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Shabti’s Unique Unison of Death/Black Metal on “Trembling and Shorn”

trembling and shorn

As of late, the grotesque swarming underbelly of extreme metal has spewed forth an impressive stream of debut releases from new underground outfits and breakout albums from previously unknown or underappreciated groups. Although this wave of black and death metal is incredibly prolific and wide-ranging in stylistic variation, the prevailing aesthetic is one of old-school grime and sonic obscurity; spilling over from the confines of the Scandinavian black metal scene, this frostbitten sense of dissonance and occult atmosphere has extended internationally to the artwork, merchandise, and DIY nature in which many younger bands operate. Even the more progressive groups emerging from this movement tend to display a distinct and often self-professed similarity to Tampa OSDM such as Death, Atheist, or Morbid Angel, suggesting a strong influence of throwback nostalgia in their music.

One staunch exception to this pattern is blackened death metal outfit Shabti of Portland, Maine. Formed in 2008 by members of Falls of Rauros, Obsidian Tongue, and Panopticon’s live lineup, Shabti has since its inception been defined by a series of uncanny traits and contradictions. Despite the blackened leanings of Maine’s heavy landscape and the fact that each member’s track record consists exclusively of atmospheric black metal, the group has chosen to craft a sound that is essentially an even split between black and death metal with almost all atmospheric qualities dropped. Furthermore, their material combines certain elements of these two subgenres that are often considered unmixable, their compositions loaded with bizarre and hyper-technical musical structures garbed in blisteringly abrasive performance techniques. Thus, Shabti continues to evolve in the opposite direction of today’s prevailing trends, moving out of the ethereal and enigmatic into crisp and starkly tangible forms.

The rare breed of cybernetic killing machine that is Shabti has now reared its head once again to unveil its second full-length album Trembling and Shorn, streaming exclusively below before its Friday release, a deeper and more refined exploration into the outfit’s idiosyncratic sound. This endeavor saw the group collaborate with a team of producers and sound engineers unrivaled in talent and proficiency: tracked by Todd Hutchisen at Acadia Recording Company, mixed by Dave Kaminsky at Studio Wormwood, and mastered by the legendary Colin Marston at his NYC studio Menegroth, The Thousand Caves, an enormous amount of fine-tuned preparation and meticulous attention went into this record from its conception to its final pressing — Trembling and Shorn is surely a veritable perfect storm of forces within the metal underground.

Without exception, each song on Trembling and Shorn represents an unprecedented hybrid between tech-death and raw, unadulterated 1990s black metal: emulating the primal attitude and performance techniques of the latter – such as whirlwind blast beats and tremolo riffs played in hellish diminished tonalities – through the sprawling, deeply layered structures and crystal-clear production of the former, Shabti sacrifice none of their savage dissonance in delivering these six precise, majestic, and extremely progressive songs. In terms of ferocity and technique, this record pulls no punches. A venomous, acerbic demonstration of fine-tuned vitriol, it slithers and writhes through its 42 minutes with uncompromising intensity. Even its longest tracks “Seven Billion Souls” and “Below Deck” (clocking in at eight and 11 minutes respectively) offer the listener only incredibly sparse moments of reprieve as they mercilessly slice through quick processions of razor-sharp riffs accompanied by feral screeches and deep full-bodied growls from vocalist Rob Cook.

Thematically, Trembling and Shorn espouses a forthright, undecorated perspective of the modern world drenched in nihilism and misanthropy. According to the band’s own members, their goal is to “eschew gimmicks, trends, and posturing in favor of focusing on more direct pursuits.” As such, Shabti’s lyrics and conceptual ideas reflect the no-nonsense straightforwardness of the music itself, piercing directly into the core of their own meaning in a way that is brusque yet discreetly eloquent. With a sound and mentality initially grown from black metal roots, Trembling and Shorn presents a refreshingly unique take on extreme metal – both musically and philosophically – that cannot be neatly categorized within any one subgenre.

Tomorrow, the night of Trembling and Shorn’s official release, Shabti will be performing at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA with Churchburn, Scaphism, and Upheaval (tickets), after which they shall embark on a tour (dates below + radical poster artwork by Cool Ghoul a.k.a. Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man) spanning the East Coast in support of the album. The second date of the run, hosted at the renowned Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, will see Shabti and Churchburn joined by New York sludge/doom titans Unearthly Trance. Shabti will then part ways with both groups for a stretch of solo headlining dates in the mid-Atlantic before the tour comes full circle, returning the group to their hometown of Portland, Maine where they will again join Churchburn in supporting funeral doom veterans Evoken at Geno’s Rock Club. If you are graced with the opportunity to witness the engrossing might of Shabti live in concert, you should not hesitate to act: Trembling and Shorn stands as a pivotal release for the group, and will undeniably elevate them to acclaim and newfound recognition.

For now, though, they remain a polished gem hiding within mountains of grime and rot, eagerly awaiting the fortunate gaze of whosoever may be savvy enough to discover them.

Trembling and Shorn releases tomorrow via Last Mercy Emissions. Order the new album and follow Shabti on Bandcamp. Tour dates here:

shabti tour

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