SHAH, P.S.I.H.O.  (1994, Moroz Records)

The skull:
Shah is one of the most celebrated Russian thrash bands ever (not that there are that many noteworthy ones to begin with), and they sure love heads and skulls. All four of their albums feature just that, and this, their fourth and final album, sports a cover we were more than happy to add to the Skullection. We look at skulls a lot here at BDS but never really wonder how the skull came to be. We’re always so in-the-moment. Shah’s skull shows the transition to skulliness in all its gory motion: the flesh, including a nose and an eyeball, are being blown clean off the bone by what we’ll assume is a very, very strong wind. But this reveals that all is not bone! The skull is apparently made of steel or some kind of other metallic material. And its left eyeball refuses to leave home. Glorious!

The music:
I have not had the pleasure of hearing Shah’s three albums prior to this one. But I’ve heard they’re a little more straight-forward and aggressive than P.S.I.H.O., which is like a poor man’s Countdown to Extinction; it has a similarly razor-sharp riffing approach, its smooth complexity resembles that album’s refined posture, and the vocalist emits Mustaine-esque whines ‘n’ snarls. It’s more ramshackle than Countdown…, however. P.S.I.H.O. has some genuinely great moments (the cool riffs and harmony vocals within “Turn of the Changes”; the hypnotic pace and acoustic guitar layered throughout “Open”), but just ask yourself: “Do I love early/mid ’90s Megadeth enough to seek out a Russian analog of the same?” Having been released in the waning years of thrash metal’s finest era, this could probably be called “semi-thrash” or “post-thrash” while escaping any alignment to the likes of Machine Head or Pantera. I’m also reminded of forgotten midwestern semi-thrashers Coup De Grace, Heathen’s most melodic moments, and shades of Metal Church.
— Friar Wagner