Album Review :
Shook Like Dead Men - The 5 Solas EP

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Band: Shook Like Dead Men
Album: The 5 Solas Ep
Label: Unsigned
Release: 8.16.13
Reviewer: Brody

  1. Slave < Master
  2. Tetelestai (Sola Fide)
  3. Soli Deo Gloria
  4. This Is How We Starve (Sola Scriptura)
  5. B.G.Y.A.S (Sola Gratia) [Feat. Nick Detty of Wolves At the Gate]

When listening to “The 5 Solas EP” by Shook Like Dead Men, I was reminded of my Freshman year in college. At the time, I was taking a (what I perceived as) menial Art 101 class that was simply a prerequisite.

I had always held the opinion that if the work was not pretty and pleasing to the eye, it could not possibly be art. That is until the class started to delve into Picasso.

While for the most part I can’t say I’m a fan of a lot of his work, one painting in particular stood out to me; “Guernica”. For those unfamiliar with the painting it retains a certain cartoon vibe,but it also depicts a pretty gruesome scene. While there is total chaos happening in the painting, the skilled hand that formed the lines and created the masterful work does not go unnoticed. And perhaps most importantly – the painting isn’t just meant to be something violent and shocking just for the heck of it. Picasso stated that the painting was meant to shine light on the horror that is war, depicting that horrific bombing of the village of Guernica, Spain.

In a similar fashion, Ohio natives Shook Like Dead Men have created a violent, chaotic, and shocking Ep that clocks in at a mere 17 minutes, ending just as quickly as it begins – much like the bomber planes that dismantled Guernica. However, in a similar fashion to the painting, the band hope to leave an impression that lasts as long as Picasso’s painting has and shed some light in the process.

The album begins with Slave < Master is unapologetically brutal, swinging out of the gates with frenzied drums and discords.  Vocalist Zack Barney obliterates his vocal chords as he unapologetically shouts, “Call me intolerant if you must/ But your beliefs are all lies if the Son of God is not who you trust/ You won’t see me backing down from the truth that’s been revealed to me/ To escape the wrath of God you must bow to the Son and confess he is King/ Christ the King”.

Tetelestai (Sola Fide) keeps the pace blistering. This track however, has a thrasher feel to it adding to the chaos with interesting guitar leads. The ”in your face” vibe of the music fits the confrontational lyrics that are traded back and forth by dueling screams.

Things slow down for Soli Deo Gloria. The once frantic guitars slow down to a droning pace, thick with reverb and atmosphere. Even more surprising are the clean vocals that break through the murkiness proclaiming, “Glory, glory to the Lord Almighty / To the One True God”. The clean vocals increase in strength with each reiteration, accompanied by soaring gang vocals.

This is How We Starve (Sola Scriptura) has some serious chops both musically and lyrically. The instruments are riff heavy, and reminded me of early The Chariot material. This song proves to have some of the best music from each member collectively. Lyrically the front man deals with people misusing the name of God for their own uses as he proclaims, “Men seek to hold position over us/ But with their words they look to overthrow the throne of God/ So the question becomes who’s side are you on?/ The creator of the world or the created rebel defaming His throne”.

Front man of Wolves at the Gate, Nick Detty makes a guest appearance in B.G.Y.A.S. making the vocal assault one to remember. Detty and Barney trade off vocals complementing each other perfectly. Detty contributes some of my favorite lyrics on the record, proclaiming, “But God/ Called me a son /While I hated him he looked down on me in grace and SHOWED ME Love /Before all time I had done nothing at all but he reached down for me and said THIS ONE’s mine”.

The main thing I found grating on me about this release was simply the fact that I felt a few of the tracks were under-developed, Slave < Master and This Is How We Starve (Sola Scriptura) simply felt like they were cut off a little too soon. This was especially disappointing for the later of the two songs, This is How We Starve, simply because it felt like it was just beginning to reach it’s potential as it ended.

Overall: Shook Like Dead Men have made massive steps ahead of their last effort. They have clearly matured and have even thrown some curve balls into their sound. The bottom line is that like the aforementioned Picasso, “The 5 Solas EP” is more than just chaos. There is a work of art and a message laying beneath, waiting to be delved into.

RIYL: The Chariot | Dillinger Escape Plan | Not One is Upright