Wine without drunkenness, sacrifice without the screaming, and leathery wings outstretched without a feather in sight the dementia felt under his rule is a madness set far away from the distraction of the senses and toward the lost mastery of the flesh. We eagerly raise our ancestral dead under Satan’s command, boldly lurk in the forbidden crypts of the possessor and forever plot to mark the blood of the clergy with vampyric curse by our very own fangs… all in the space of just over a half hour as Haugesund, Norway-based thrash metal trio Shakma rip and tear through this second full-length album. If their first LP appeared contemporary in its shrieking-loud barrage then let ‘On Tenebrous Wings‘ be a step into a state of intense focus wherein their whipping storm of classic thrash metal influenced riffcraft stuns and mystifies with its entirely controlled blood-hot attack. Shouting in ranting sermon and slashing away at an undeniably possessed blur of wrist cracking riffs these fang gnashing accounts of monstrous horror-lore are the vehicle to elevate their efforts to the now rarified precision striking of the real thing, or, the not so common nowadays thrash metal record that keeps its head down and keeps the ideas ripping.
Shakma formed circa 2014 with seeming intent to approach a love of classic thrash metal’s darker obscurities from their own poisonous angle. It’d be a couple of years before their first demo (‘Night of Torment‘, 2016) hit and the entirety of it was impressive with fully formed and fleshed songcraft aiming for a thrash metal style by most counts. though songs like “Midnight Mass” suggested a black/heavy metal interest being a similar possibility. Beyond that point they focused on the aggressive side of their work which is equally related to the early German thrash knack for evil aggression. By all accounts it’d have made sense to call ’em a black/thrash metal band and skate along but that’d have been far too superficial and frankly a bit too far off the mark. My ears hear ‘Show No Mercy‘ and ‘Torment in Fire‘-era Sacrifice as deeply set functions which drive the cadence and attack of each Shakma release.
Several years ago it’d been more fair to lump them in with contemporary maestros like Nocturnal, Inculter, and Nekromantheon when their debut LP (‘House of Possession‘, 2018) released, if only for the sake of their production values reading a certain way and some slower pieces indicating a light interest in black metal. When I’d reviewed that album somewhat quickly and messily upon release the one major takeaway I’d managed was that: “[Shakma are] so driven by their straight-forward thrash demons that they don’t seem necessarily obsessed with orthodox recreation of the old school but rather inspired by it.” and this idea that they are too interested in their own ideals to represent a “throwback” is still generally true but less of a point to emphasize as their craft hones considerable within the course of this second album. Truth be told there is no mystery to solve, no je ne sais quoi in their work, and the reality of it is that this album rules because they took a more directly charging approach which fans of the aforementioned German and Norwegian bands will immediately appreciate as actual thrash metal and not the usual half-assed parody.
As “Evocation” presents the album spanning motif via piano up front and our necks whip right into the title track it should become quickly evident that this album’s impact will be limited per your taste for repetition as each of the seven main pieces here are built from a similarly placed set of hands with a mind set on no certain relief from the hammer of their riffs. In this sense this is not a Dark Angel record but again something closer to the first Sacrifice record with a bit of that same post-‘Seven Churches‘ snap to its guitar work alongside what I’d read as strong appreciation for pre-1992 Sodom intertwined; Much like Töxik Death‘s brilliantly honed ‘Sepulchral Demons‘ a few years back the number of riff reveals and modulation we get arrives at a calculable rate wherein a piece like “Nocturnal Obsession” might feature three main riff rootstalks within its three minute ride whereas the six minute “Cryptic Apparition” manages more than double that rate while serving as a major highlight for the first half.
The whole of the listening experience comes at the same bullet-paced fire and this might limit its appeal to the die-hards who’ve some taste for both black/speed metal phrasing (“Necromancer”) and the Slayer end of the death/thrash metal spectrum (“Under His Spell”, “Nocturnal Obsession”). The real power of this album is in the necro-anthemic declarative vocal style which M. Runic develops within and you’ll know what I mean once you’ve wheeled through the record a few times and found similar cadence and construction for the vocal arrangements used on the title track and “The Howling Beast”. Granted their actual statements are different and the riffcraft is varied throughout but Shakma have smartly contained their general lexicon within a very specific range so that the entirety of ‘On Tenebrous Wings‘ feels like it is all on the same rant, a distinct rallying fire of their ideas which are all based upon similar rooting. For the well-trained thrash metal ear this is entirely normal framework for classic thrash beyond the most popular stuff and should feel decidedly underground and extreme for its attack.
Per my obsession with all things thrash metal this is the exact type of guitar music which I most consistently return to for a fast, impressive and malevolent kick of heavy metal and in a very simple way Shakma have checked all of the right boxes for my own taste with ‘On Tenebrous Wings‘, hence the likely surprising very high recommendation and score. A half hour riff-fronted sinister thrasher like this will typically fill my free listening time to the tune of hundreds of listens and this one stuck very well on repeat thanks to the general single-mindedness that drives us through their tunnel of terror bruising fast. Your results will vary based on interest in classic thrash, nowadays Norwegian thrash supremacy, and some of the more extreme edges they push here rather than anything too outwardly tuneful beyond the average shout-along worthy chorus. A very high recommendation.
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