Shabti’s technically devastating hybrid of black and death metal blasts on ‘Trembling and Shorn’

Photo by Joe Orifice

A bunch of us just did a trip from Pittsburgh to NYC to see the mighty Ulver (no review, sorry!), and along our excursion we discussed progressive music and how it’s been bastardized over the years by cheese and wankery and that the good stuff gets caught in that hell. Same goes for technical death and black metal, as so many bands try to wow you with skill that they leave their hearts behind.

I’m often hesitant to jump into a record that has that “technical” tag because I’ve been burned by way too many records that are recital pieces rather the type of metal albums I enjoy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But a deep dive into Shabti’s second record “Trembling and Shorn” provided no such worries go into the music based on a few things. First, the band contains members of groups including Falls of Rauros, Thrawsunblat, and Obsidian Tongue who I long have admired, and because their first record “Paracusia” was a solid one when it dropped six years ago. Now, the band—guitarist/vocalist Rob Cook, bassist Brendan Hayter, drummer Ray Capizzo—is back with their bloody, sharpened tools and their devastating serving of their death and black metal hybrid that should twist your mind grapes the same way as artists such as Krallice, Spectral Voice, and Anicon do so well.

“Shrouded and Veiled” begins the record with ripping intensity, menacing growls, and riffs encircling and mystifying. Vicious screams and tricky playing combine, all the while you’re being lulled into a trap from which there is no escape. Leads flow though, the bass bends like rubber, and the roars blast back in, leaving you flattened. “Seven Billion Souls” has guitars sprawling, exploding while they crunch. Immersive growls gurgle, while a melodic fury is unleashed, blasting shards of glass all over. Shrieks and growls combine into one monster as the leads unveil drama, and you’re swept under their waves of madness. Gravelly growls mar while the bass slinks, bringing the song to a smearing end. “Sanctify” has a calculated start before it opens its jaws and swallows you whole. The drums consume as the growls lay waste, with the track getting thrashy and mean as it goes along. The intensity continues to pick up at the end, with the leads sweeping and the song ending in a void of noise.

“The Oracle and the Architect” explodes with a pure death assault that has guitars soaring and vicious, violent punishment on its agenda. The track finds a way to be dangerous and inventive, thunderous and flexible, bringing things to an end in a twist of muscle. “My Doppelganger” has strong riffs, black metal-style riffing, and growls and shrieks that shred the ear drums. The track jumps all over the place with the guitars chewing up scenery, the playing getting weirder as it goes along, and burly growls landing body blows designed to induce hyperventilation. “Below Deck” ends the record with a canon shot of power and a strong buildup that blends right into bloody trickery. The tracks spirals and simmers before floating off into the cosmos to deliver even more confusion. Screams echo as the guitars corrode, adding a strange, albeit temporary, warmth before emotional soloing crescendos, and the track gushes guts and blood right up to its finish.

Bands such as Shabti remain as a stark reminder not to pass judgement on music simply because it’s affixed with a descriptor that might turn your belly. This band’s brand of technical death and black metal is played insanely well, yes, but it also has the passion and emotion much of the music that often falls under this umbrella lacks. This is razor sharp and punishing, a record that’s here to destroy you and deface your physical and mental well-being.

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