"Bottom of a Bottle" became a major party hit in 2003 just as nu-metal was phasing out. SMILE EMPTY SOUL's ballsy "do it for the drugs" mantra threw enough shock factor into a song that would've otherwise rang as a blatant LINKIN PARK knockoff to propel the song onto the US charts. Love it or hate it, "Bottom of a Bottle", along with SMILE EMPTY SOUL's other hits, "Silhouettes" and "Nowhere Kids", from their self-titled debut represented a final threshold when hard rock still held commercial feasibility. Said album struck Gold in 2005 at more than 500,000 units, after all.Not long after its overnight success, SMILE EMPTY SOUL watched drummer Derek Gledhill exit the band. Replacement Dominic Weir boarded a sinking ship, as a falling out with the band's one-time label Lava Records, prompted a shelving of its 2005 album, "Anxiety". Weir left, Jake Kilmer entered and SMILE EMPTY SOUL—represented by original members Sean Danielsen and Ryan Martin—has kept on plugging along. (Along the way, Danielsen released a couple of solo EPs and assembled WORLD FIRE BRIGAGE.) Now another SMILE EMPTY SOUL EP appears. The release follows up the bands 2013 LP "Chemicals". "Shapeshifter" is a six-song short player with three new cuts and re-recordings of their best-known singles, say ‘em with me: "Bottom of a Bottle", "Silhouettes" and "Nowhere Kids". Reportedly a reissue of SMILE EMPTY SOUL's debut album is caught in negotiation limbo, prompting these dust-offs for "Shapeshifter". The new versions are sparkling replications of the originals; there's no point analyzing them here. What's left are the three new cuts: "All In My Head", "Running Out Of Something" and "Just One Place". The bass-swaying "Running Out of Something" will readily stick in the ears and brains of SMILE EMPTY SOUL fans, breezing along with its squally melody and rocking-chair tempo. Jake Kilmer's tappity rhythm throughout the first couple verses of "Just One Place" gives the song more urgency than it delivers, albeit fans will be settled nicely into its euphony. Flirting with country on the verses of the natty "All In My Head", SMILE EMPTY SOUL hits the pedals on the scratchy if hooky choruses.
It's been a good bit since anyone in hard rock, much less SMILE EMPTY SOUL, has rung Gold. "Shapeshifter" has Gold-selling tunes on it, which is to your interest if you're trying to shag down "Bottom of a Bottle" to jack your frat cred. Otherwise, it's pedestrian, though well-polished stuff that no longer smarmily does it for the drugs. Consider that a conundrum or a catharsis depending on your values.