, It's not my every day music but I enjoy the album in my own view. I find it good, with some very nice moments, but is not something close to a masterpiece for me, not even if I'm listning 100 times. Definetly a band to check out in the future because they know bussines and realy can offer something diffrent in this genre. Still very unknown band and for sure needs a wider recognition.3-3.5 a good album for sure, but nothing close to an essential listning.

Report this review (#248049)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Intelligent Design is an excellent album, no doubt about it. Shaolin Death Squad has been around for a few years now, and I am very sad to say I've just recently discovered them. So what can you expect from their music? It seems to me that the music on this album draws a lot of influence from bands like Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and occasionally even Dream Theater. The music has an experimental edge, and occasionally borders on the avant-garde side of things, but unlike the majority of the bands I've listed as possible influences the music still manage to be relatively accessible and catchy.
Report this review (#284472)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars What do you get when you combine Mr. Bungle with fantastic progressive writing? You get Intelligent Design! This is a criminally overlooked album that will impress and captivate you from start to finish. Shaolin Death Squad is able to weave in nice, proggy riffs with the Mr. Bungle-esque circus atmosphere and an extremely wide range of vocal styles. You'll find yourself humming and dancing along to songs within 2 listens, guaranteed! To hear some of the baritone Mike Patton styled vocals mixed with straight growling and peaceful falsettos all within the same song will be a treat that very few bands could ever hope to replicate. The fact that their lyrics are thought-provoking and entertaining also is just one more reason to rejoice. Pretty much every song on this album is at least 4 out of 5 stars and every song is at least a 3, but here are the highlights:

A Story Lives Forever - This song is the best song Shaolin Death Squad has put out, IMO. It has a memorable opening riff and the verses have two main riffs that contrast sharply with one another but somehow lead perfectly into the next section, which may as well be Mike Patton as guest vocalist before then breaking down into a cool, heavy rhythm-based badassery section which then leads into a great sweep arpeggio solo before the song closes out with more circus music and Patton-styled vocals. This is a song that will grab you and having you put it on repeat indefinitely.

Choreographer of Fate - The peaceful intro to this song with the strings and clean guitars sets the tone for the bass-driven riff that comes next, but it doesn't fully prepare you for the swinging 6/8 verse that follows. After that comes a very playful refrain that heads straight into a California-era Mr. Bungle chorus. Throw in a dramatic spoken word section followed by a very dissonant guitar solo which is then followed by a thrashy heavy metal riff complete with death vocals and this song has already given you a ton of quality music, but it doesn't stop there. Next you get a beautiful melodic guitar solo before the song ends with another peaceful, playful verse and one final chorus. The song is extremely nuanced and perfect in every way.

Escaping Absynthe - This is an edgy, guitar/bass-driven song with a mixture of death metal growls and soaring clean vocals. It doesn't have the odd time signatures that many of their songs have but it makes up for it by grabbing you right away with catchy, interesting riffs and vocals.

A Terrible Way to Use a Sword - If you can listen to this song and not feel pumped up when you hear "TO USE A SWORD" growled, then this band isn't for you... This is an amazing album opener that revolves around the eastern views of respect and honor on the battlefield. It has the perfect balance between heavy, edginess and melodic pleasantness. This song sets the tone for the rest of the album and gives you a great idea what to expect the rest of the way.

Other great songs: Catastrophic Obedience Radio Feeler

Good songs: The Face That Insecurity Killed Rise, Fall, Laugh... Fall First Half of Yesterday

Bad songs: None. Every song on this album is high quality.

If you're a fan of prog music, at least a few songs on this album will become favorites. If you're a fan of Mr. Bungle or anything that Mike Patton has done, you'll probably love the entire album. This band is absolutely worth checking out regardless of your favorite genre of music, as it has redeeming and unique qualities that need to be experienced.

Report this review (#476611)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Intelligent Design" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Texas based progressive metal act Shaolin Death Squad. The album was released independently in November 2006. While the "Shaolin Death Squad (2004)" EP showed great promise, itīs obvious that it was the bandīs first release and it was somewhat immature in the songwriting department. It did however introduce the bandīs obsession with martial arts and asian myths and customs. The band members have even taken on stage names like The White Swan, Black Ninja and Red Dragon and pose in traditional asian clothes on their press photos. Pretty unconventional for a metal act.

The whole image thing is of course just a means to an end though, and none of that would work without great music, and weīre certainly treated to that on "Intelligent Design". The music on the album is a sort of alternative/progressive metal. Itīs not easy to describe how the music sounds, but there is a definite Faith No More influence present. Predominantly because lead vocalist The White Swan has a voice and singing style that are reminiscent of the voice and singing style of Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle...etc.), but there are similarities in the instrumental part of the music too.

Itīs very eclectic music with strong melodies, great vocal harmony and choir work, and a general disregard for genre labels. There are heavy, and at times almost thrashy sections on the album, more mellow parts, epic parts, and quirky almost carnival bizarre parts. Itīs an incredibly adventurous release featuring high level musicianship, a well sounding production, and songwriting thatīs generally intriguing. Keyboards play a big role in the music in addition to guitars, bass, drums and vocals.

While "Intelligent Design" is certainly both a challenging and adventurous release by Shaolin Death Squad, itīs also quite accessible, which should stand in contrast to each other, but somehow doesnīt. Those catchy melodies are the main reason, but even when the band play their most complex parts, they never lose focus on delivering memorable music and thatīs probably one of their greatest strengths. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1635613)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2016 | Review Permalink

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