I scooped up this album with the ghastly underwhelming "Scourge." I can sort of see where Xentrix would begin to think such a transition from thrash metal to the Machine Head imitations of their 1996 album would be a good idea. "Kin" is still pretty much heavy metal with some thrash sprinkles, but really the nine tracks on here are pretty much tired scraps of a genre going down the toilet. So little of substantive value here despite a sometimes convincing vocal performance out of Chris Astley.

"All Bleed Red" is about thrash as you'll find on here, and the only one worth keeping in my book. I do like how the band threw in a few different genres here, going for that "diversified" stance that many 90's bands had at this point in time. "See Through You" is basically the doom metal cub scouts, it resembles the genre well enough but it doesn't actually give me what I need to make it good. Not much atmopshere to the song, and its not varied enough to keep it interesting. Astley's vocals work well there, but its not enough to save the song from being more or less "meh." "The Order of Chaos" is quite decent too, but considering how many thrash bands I've listened to, how many heavy metal albums I've listened to, nothing here holds my interest.

Therein lies the critical flaw with this release. Its just too much "meh" jam packed into one album. It was 1992 after all, and there was alot of "meh" going around, the music scene had devoted itself to the art of the "meh" but this isn't exciting at all. Its basically the rehashes of better material played at a less interesting speed. The song title "Waiting" is quite appropiate for this album, and probably should have been the album's title. You're "Waiting" for this album to do something, but it's got "No More Time," and "Come Tomorrow" you will "Release" this utter pile of boredom into "The Abyss of Obscurity." That last one isn't an actual song on here, but it should have been because the band would have given you a mix 'n match word puzzle to describe exactly what to do once this finished playing. In fact, why not just title your album "Find 'All Bleed Red' Separately, and Ignore the Rest," giving the potential listener full warning of what is ahead. Even the cover art to this thing sucks, taking a photo of yourself for your album cover is about as basic as you can get and its hardly memorable.



Shawn James & The Shapeshifters - The Gospel According to Shawn James & The Shapeshifters


Fayetteville, Arkansas, is the home of many good things, and some nightmares. Of the latter, I'm thinking of current Democratic candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. Cripes, she makes me want to puke. Of the former, I'm thinking the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team, pretty good, and alumnus like Pat Summerall, among others. For something more interesting, you might want to add Shawn James and his Shapeshifters, truly an eclectic bunch of fellows.
Shawn James and the Shapeshifters Band Photo

Shawn James and the Shapeshifters

James and his Ozark Mountain hillbillies arrive with, if I count right, their fourth full length album, The Gospel According to Shawn James & The Shapeshifters, the third with original material. This has probably been overused, but being my first experience with the band, I don't really give a shit: "shapeshifters" is a good way to describe how James and his bearded cohorts mess with genre bending.

The core starting points seems to be some twist of simple and early heavy rock, like something out of the mid-Seventies, and classic Southern rock. But there are more layers put upon this: bluegrass, folk, stoner, country and swamp music. Much of the twist in the mix comes from the inclusion of banjo and violin (not classical as you can imagine), not to mention some steel guitar and Dobro. On top of all this is James' gruff and grizzly vocals. All these things are dug deep in the music like an Arkansas tick on the hind end of a hound dog.

Now as much as that description may sound so, after several spins, I'm not so sure how novel the Shawn James sound is. Many of the songs, eventually, start sounding the same. But some things stood out for me. One is the way the violin sounds, not like country or bluegrass, but infused with a Jean-Luc Ponty electric timbre. But within Just Because, you get both electric wildness and country twang. Much of the same could be said for the banjo. It's seems there for accent, one slightly higher in the register, even subtle at times. A good example is found in the center of The Sandbox when it's paired with both violin and sharp guitar riffs. Strange Days was a curious, interesting, tune: the heavy and southern rock twist, fuzzed out, and moving at the pace of power metal (which I'm sure these backwoods moonshiners never heard of). Finally, even with his grizzled, whiskey and roofing nails voice, Shawn James delivers with plenty of passion and soul.

While Shawn James and the Shapeshifters will never be my "go-to" southern rock band (I'll stick with Skynyrd), their sound invites some attention and interest. It's definitely better and more imaginative than half the auto-tuned polished pop being pumped out like so many widgets in Nashville. Listen HERE. You might like what you hear.





Melodic metal from Finland, offered by experienced musicians like Jani Liimatainen (guit, ex SONATA ARCTICA) or Timo Kotipelto (voc, STRATOVARIUS), waits to be heard. Like in the best melodic metal bands, huge melodies rule along with hard guitars and majestic keyboards. There's not much left to be improved. Especially the songwriting is absolutely high quality. Mostly mid tempo but at times also quite fast where needed: "Stormcrow" is an upcoming classic!


Listen: Cain's Offering - Stormcrow (Official Audio)


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