Shakhtyor // Shakhtyor 
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — Meritocracy ain’t dead yet.
Label: Metal Blade [US] | Cyclone Empire [EU]
Websites: |
Release Dates: US: 08.20.2013 | EU: 2013.04.26
By: Jordan Campbell

Shakhtyor - ShakhtyorIn an age where gimmicks run rampant, from Black Veil Brides to Shitfucker (two bands, if you think about it, that are basically brothers from different mothers), it’s refreshing to see a band get noticed merely on the basis of craftsmanship. Shakhtyor are so no-frills it hurts. They’re painfully unmarketable: three German dudes that look like, well, dudes, with an unpronounceable-to-most Russian moniker and a blatant disregard for the value of vocals.

Suffice to say, the average Amon Amarth fan isn’t going to be storming the gates to get their hooves on a four-track, forty-minute progressive sludge clinic [Hey! I resemble that remark! – AMG], but Metal Blade snatched Shakhtyor‘s self-titled 2012 debut from the jaws of Euro-vinyl obscurity and is primed to re-unleash it upon the world. Why? Because it’s a damn good record.

It’s easy to dismiss these types of drawn-out, instrumental (or near-instrumental) releases as passive, use-once-and-destroy curiosities. The glacial tempos and meandering compositions of acts like Samothrace and Ufomammut have been known to strain the attention spans of even the most well-intentioned listeners, and their cerebral compositions are often shunted into the background in favor of more immediate wares. Shakhtyor, initially, seemed doomed to become one of those appreciated-yet-unloved curiosities. But their debut grows more rewarding as it digs itself in, a testament to the band’s attention to detail.

Opener “E. Jasper” sweeps across a wide spectrum in its nine minutes, opening with airy doomtones before morphing into a pulverizing sludge machine. (Not sludge in the craggy, drugged-up NOLA sense; the production is crisp and colossal, lending their riffage a weight rivaled only by, say, Armed for Apocalypse.) After unleashing this hell, they air things out again, leaning into a post-y headspace similar to the aforementioned Samothrace before building to a mighty crescendo that culminates in earth-moving groove.

Shakhtyor 2013Like any trio, they’re only as good as their rhythm section, and “Handschumann” puts them on full display. A boiling morass of Kensel / Matz proportions, “Handschumann” establishes the act as one that places just as much emphasis on terrestrial churning as it does spacial exploration. This fifteen-ton schlep returns on the massive closer “K.I.”, as a soaring, soulful solo (more of these next time, please) is backed by one of the most crucial bass tones we’ve been graced with in ages.

So, the record is killer. But now what? Is there any room in the greater metallic spectrum for yet another down-tempo instrumental act, especially one that is totally free of post-Pelican pretense? Will Shakhtyor’s nearly-novel brand of pulverization find a greater audience on the strength of sheer quality alone?

One can hope. There are few things more invigorating than the notion of three guys gelling together with the sole purpose of creating the most devastating racket possible. Shakhtyor, Dio willing, will walk the path to modest recognition silently and stoically—like a riff-fisted Fedor Emelianenko—and those lucky enough to follow them on their blue-collar journey will bask in the satisfaction that comes with something that’s growing all too rare: Quality craftsmanship.

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