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Shaolin Death Squad

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Shaolin Death Squad Five Deadly Venoms album cover
4.00 | 152 ratings | 8 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Romanza (1:11)
- Five Deadly Venoms :
2. Centipede (4:10)
3. Snake (6:10)
4. Scorpion (5:07)
5. Lizard (5:16)
6. Toad (4:38)
7. Mischief and Epiphany (3:51)
8. Let Us Welcome the Actors (4:59)
9. Last Stand (3:08)
10. Farewell (3:47)
11. Peace Be Upon You (2:20)

Total Time 44:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Androo O'Hearn / vocals, synth
- David O'Hearn / guitar
- Kenny Lovern / guitar
- Gary Thorne / bass
- Matt Thompson / drums

Releases information

Inspired by the martial arts film "Five Deadly Venoms" directed by Chang Cheh.

Artwork: James Jenkins, Adriane Lovern

CD Do For It Records ‎(2010, US)

Thanks to peccatum for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD Five Deadly Venoms ratings distribution

(152 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD Five Deadly Venoms reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Ranging from acoustic to heavier part of metal, this album is pleasant addition to everyone's collection, because it cannot offend. Well, I fear that not every one of you will like this as I do, but that's part of the business. Important thing is to minimize the losses of those, who will not like it.

This is a story about Kung fu. By strange coincidence, I was training certain variant, one style called Hung Gar for years, so my relationship to everything related to this "thing" is great. Even to these cheesy 70's movies. Yes, even to these, you've heard correctly (and again yes, I use "hear" in online conversation through written words too ... which in turn takes me to point where I state that I use written as "typed" too. Whev).

Melodic to the bone, but not being full of clichés and pathetic, this music provides unique Prog Metal experience, because within length of one song, it sometimes (d)evolves to Rock realms, or even switching sides like WW2 spy when it's necessary. Mischief and Epiphany would be perfect example of this unusual behavior. And because of this "variety in style", diversity in music experience they're offering and eclectic elements on this album, I have no choice but to give this the best rating,

5(-), with minor flaws like some sounds I don't like, some metal parts are too similar, nothing big.

Review by J-Man
5 stars Another Serious Contender For Album of the Year 2010

2010 has been a year filled with surprises. Whether it is the return of a long-lost project, the release of a stunning debut, or an unexpected masterpiece, it will surely be a year to remember. Five Deadly Venoms definitely falls into the last category for me. Though I'd heard of Shaolin Death Squad before, it wasn't until this album that I would give them a proper listen. Although I sincerely regret not being a fan during their debut album's release, I am so glad I finally jumped into Shaolin Death Squad's fanbase. Five Deadly Venoms, the band's sophomore album, is one of the best releases to come out this year. Shaolin Death Squad is one of the few bands in this day and age who can take traditional progressive metal and form it into something completely new and unheard of, while still managing to wear their influences on their sleeve. It's this striking sense of originality and distinction, perfectly blended with poignant lyrics and unforgettable music, that makes Five Deadly Venoms an essential masterpiece. Although there've been a ton of great albums in 2010, I can confidently rank Five Deadly Venoms up there with the best of the best. It's rare that I hear an album this superb, so I'll do my best to express how great Five Deadly Venoms truly is. I've got a good feeling that words won't do this terrific masterpiece any justice, though.

Shaolin Death Squad's sound is awfully hard to pinpoint. Although they surely fall under the progressive metal umbrella, they are quite eclectic. The biggest influences I hear are Faith No More, Pain of Salvation, and Dream Theater, but there's also an avant-garde touch of Mr. Bungle here and there as well. One thing that's really cool about Five Deadly Venoms are the Chinese influences throughout the album. Tracks 1-6 form a conceptual suite based on the Hong Kong cult martial arts film, "Five Venoms", directed by Chang Cheh in 1978. Another interesting sidenote is that the first song, Romanza, is actually an anonymous Spanish song. The final song, Peace Be Upon You, is a traditional Jewish song as well. This just adds an even wider range of influences into Shaolin Death Squad's sound, and it works terrifically.

