We here at Heavy Blog love music of all kinds with a special focus on our metal. We love a good niche sound record as much as anybody. That’s not to mention the underground and less known bands we tend to try to promote. Each of us on the blog, just like anybody, have our subgenres we love and our particular tastes. And while that is certainly true, one thing that we’ve all decided that is undeniable is when a band is difficult to describe. We love our records that have bits and pieces of a lot things that become a truly and wholly unique sound. Any band that can only be described as that band instead of some established sound is the kind of band we have to share with everyone. Shabti is just that kind of band and sound that will leave you delightfully confused and completely amazed.
If you know anything about the band already, you’ll know why this record is so incredibly unique. The blackened tech death trio has quite the pedigree of bands. The trio has connections to bands like Falls of Rauros, Obsidian Tongue, and Panopticon. Already a stellar combination of sounds that forms something that informed by a lot of black metal of choice subgenres. The Maine group employs many of these sounds into their Gojira-esque version of technical death metal. It is a combination of sounds that makes them sound like virtually no one else but themselves.
While it’s difficult to talk in overarching generalities about a genre, it’s true that black metal is rarely a dramatically compelling genre. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting or engaging or something like that, but you don’t actively feel musical ebbs and flows in black metal like you would in other sectors. Shabti has a unique ability to engage the listener for a number of reasons.
Among other reasons, there is a strong emphasis on musicianship and songwriting in a way that balances both things and makes them each stronger. The trio is clearly a group of three extremely strong songwriters and talented musicians, but they avoid the pitfalls that these kinds of bands can fall into. There is either a heavy emphasis on their technical mastery of their instruments to the detriment of the song, or there is an emphasis placed on writing genuinely interesting and unique songs that aren’t very good to listen to because they’re terrible musicians. Shabti balances those things by writing riffs and song sections that you’re generally interested in seeing grow and transform throughout any given track.
The outro track, “Below Deck”, is a perfect example. At 11:28 in length, there is a lot of time to develop a very meaningful track out of a number of sections of this song. What’s so surprising about this track is just how open to ideas it is. While many groups claiming the black metal label often argue about who’s more “trve kvlt” than the other, Shabti decided that it was fine to allow other music to influence what they do. It’s alright by them to engage in a bit shoegaze riffing or write clean melodies to help drive a song to its intended destination. The openness in writing is what makes this record, and this band, so genuinely engaging and interesting.
While “Below Deck” steals the show for the record, the rest of the tracks are just as compelling and fit together as a force more than the outro song. Intro track “Shrouded and Veiled” is more like the others in scope and song structure. While it too has its flowing sections leading to the next, it has an aggression shared with the rest of the songs. It includes the kind of black metal portions that will be instantly recognizable, but it also flips that on its own head with by mixing up the song with some technical riffs that are more recognizable as death metal than black. The combination of different styles keeps you on your toes and wondering where the song is going next. This kind of mix up is what this record is about and gets the idea across that the best things in life are a mix of things you love and things you don’t know.
This is a record that requires digestion. This isn’t the kind of record you just pop on whenever. You have to really experience it and study it to get everything out of it that you can. It is a completely fascinating take on established sounds that are combined in a way that seems strange and familiar at once. This is the kind of record that end of the year lists are made of, and it absolutely fits the bill. This is truly an achievement for the band and a monument to metal in 2019.
Trembling and Shore is out March 22nd, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.