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EP Review: Smile Empty Soul – Shapeshifter


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Some bands from the 90’s and early 00’s have changed and evolved their sound over the years, bending with the ever-shifting demand that is the music industry. Not Smile Empty Soul. Ironclad in that iconic 90’s alternative-grunge sound, the band has been steadfast over the years as proven by their latest release, Shapeshifter, available now. The six-track EP includes three new songs and classic DVD footage as well as three re-recorded favorites from their self-titled debut album, which is still tied up in legal red tape due to a years-long dispute with a past label.

Smile Empty Soul is a three-piece LA band that formed in 1998, featuring current members Sean Danielsen on vocals and guitars, Ryan Martin on bass, and Jake Kimer on drums. Since their debut, the band has released six full-length albums, with their self-titled debut album reaching gold status in the US. The trio has also performed more than 30 national tours and endured countless ups and downs, all while marching to the beat of their own drum and maintaining control of their music, vision, and integrity.

Smile Empty Soul cites their fans as the inspiration behind this special EP/DVD collection of Shapeshifter. Fans have been asking for the self-titled debut album for years, driving the band to give them what they wanted while also providing new material, a DVD containing a music video, a short documentary style film from the making of the EP, and a behind-the-scenes video covering years of touring, studio sessions, music video shoots, and more.

“All In My Head” kicks off Shapeshifter with a slow and grungy beat that turns suddenly bitter during the chorus. The song features a deep resentment in the lyrics and a rather interesting breakdown of almost otherworldly guitars during the bridge that is quite captivating.

Coming in with a more upbeat tempo and that same 90’s grunge sound, is the next track, “Running Out Of Something.” Danielsen’s raspy vocals are a perfect complement to the lyrics as he sings about someone who has built a name on fallacy.

The last of the new songs on this EP, “Just One Place,” opens up with a somewhat panicked drum solo that is shortly complemented by a simple, yet equally distressed guitar riff. It conjures in me a sense of anxiety, like the world is rushing past and I’m standing still, too full of doubt to move.

Continuing right into the first of the three re-releases from Smile Empty Soul’s debut album, “Silhouettes” opens with an emotional acoustic intro. Danielsen’s passionate vocals convey the powerful and incredibly personal tale of living his own life, desperate to break away from the examples set by his parents. The song has a slow build to it, eventually coming to sweeping crescendo as Danielsen passionately yells out the chorus one final time.

“Nowhere Kids” is a song that lit the fires of rebellion in the hearts of the outcast millennial generation and still burns brightly in today’s social climate. Smile Empty Soul poured all of their bitter and angry emotions into this track to create an anthem that has stood the test of time.

The iconic breakout single, “Bottom Of The Bottle,” instantly transported me back to 2003. This song feels so much more matured now, but is just as passionate as it ever was. Here, the lyrics romanticize the act of downing drugs and alcohol to feel truly alive, though by doing so, the band manages to vilify the addictions.

Shapeshifter is a wonderful dose of nostalgia for any 90’s and early 00’s music lover. This EP combines the new with the old in a way that left me desperate for more. My only hope is that Smile Empty Soul has a full-length album in the works so that we won’t have to wait too long. Be sure to download the Shapeshifter EP over on iTunes or pick up a physical copy in stores. You can also stream the EP over on Spotify.

Compositions - 10
Breaking Ground - 9
Engagement - 10
Lyrical Voice - 10
Production - 10


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