The Show: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
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Like Shaolin priests, Shaolin Death Squad seeks balance ó not between yin and yang but heavy metal and classical.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Shaolin Death Squad

By Anthony Mariani

There are concept albums, and then thereís Shaolin Death Squadís Intelligent Design.

Having something to do with the Christian Rightís illogical argument against evolution, the Denton bandís year-old disc moves like deep thinking: contemplative and light one minute, defensive and heavy the next. The rhythm section of drummer Black Ninja and bass player White Dragon buzz and flutter around the tempo ó they tarry on the beat only occasionally. But the playing is never abstract. Itís circuitous, yes, but itís always easy to hear and fun to follow.

Guitarists Green Dragon and Red Dragon churn out loud, muddy riffs, add bright color, and solo, as rock guitarists should. But SDS makes, in the best sense of the term, contemporary prog-rock, and unlike in indie-rock or bluesy stuff, in prog, the guitar isnít the star. Itís an equal member of a team of instruments. Early prog-rock bands, like Genesis, King Crimson, and ELP (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer), thought of themselves as mini-orchestras, highly skilled ensembles whose players complemented one another rather than supporting the lead guitarist or singer (or the dude playing the Mellotron). To the untrained ear or casual listener, Steve Hackett (Genesis), Robert Fripp (King Crimson), and Greg Lake donít seem to be doing much. But listen closely and youíll notice, to paraphrase Mies, God in the details. The same could be said for Dragons Red and Greenís work on Intelligent Design, which, like most of the album, falls somewhere between metallic rock and classical. (You can only wonder how great the disc would have sounded with a little Mellotron up in there. Too bad the giant organs are so hard to find and maintain.)

The White Swan is an oddly feminine name for a frontman, but his penchant for the operatic and the bandís commitment to the theatrical are part of the SDS mystique; the band arose from the ashes of Djugdish, a regular Wreck Room fave. Except for the Black Ninja, who dresses like, well, a black ninja, the members of Shaolin Death Squad all wear white kabuki masks and kung fu vestments. Only a cynic would indict the Dentonites for being sarcastic. If thereís one thing that the debate over where weíre from and how we got here needs, itís balance, and achieving and providing balance is the Shaolin priestís chief purpose.

Sat w/Fallen From the Nest at Haileyís, 122 Mulberry St, Denton. 940-323-1160.


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