Shaolin Death Squad
Five Deadly Venoms


4.5
superb

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
June 17th, 2010 | 30 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Red alert for the fans of Mr. Bungle.

There's no doubt that originality is a chief quality that should define good progressive music. Although the influences of Texan avant-garde act Shaolin Death Squad are not very difficult to trace, their music remains dissimilar to any other artist recording today. This is mainly due to the fact that Mr. Bungle don't exist any more. Shaolin Death Squad strive to achieve the same level of brilliance exploring precisely the same genre of experimental rock. Their style is more theatrical though as they tend to focus on Chinese martial arts, which finds its direct reflection not only in the name of the band, but also in their stage presence. The traditional Chinese masks and kung-fu outfits already signal they're putting a quite refreshing spin on progressive music.

Their third album, "Five Deadly Venoms" is inspired by the 1978 cult martial arts film of the same title shot by Chang Cheh. The first half of the album directly focuses on the subject matter concerning the movie. The quality of songwriting is strikingly consistent throughout this part with Shaolin Death Squad blending heavy metal riffing with oriental keyboards and genuinely haunting melodies. This approach really works wonders keeping the material both catchy and structurally varied. With frequent mood changes within one song; the vocals, delivered by as many as three singers, are also appropriately diverse ranging from manic chanting and hard-rock screaming to supremely melodic midrange theatrical passages very reminiscent of Mike Patton. This versatility combined with intricate vocal melodies is definitely the album's selling point.

While the first six tracks on the record would make for an excellent conceptual EP, the rest feels largely unfocused since it's less vocal-driven. The notable exceptions involve: lofty sing-along ballad "Farewell" that unravels in a quite surprising manner; as well as highly theatrical, yet pleasantly dark "Let Us Welcome The Actors". Other than those two, the remaining compositions fail to gel: the ska-influenced instrumental "Mischief And Epiphany" wears thin rather quickly, and "Last Stand" is the one and only true blunder on the whole album wasting its initially intriguing orchestral motif by implementing nonsensical heavily-distorted vocals.

All in all, "Five Deadly Venoms" marks a significant improvement over realeased almost four years ago "Intelligent Design". Even though Shaolin Death Squad have moved in a more accessible direction resigning from death metal influences in favor of a more melody-driven approach, they still retain the trademark features of their refreshing style crafting the most mature album in their career. It isn't their magnum opus yet, however they are definitely right on their way to create one in the near future. For now, "Five Deadly Venoms" seems sufficiently unique to please every fan of ambitious progressive music.

Standout tracks: Centipede, Scorpion, Lizard, Farewell.



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user ratings (31)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another review and another obscure band/album. I'm so underground. ;) Anyway, it's my 10th review so I'm having a little anniversary. Comments appreciated.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Apollo
June 17th 2010


10316 Comments


yeah good review. I will check this out as Mr.Bungle rules faces.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Seriously, when I first heard "Farewell" on the radio I thought it was some lost and found Mr. Bungle gem. One of my top songs of the year so far.

jofafrazze
July 1st 2010


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think it's a good review, but there's one thing. Everybody keeps talking about Mr. Bungle as soon as Shaolin Death Squad comes up, but I must disagree. I think Mr. Bungle's just plain silly, but I love SDS.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks a lot. I only used the Mr. Bungle reference to drag more people on this site into listening to this disc. You cannot refute that there are some obvious similarities between these two bands though (most notably the vocals). Plus, SDS often play Mr. Bungle covers during their concerts. Personally, I think SDS are quite unique on this album, which I clearly stated in the review.

Bitchfork
July 1st 2010


7584 Comments


never say "avant-garde music." It comes across as a genre, when really it's an adjective, as well as a crappy misnomer.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

All right. I know exactly what you mean. I've changed it, but I wouldn't be so traditional when it comes to describing music.

Bitchfork
July 1st 2010


7584 Comments


It's not traditional, per se, it's technical.

Experimental is fine though because it's been assigned by so many critics as an adjective, that and it doesn't mean "advance guard" and never described militant action nor did it ever suggest there was a correlation between innovation, intelligence, and artistic value.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah. It has all these correlations when you know French. I guess "avant garde music" is an established English term. It is very fitting in the case of this outfit. Their music is described as avant-garde metal (which seems to be a subgenre of progressive metal) most frequently.

Jethro42
September 18th 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review dude. Thanx for introducing me to the band. And Spock's Beard - 'X' is very, very good after only one spin. I'm sure it's gonna be 4.5 or something. I think it's a contender to become my favorite Spock's Beard album. It's that good!!

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 18th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks man. I've never been high on Spock's Beard, but their latest album really took me by surprise. Especially From The Darkness is mindblowing.

Jethro42
September 18th 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what are the highlights on here, plz

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The first 6 tracks are excellent. Plus, Let Us Welcome the Actors and of course Farewell. So the whole disc with the exception of 3 songs.

vanderb0b
September 19th 2010


3473 Comments


Nice review, you've got my vote. Mr. Bungle reference convinced me to get this.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cool. They are one of these bands that definitely deserve much more recognition. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Jethro42
September 22nd 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Band became my new drug. Listening to Intelligent Dreaming for the very first time. Second track is almost ending, I'm now ready to listen the 3rd track. First two tracks were amazing...God what a journey

Jethro42
September 22nd 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay, 'Intelligent Design' is a masterpiece 5/5, and arguably one of my all time fav albums.
Fan-F*cking-Tastik album/band..!!!

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah. Intelligent Design is also really good. I prefer this one though. Farewell is one of the best
songs of the year.

Puzzles
December 17th 2010


3065 Comments


haha holy shit, I think I've found where Twelve Foot Ninja got all their ideas.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
December 17th 2010


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bravo Sherlock. Given that they implement the same oriental influences into their music, Shaolin tend to be more prog metal oriented, while Twelve Foot Ninja often verges into math metal territory. Both acts are insane though. Both albums ended up in my top 10 of 2010.



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