Shapeshifter – The System Is A Vampire – Review

Artist: Shapeshifter

Release: The System Is A Vampire

Label: Truetone Records

‘We are fearless vampire killers’ – That’s the word from Shapeshifter front-man PDigsss (a.k.a. Paora Apera) stamping the position of the genre-smashing Soul ‘n’ Bass outfit after the release of their long anticipated new album, The System Is A Vampire. In a world currently dominated by vampires of the pasty, oversized-jawed, sparkles-in-sunlight variety, the album stands as an expression of defiance – after a decade striving in the music industry the Shapeshifter boys aren’t standing for any more shit.

Thematically, TSIAV is a step up from the pacific soul enhanced break-beats and conscious energy delivered on Soulstice – staying true to the Shapeshifter vibe but drawing on a darker undercurrent 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 radio-friendly, Dutchies. Pivotal track System provides not only the title to the album – foreshadowed by the brooding dub of Warning it 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. This live essence pervades the entire recording – thanks largely to live drum recording sessions in a cliff-top barn reflecting the pounding surf of Raglan beaches – and it is especially noticeable on the twisted instrumental piece, Tokyo.

The wide range of styles influencing the album (including bands such as Kings Of Leon and Led Zeppelin) is further exposed due to the extent of fretwork from ex-metaller Sam ‘Sambora’ Trevethick and the synth-heavy, hip-hop beats of Fire featuring Electric Puha from The Sunshine Sound System. After all this, soul is still the dominant currency of the album, coming through none more so than on Dutchies follower, Lifetime, which builds around another Devin Abram’s specialty saxophone line to deliver the love in true Shapeshifter fashion. TSIAV 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. The fruition of TSIAV begs the question posed in Warning – ‘Where do we go from here?’

Joe Dodgshun.

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