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Shaolin Death Squad- Five Deadly Venoms


The new album was inspired by the 1978 cult martial arts film directed by Chang Cheh, “Five Deadly Venoms”. It has a total of eleven new tracks. 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.