Five years after Keith and Jon made their debut as The Tak3down, the Phoenix, AZ duo has unveiled the aptly titled Shapeshifters EP; veering away from the grinding and abrasive metalcore of Sleepless in Bedlam, this new collection sees the band aiming for what might best be described as a more accessibly driven take on industrialized punk, each song filled with grimy and guttural guitar riffs, scorching electro passages, and a more melodic songwriting sensibility that would seem closer to pop than to punk if not for the rather rudimentary approach employed. The production overall is solid if unremarkable, bearing the D.I.Y. qualities inherent to The Tak3down’s punk predilections, but just polished enough that it’s better than the average demo; memories of Cynergy 67’s early recordings spring to this writer’s mind when hearing songs like “Wolves” with its anthemic chants and bouncy vocal stutters, the entrancing keys of “Before Midnight,” or the opening “Cryptic Burial,” the latter of which retains a layer of raspy shrieks and throaty growls to at least somewhat callback to the previous record. “A Dream Within a Dream” at least features some syncopated drum patterns and some jittery synths for a slightly more furious atmosphere, while “Skinwalkers” hits the listener with effects akin to machine guns and dive bombers, as if to paint a warlike picture in electronic sound. There’s a formulaic and punklike simplicity in the songs, each establishing a progression and repeating it almost entirely verbatim with little variation; some might see this as a boon given the brevity of the songs, and it probably works better in a live environment, but it does little entice repeated listening. There are enough catchy moments to indicate that Keith and Jon have some songwriting chops worth honing, but overall, Shapeshifters would have benefitted from having a more proficient or experienced producer at the helm.