‘Shapeshifter: So Below’ marks the the end of Artio’s Shapeshifter saga; a saga which has seen the band grow and develop their sound.
The EP opens with ‘I Can’t Sleep’. This has a darkness in the sound which is chilling. It reflects what the song is about; it deals with the all too familiar human state of feeling overwhelmed in situations and the effects that those uncontrollable feelings can have on relationships and your own mental well being. It does this in a way that is so direct and clearly reflects personal experiences. Hearing these words is an intense experience.
Wonderful vocals from Hol. A sound that is dense (when it’s dense) with layer on layer of sound that rewards closer listening with those subtle and clever touches. When this is heavy it hits you with a power that is going to physically knock you over, and then it’s oh-so sweet as it becomes poppy. It’s seamless and sounds so right.
‘Queen Cobra’ is one fierce track; it does that loud/quiet alt-rock thing to the max. In the loud bits synth pummel you into submission over a riotous rhythm track – there is this recurring frankly scary synth noise that seems to encompass all known frequencies all at once. In the quiet bits – well it gets less frantic, more sweet, more tuneful. And Hol’s voice goes from full blown scream it out to mesmerisingly pure.
But wait, for there is more. What Artio haven’t lost is that ability to surprise with the way they put a song together. There are still those layers of sounds melded together, there are still those unexpected sounds that make you smile with their brilliant invention and creativity. There is a subtlety to the loud bits that adds that something very special, there is a kind of dense sparseness in the quiet bits that thrills.
The band explain that ”Queen Cobra’ is about becoming what those b*tches say you are, but in the way, they’d spit their dummy out about. Everyone likes to call you a snake when you move on and cut toxic friends off and thrive, but snakes are actually really cool. Everyone paints snakes as these evil animals, but they’re a top predator, no one gets in the way of the snake. so i’ll just become the Queen Cobra.’’
Next up is ‘The Good The Bad And The Rip Off’; a shift in feel. It’s poppier. It comes with a tune that rips your heart out. Hol’s vocals soar with power and energy. But there is the unexpected, out of this poppy sound comes a rip roaring rock break that takes you emotionally over the edge.
‘Spill Em Regina’ comes with a fantastic dual vocal – yet another development – and it adds a special feel to the track. Musically it’s a kind of heavy dance track; I dare you not to dance to this.
Closing track ‘As Above So Below’ is a slight return to their big synth pop sound. It’s beautiful. I have to admit I’m finding it hard to say exactly why I find it beautiful; part of it is definitely the vocals but beyond that I’m coming up empty for the reason why. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The other thing is that while I was listening to it I suddenly felt incredibly emotional. Again I have no particular reason for this, I just did.
This is an incredibly powerful EP. The tracks on it show that the band are still evolving and developing. Does this being the end of the Shapeshifter saga mean that the band have reached the end of their development? I think not; this is a band who just can’t help getting better and better. What’s to come next? Who knows but I for one can’t wait for their next steps onwards and upwards. In the meantime this EP is an absolute must listen.