As I've previously mentioned, the first 6 songs (with or without the brief intro) form a conceptual suite entitled Five Deadly Venoms, and it's an absolute tour de force. Every song by itself is a masterpiece, and when you put them together you get an even bigger masterpiece. This is surely among one of the best prog suites to come out in recent times. The other songs are equally as fantastic, with Farewell being my favorite from the second half of the album. The wordless Mischief and Epiphany is a highlight as well, combining Mr. Bungle-like carnival sounds on the keyboards and more metal-oriented guitar riffing. If I were to recommend hearing just one song on Five Deadly Venoms, it would probably be Centipede, but hearing just one song off of this masterpiece is criminal. This must be enjoyed as a full album, even though every track can still confidently stand alone. My only complaint about this entire album (and it's a good complaint to have) is that the running time is just shy of 45 minutes. Although this is surely an adequate length, I would've really been in heaven if this were over an hour. I know that Shaolin Death Squad is one of the few bands who could pull off an album like this without filler.

The musicianship is incredible. Although there are no shred-fests, every musician shows their chops throughout the album. The highlight of Shaolin Death Squad for me is probably the vocals from Androo O'Hearn (The White Swan). He has an absolutely marvelous voice that can compare with the likes of Daniel Gildenlöw and Mike Patton, which is no easy feat. The vocal harmonies with the other members are also amazing. As a whole, the vocal department of this band is honestly one of the best I've ever heard. Androo also does a great job as the keyboard player for Shaolin Death Squad. The drums from Matt Thompson (Black Ninja), who's also played with King Diamond, are great as well. He seamlessly combines complexity and power with subtlety and is an absolute joy to listen to. The two guitarists, David O'Hearn (Red Dragon) and Kenny Lovern (Black Scorpion), are great, highly diverse players. On this album you can find soaring solos, metal riffing, melodic picking, and even funky playing styles. Finally, the bass playing from Gary Thorne (White Dragon) provides a great foundation for the music. He has some truly terrific basslines throughout Five Deadly Venoms.

The production is great. It's clean and polished enough to hear everything perfectly, but there's still a bit of rawness that keeps the album from sounding over-produced. This is the type of sound that's absolutely perfect for Shaolin Death Squad's music.


When I went into hearing Five Deadly Venoms, I can't say that I expected a masterpiece. But when all is said and done, it's hard for me to call this album anything other than a masterpiece. When I say that Shaolin Death Squad is a prog metal band to keep your eyes on, I really mean it. These guys are some of the most talented musicians in the scene right now, and Five Deadly Venoms is sheer proof of this. If you like Faith No More, Pain of Salvation, Mr. Bungle, and Dream Theater, this is an absolutely essential album. This is a very confident 5 stars and a job well done on the band's part. I don't give out this rating frequently, so it's clear that Shaolin Death Squad has really earned it. I've said almost 1,000 words just to make this one point - buy this album. You won't regret it.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album took me by quite some surprise with its diversity and freshness. Don't let the "prog metal" label fool you: there is a lot more to this than metal music. Though I find myself reminded of many bands from the 70s and 80s (THIN LIZZY, UTOPIA, ADAM ANT, IRON MAIDEN, et al.), I also find myself hearing a lot of similarities to OCEANSIZE, ORPHANED LAND, KHATSATURJAN, UNITOPIA, and even MOON SAFARI ("Romanza," Let Us Welcome the Actors," and "Farewell"). I really enjoy this album--it makes me smile, I love theatric vocals, and it is full of shifts and changes--not a true hardcore metal album at all. A very solid four star production.

Favorite songs: "Snakes," "Toads," "Let us Welcome the Actors," and "Farewell."

