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Shaolin Death Squad - Five Deadly Venoms CD (album) cover


Shaolin Death Squad


Progressive Metal

4.00 | 152 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Hybrid of the Best

Shaolin Death Squad blends together two of my favorite prog metal bands ever, Pain of Salvation and Mr. Bungle. The latter has inspired a small but significant group of imitators, some of which are brilliant, some lite versions, and some just bafflingly wierd. Unfortunately, we don't have alot of bands doing prog metal in the mold of early PoS. As a result, this album is a welcome delight for me. From Mr. Bungle, we get some zany rapid switches between genres, quirky humor, and the vocalist's obvious allusions to Mike Patton. From Pain of Salvation, we get the thicker wall of sound, more decipherable concepts, and a widened vocal approach that includes a stronger sense of melody. There are even a few allusions to my favorite prog metal artist of all, Devin Townsend.

The album opens with a subtle acoustic guitar with some ambient effects on the track "Romanza." But after this introduction, we get a steady chugging electric guitar that sounds disturbingly like pop punk. On first listen, I was worried I'd wasted my money. But the track, "Centipede" evolves with more and more interesting ideas, weaving more sounds than most entire pop albums. But it's not until "Snake" that the album really takes off. It starts with a pulsing bass figure that eventually explodes with energy. There is a particularly powerful riff at 2:00 that is just awesome. The songs is the most PoS like of the group, and from there the albums just hums for quite awhile. The remaining animal named songs are just great, each having its own little morsel of delicious music for the listener to devour.

The rest of the album is a little more uneven. "Mischief and Epiphany" maintains the energy with a ska-ish rhythm that leads into glorious riffing. "Let Us Welcome the Actors" is the kind of self-reflecting theme that nevers works for me in any artform, and the momentum starts to wane. It's is fairly reminiscent of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, another Bungle descendent. "Last Stand" begins with a groove straight off Faith No More's ANGEL DUST and then moves to a robo-voice that had poked its nose in a few times earlier. The last two tracks are strange in that they both sound like they were meant to be album closers, but the band couldn't decide which one to use. They are both good songs, but it makes the album end with a strange taste.

Overall, the middle of FIVE DEADLY VENOMS is very close to masterpiece level prog metal. In a weak year, this album is high on my best of 2010 list. But the slow start and slightly stumbling ending make the decision between four and five stars easy for me. But still this album comes highly recommended.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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