Power of Metal.dk Review

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters
The Gospel According to Shawn James & The Shapeshifters
Style: Hard Rock
Release date: 07 April, 2015
Playing time: 39:42

Arkansas based rock band Shawn James & The Shapeshifters will be releasing their new album “The Gospel According to Shawn James & The Shapeshifters” on April 7th, 2015.
The self-proclaimed “Rock & Roar” band funded this album via Kickstarter and were able to meet and exceed their $10,000 goal with the help of their fans.  

With some of the fuzziest guitars I’ve heard in a while, we kick off the album with a very distinct melodic riff from the guitars. The heavy guitar intro dissipates into Shawn James' soulful voice singing “No Gods before me,” with light banjo accompaniment in the background.  With a combination of energetic guitar riffs and virtuosic fiddling, we quickly come to an end to the first track of the album.  

 There wasn’t too much variation in how they treated the music until more than halfway through the album. It was pretty much exclusively fuzzy distorted guitars playing in the lower register, moving around with slides while the vocals stuck to the same technique and timbre. This changes in “Lake of Fire”, where we hear a noticeably different tone from the guitar and a snippet of a melody from the fiddle. As we move through this song, we do end up with the same guitar sound, but the vocals are softer and the fiddle has a much more active role in the song than it did in the other ones. This change of pace is refreshing, especially at this point in the album where I was worried it might continue down the same road it had been earlier.  

 The tone of the album changes pretty drastically from this point forward. The fiddle plays a much more important role in the melody, and the guitars complement the voice in a very deliberate way. There are some very clever uses of motivic ideas being used as well.  inally, we’re able to hear a much softer side of Shawn James’ voice working in more independent ways.

A trap a lot of bands tend to fall into is that they’re forceful and energetic all the time without ever reaching a high or low point. I was worried that this would be the case with this album, but even after showing how intense they can get, they are able to take it even a step further, and it’s quite a jarring sound.  

When the band mellows out, they can really showcase their creepy side. Particularly notable in the final song on the album “The Sandbox”. The intro begins with a slow melody on the guitar that is eventually met with softer singing from Shawn James. The combination creates a very uneasy atmosphere and it is quite effective. The entire atmosphere of this song is kind of chilling and really acts as a great close to this album.  

The album is overall pretty good. The first half of the album feels a little drawn out considering how similar the songs are to each other, save for “Lost”. This creates a weird balance between the first and second half of the album for me, as the second half has a lot of diversity in its sound while the first is rather stagnant. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if it’s just how the album turned out. Either way, the album is good and certainly worth a listen.  

01. No Gods
Like Father Like Son
Wild Man
Strange Days
Lake of Fire
Just Because
Back Down
The Sandbox
Label: Independent
Distribution: Independent
Artwork rating: 85/100
Reviewed by: James Aaron
Date: 06 April, 2015
Website: www.shawnjamesmusic.com