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Five Deadly Venoms is my first Shaolin experience and I must say this has been a most pleasing revelation. The band operates in the Prog Metal zone but they sure make a fresh appearance there. I might add that such is not hard in a rather stale scene that has never done much for me, Psychotic Waltz excepted.

One name should dominate any review of this album: Faith No More. The obvious reasons being the brilliant Mike Patton-alike vocals and the quirky eclectic nature of their metal. The sound is somewhat different though, scarcer on the keyboards then Angel Dust for instance and without the bouncy funk/crossover influences from Epic. So what's left is definitely more metal-ish, but it's adventurous metal where anything can and does happen in the songs. Some of these non-metallic side-steps are quite prog, sometimes reminding of Gentle Giant, other diversions are the Zappa-esque RIO influences.

Despite the scary name of this band, people with grunt allergy can rest assured, there's nothing but clean vocals here. Also AOR-skeptics like myself should not be afraid, this band is a cool bunch and won't compromise their songwriting with sing-along pomp rock.

Shaolin Death Squad are wilder then Faith No More but not as insane as Mr Bungle. That makes it an excellent album for me, recommended to all metal fans in need for a fresh and credible chunk of steel that sits outside of the Extreme Metal realm.

Review by Negoba
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.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Five Deadly Venoms" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Texas based progressive metal act Shaolin Death Squad. The album was released through Do For It Records in January 2010. Itīs the successor to "Intelligent Design" from 2006 and the band members still have stage names like The White Swan, Black Ninja (who is actually King Diamond drummer Matt Thompson), and Red Dragon. As far as I can see thereīs been one lineup change as bassist White Dragon has been replaced by Praying Mantis. The lyrical themes are also still about martial arts and asian myths and cystoms. Itīs a pretty unique lyrical concept and band image, and off the top of my head I can only think of one other artists who has a similar lyrical approach and thatīs US death metal act Dim Mak. About half of the songs on the album form a concept story inspired by the 1978 martial arts film "Five Deadly Venoms" directed by Chang Cheh.

Stylistically the material on "Five Deadly Venoms" continue the progressive metal style with alternative rock/metal leanings which was also heard on "Intelligent Design". Lead vocalist The White Swan has a voice and singing style which is similar to Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk...etc.) and itīs impossible not to mention especially Faith No More as an influence on Shaolin Death Squad. When that is said it is mostly the vocals which point in that direction. Shaolin Death Squad have a sound which is very much their own. They donīt come from the Dream Theater school of progressive metal, and itīs actually hard to pin down their influences (other than Mike Patton/Faith No More). Itīs not overtly technical progressive metal with many instrumental runs. Instead itīs more focused on atmosphere, storytelling, drama, and heavy riffs and atmosphere enhancing keyboards, but most of all strong melodies. "Five Deadly Venoms" is an incredibly melodic album throughout.

The musicianship is strong on all posts, although The White Swan has a tendency to steal the show with his powerful, melodic, and passionate vocals. "Five Deadly Venoms" featutures a detailed, powerful, and well sounding production job, which suits the music perfectly, and the only issue I can find about this album is that for all the focus on melody throughout the album, itīs not always an immediately catchy or memorable release and the tracks generally take time to learn to tell apart. So thereīs some work cut out for the listener. You donīt get everything served on a plate for you, but I guess that should sound intriguing to most fans of progressive metal. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Latest members reviews

5 stars ------- -------------------------5/5------------------------------------- 'Five Deadly Stars' for 'Five Deadly Venom'. Innovation, creativity and execution at its cohesive best is how I will describe this one of a kind album by always amazing and unique S ... (read more)

Report this review (#979309) | Posted by siegese7en | Sunday, June 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If you're a fan of original, different-sounding Prog that incorporates a vast variety of musical styles blended together into catchy, enjoyable songs, then this album is definitely worth checking out! I've heard people compare Shaolin Death Squad to Mr. Bungle many times; it's accurate and yet o ... (read more)

Report this review (#280607) | Posted by TheMasterMofo | Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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