Shapeshifter (JPN)
Dark Ritual


4.0
excellent


Release Date: 01/07/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Quick rite of hardcore: fix for your attention span, grind for your bones

Does darkness always have to sound ‘dark’? Or, sometimes, does it just slap like a trawler’s worth of dead fish? I’m unsure and unconcerned; for all Shapeshifter’s new record Dark Ritual kind-of invites such questions, its fleeting playtime is so bracing that this is probably the wrong way in. The right way? Pah, not hard to find: this record bulldozes the damn door down, taking most of the house with it in surely one of the most blistering performances of the year so far (this whole week of it). Let’s parse it: Shapeshifter play a mean, mean strain of hardcore that flirts cursively with blackened hardcore, swaps scents with noise, and fucks like Hercules with grind. They cut no corners on speed or savagery, yet they’re deceptively approachable thanks to well-formed songwriting and considerate pacing; Dark Ritual’s appeal is far from grind-exclusive and I think it can make a strong case to an audience outside its niche.

It’s also a bloody good record. Are you satisfied?

If not, two things in particular jump out at me. The first is that Dark Ritual sounds nigh on perfect: I’ve seen it tagged (fairly) as sludge and crust, which set me up for surprise when I took in just how crisply produced it is. Loud (shock horror) and dry are the first words that come to mind; it’s fiercely kinetic from moment-to-moment, but avoids bloating itself out or making a show of its superficial qualities. This sparks joy. Compare, for instance, to genre darlings Portrayal of Guilt, who only a couple months ago brought us a bemusing showcase of crust and sludge’s’ murkiest aesthetics as camouflage for deep-running songwriting failings and edgy pandering. Not so here: Shapeshifter’s sound is jagged and raw, leaving it to the intensity of their performances to flesh out the album’s brutality. Granted, this relationship leaves little room for sloppy recordings or limp ideas, but this is vindicated because neither is to be found. Dark Ritual it may be, but there are no skeletons in this closet.

On which note, the second thing comes in another rather pointless yet collaterally revealing question: where’s the ritual? This record’s violence and aggression are front and centre; it neither tries nor needs to saddle itself with the weight of ceremony or the protractedness of atmosphere. Any dark qualities on display here are channelled straight into energy; Shapeshifter don’t care to cloak themselves in gloom. What they absolutely do care for is noise, presented in dedicated interspersions and afforded a piercing level of clarity by the production. These forays technically occupy an interlude role, but feel so essential to the album’s wider knack for space and pace control that this category is overly derogatory. Space and pace, say? Uh, yes - if there’s a whiff of the odd clandestine micro-ritual here, it’s the degree to which the record continually refreshes itself without majorly varying its approach. Albums like this are so often so-much-so-fast that it’s a waste of time to try navigating them song-by-song, but Dark Ritual have a keen sense for when their audience should be catching their breath. Their noise-buffers are impeccably placed, perfect for recharging that precious attention span in between the flurry and fury of each cut. By the start of each track I found myself as eager to soak up more specific details as to get carried away by the onslaught. Maybe this record lacks ritualistic mystique, but with such a tangible shape, would it really benefit from skulking in darkness?




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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 8th 2022


44131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What is it?

It is the first good album of the year!

This goes hard and is fun and scary and you should hear it now it is not very long

Digging: Astrobrite - Pinkshinyultrablast

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2022


3798 Comments


but i'm in a pop punk mood

CottonSalad
January 8th 2022


1430 Comments


sounds like it's worth a check! Hoping it's a good companion to that Fushitsusha you've got me living inside rn lol

Digging that album art too

Digging: Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist

Demon of the Fall
January 8th 2022


22453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

17 minutes fits nicely into my HEAR EVERYTHING mantra for ‘22 so will chk thx…



sounds good too maybe 🤔



Also… ‘Review by giving 4 reviews to albums only 3 people in the world have heard’



yes?

Digging: Dark Millennium - Acid River

CottonSalad
January 8th 2022


1430 Comments


lol Demon

i'm really into the vocalist and dbeat drumming so far...and some of these bass tones are nastyyyy (Hereditary)

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 8th 2022


44131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hahaha I cannot imagine this pairing with Fushitsusha, but am glad you're vibing

Love the art too, had a line in about it but lopped it off to keep this boi skinny

cvlts
January 8th 2022


9762 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

review intrigued me to give this a listen. not enough hardcore reviewed on this site anymore.



the album artwork could've warned me but i still chuckled at how blatant this rips off magrudergrind's self titled lol

Digging: Trenches - Reckoner

dimsim3478
January 9th 2022


8987 Comments


http://twitter.com/ungulatestokyo/status/1480048178531815425

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
January 9th 2022


7251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The gloomy bluesy edge to some of these riffs is just nom nom nom delicious. Good find Johnny boi, pos.

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
January 9th 2022


7251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also neato that the band tweeted this out

DDDeftoneDDD
January 9th 2022


19607 Comments


Shaaaaape shiiifter
Spirit whiiiiispeeeer
Guide me through this blaaack sourceryyyy

Digging: Dope Lemon - Rose Pink Cadillac

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 9th 2022


5598 Comments


Interesting stuff. The solid production definitely helps the listen.

Digging: Papir - 7

botb
January 9th 2022


15048 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Japanese hc is some of the dopest on the planet, will check

FadedSun
January 9th 2022


2885 Comments


It was okay, but nothing special.

Uzumaki
January 9th 2022


3519 Comments


Fuck yeah, botb.

Figures the week I find out about it I see Johnny’s already found it AND wrote about them.

TheMonster
January 9th 2022


157 Comments


"It is the first good album of the year!"

park zero - Proxy
Skeleton Tree Trimming - PLAGUE MUSIC
Alphabet Holds Hostage - again and so soon
Flyby Uniform - Phantasm
Mucoid - UFO

Other good ones.

botb
January 10th 2022


15048 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah this is sweet. It’s somewhere between palm and friendship stylistically but it settles into a real cool groove. I think the noise elements are used kind of sloppily and feel tacked on last minute but it doesn’t really detract from the record overall

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 10th 2022


44131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmm, I feel the noise parts are defs p minimum effort in and of themselves, but given that they don't exactly stick around I'm a big fan of what they do for the pacing

"how blatant this rips off magrudergrind's self titled lol"

lmao, not familiar but I'll peep this, cheers

Demon of the Fall
January 10th 2022


22453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah the noise adds to the overall experience for me.



Pretty good shit right here, worth the squeeze.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
January 10th 2022


10208 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

this is sweet!



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