Review Summary: We are fearless vampire killers
When you've been gone from the scene for a few years, its always a good idea to lay down claims upon your return. Like a big case of “am I still relevant”, many are the bands who upon their long anticipated return spout the usual check list of hype prose. Unless of course, you're Shapeshifter; who after finding massive amounts of critical acclaim sent their way over their genre bending lp Soulstice
had, for the most part, disappeared completely off the radar, but not before sparking an emergence of similar acts intent on capitalizing on their wholly original and very unique local stylings. So standing up as a statement of defiance did Pdigsssss and the boys return to the fold, proclaiming their dominance over the scene that they almost single handedly spawned; and instead of throwing the typical diatribe of their peers at us they opted instead, to turn the focus onto the groups they deemed unworthy, the groups who found themselves a rich muscial artery in Shapeshifter and decided to suck it clean. “We are fearless vampire killers”; its a statement that while somewhat childish carries a lot of weight behind it given what Shapeshifer are capable of. And its here, on The System Is A Vampire
that the boys remind us just how big of a rush Soulstice
was, how every young kiwi man's summer was essentially defined by it. Now, the boys are here to take back their crown.
Instead of continuing the vibes of '05, Vampire
finds the boys sinking into a more grittier and darker soundscape, stepping up from the pacific soul enhanced break-beats and conscious energy delivered on Soulstice
. It stays true to the Shapeshifter sound, but draws on a much darker undercurrent, always lying just under the surface, seeking to sketch out the negative energy perceived in the system that is the music industry. Although you shouldn’t expect the sunny euphoria experienced previously with tracks like 'Electric Dream', P Digsss’s soaring vocals feature stunningly to uplift focal points such as the latter part of 'Twin Galaxies', 'Longest Day', and the brilliantly progressive and expertly composed 'Dutchies'. Pivotal track 'System', foreshadowed by the brooding dub of 'Warning', proceeds to warp and evolve into a psychedelic explosion of riffage, capturing the essence of the album in a snapshot and encapsulating the live sound Shapeshifter have long sought to capture in the studio. This live essence pervades the entire recording, thanks largely to live drum recording sessions, and it is especially noticeable on the twisted instrumental piece 'Tokyo'.
There are a wide range of styles that find themselves seeping throughout the course of the album, from the surprising: the crazed fretwork from ex-metaller Sam ‘Sambora’ Trevethick; to the expected: the synth-heavy, hip-hop beats of 'Fire' featuring Electric Puha from The Sunshine Sound System. After all this, soul is still the dominant force of the album, coming through none more so than on 'Lifetime', which builds around another of Devin Abram’s specialty saxophone lines that delivers the love in true Shapeshifter fashion. The System Is A Vampire
is overall not as instantly accessible as its predecessor, Soulstice
, but given time and in the context of the entire record, it reveals another considered and passionate aural affair that is guaranteed to hook you one way or another. That crown is going to be right where it belongs for a long time.