Label: Felix Records
Date: November 6th, 2021
Let me say one thing for starters. Despite the label’s add, this is not the new Шахт album. I actually got quite excited about it until I checked out the track list. The last album by these oi punk veterans was published almost a full decade ago, so you can imagine my thoughts when I saw that Felix Records will be publishing the new record.
However, all I got is a live recording. Okay, it is the first of its kind in the band’s 30+ years of existence, but still… Then again, this is a nice way to gather all the best tracks the band created in one place. Though they do have a sort of “early days best of” published a while back. “Šaht-Mat” offers a full picture of the whole work of the quartet so far, so not much of an issue there.
But here’s my biggest problem with “Šaht-Mat”. The layout, among the poorest I’ve seen in my years. And I’ve seen a few quite dreadful solutions for the graphic side of a release. A simple band photo for the cover is just wrong for a live record. They could’ve at least used a live photo. And while on the subject of photos, the inlay contains just a few live photos and, believe it or not, they are not even from the recorded concert. How come? Is it possible Шахт managed to record the show, and with some real quality, but forgot to invite a photographer? On the other hand, it seems impossible to me that in this day and age nobody took out a cell phone and got a couple of decent shots. Who knows? Maybe the audience is as old school as the band itself and just enjoyed the blast from the past.
Whatever the case might have been, after the initial disappointment I got to the enjoyable part of “Šaht-Mat”. The music, of course. I’ve been a fan of the band ever since I first heard them, thanks to a skinhead friend of mine, from about two decades ago.
Now, Шахт is your typical oi street punk band. All the way from music, attitude, down to lyrics. The whole package adheres to the standards of the genre. Without moving a muscle outside of the box. Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, The Business, The 4 Skins… Yes, you know the sound. Raw force, distilled in the melodic brewery, upped by the gang vocals and those choruses perfect for singing along. Not much room for philosophy. Lyrically, too, songs about the home town, corrupt people, society, leadership, glorifying punk and alcohol abuse… Surely you can do without me further elongating this review by picking up all the small details here.
Much more important aspect of this recording is its quality. It is nicely recorded, especially if you consider that the venue is far from ideal for punk shows and the fact that the crowd certainly wasn’t sitting idly around. “Šaht-Mat” sounds like a punk performance must. Powerful, yet filthy enough. Every instrument is heard, but there’s just the right amount of noise to not sound plastic, or way too polished in the mastering process.
Okay then, if you’re Serbian, you know about Шахт already and have your own opinion about them. But if you’re not, and most of the world actually isn’t, Шахт stands for manhole in Serbian language. They are veterans of the scene here and likely the best we ever had to offer to the global oi subculture. You won’t understand any of the lyrics, but you should definitely give them a chance, even if only for the “whooooooooa’s”.
Plus, can you ever really get enough of such music? There’s a reason why it’s around for so long without changing even slightly for the new era or losing its appeal.