Swiss avant-garde black metal band Schammasch was formed in the city of Basel in 2009 by guitarist / vocalist Christopher “CSR” Ruf, drummer Boris “BAW” AW and guitarist Marc “MA” Altorfer. They were joined in 2012 by current bassist Swart “AT” (CSR having also handled bass guitar up until that point).
I’ve not been able to find out much about this somewhat mysterious outfit, save that the band’s name is taken from that of a sun-god in ancient Babylonian mythology. The group’s debut album “Sic Lvceat Lvx” was released in 2010, and the second album – a double album titled “Contradiction” followed in 2014 and was a marked improvement on the first record.
Not being content with producing a double album, the group’s latest release is no less than a triple album, which is titled “Triangle”. Each disc has its own title – I is “The Process Of Dying”, II is “Metaflesh” and III is “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”.
Although “Triangle” follows in the footsteps of Swallow The Sun’s excellent “Songs From The North” triple album last year, with a distinct sound to each disc, Schammasch have taken the concept even further by carefully arranging for each disc to have a running time of 33:30 thus ensuring that each point of this particular triangle accounts for exactly a third of the whole. Granted, 100 minutes of music could easily be spilt into just two discs but the Swiss troupe clearly felt it was important for their artistic statement to be arranged in the manner in which it is presented.
Conceptually the project, according to songwriter CSR, reflects “three different steps towards a fulfilled state of being. The Process of Dying describes the experience of loss and change through death, and furthermore its acceptance. Metaflesh stands as the balance between earthly life and the spirit world, pointing out the necessity and the reality of both of them. The Supernal Clear Light of the Void represents the final state, the mastering of the ego, a state of freedom, light or void.” In addition, it would seem that the band’s albums are, thus far at least, connected to numerology in that the debut was looking at the number one, “Contradiction” concerned the number two (hence two discs) and “Triangle” obviously also tackles the number three, with the album “based on the number three in which is the symbol for the state of unity in various religious contexts. The three chapters of the album can be seen as an abstraction of the holy trinity symbol.”
So far, so deep. But what of the musical contents? Well, kicking off with “Crepusculum”, the first of two instrumentals on “The Process Of Dying”, disc one is the most traditional sounding in black metal terms. There are doom metal influences to be felt too, but the overall atmosphere is very much black metal. “In Dialogue With Death” and, especially, “Consensus” are the standout tracks on this disc.
The “Metaflesh” disc begins with “The World Destroyed By Water”, and this track demonstrates that this is going to be a more experimental sounding piece of work. There are no instrumentals on this disc, but the songs all have numerous stylistic changes and textures within them, with much more clean vocal and guitar lines in evidence, with “Above The Stars Of God” being the highlight of the record, “Metanoia” coming a close second. The comparatively delicate “Conclusion” brings part two to a suitable end.
Finally we have “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”. For the most part this is an instrumental piece of work, with the exception of the last track “The Empyrean”. This disc has ambient and world music elements, tribal percussion, chanting and non-singing vocals – making the whole thing seem initially very un-black metal. However, many black metal bands are expanding their musical horizons these days whilst still staying true to their beliefs and artistic vision and clearly that’s what Schammasch are attempting to do here, with some very impressive results.
I don’t think Schammasch have quite managed to produce a work as impressive as the aforementioned Swallow The Sun release, as “Songs From The North” is more accessible and contains more beauty (not perhaps a word generally associated with black metal anyway) to my ears. Nonetheless, “Triangle” is a seriously good piece of work and should be heard by many more people than it is, sadly, likely to reach. Worth a spin…
“Triangle – Part I : The Process Of Dying” tracklist:
1. Crepusculum / 2. Father’s Breath / 3. In Dialogue With Death / 4. Diluculum / 5. Consensus / 6. Awakening From The Dream Of Life
“Triangle – Part II : Metaflesh” tracklist:
1. The World Destroyed By Water / 2. Satori / 3. Matanoia / 4. Above The Stars Of God / 5. Conclusion
“Triangle – Part III : The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void” tracklist:
1. The Third Ray Of Light / 2. Cathartic Confession / 3. Jacob’s Dream / 4. Maelstrom / 5. The Empyrean