Swiss avantgarde black metallers Schammasch have returned with their third full length, which actually comes packed with three discs this time around, making me think that the next release will have four and the one after five. I say this because the band's first album was just one disc, with the sophomore being two and this one being as I've stated. There are some of you that may have seen these guys get rather upset with me last time in the form of a comment on our domain site, but that was removed by some means of which I am not sure (and certainly did not ask for.) This is because I was quite an inflamed conspiracy nut back then and had tied much of this to the mysterious conspiratorial buzzword “Illuminati.” These days I hold a slightly different worldview and understand the occult nature of this act a bit differently. Some acts do the whole occult thing for an image, but these guys are very deep into it and I have no idea how far that goes into the private lives. In any case, Schammasch is something of a ritual and that's quite clearly seen here. Just in the first ten minutes of this listen I'm definitely getting that French occult black metal feel, albeit with obvious Behemoth-influenced death metal drumming and an approach that doesn't come off as a scowl, but a bit of an angered roar. Chris S.R. (ex-Totenwinter) handles the vocals and guitars, reminding me a lot of Nergal albeit with a very dark croon that sounds like it could find a place in Tiamat or Type O Negative. The minute I heard this vocal touch first used, I noticed an evolution in the band and I hope that maybe these guys will veer off into a little bit of Goth rock as he definitely has the voice for it. “In Dialogue With Death” is the main track to where this really comes right out to me and shows that the act have a lot more promise to be had than what was merely showcased on Contradiction.
Since there are three discs here, we will obviously talk a little about each of them and I've already delved a bit into the heaviest disc first, as that's the one that metal fans will want to hear. But is this completely metal, or is it something else? There's obviously a lot of weight here, as well as a great deal of brackish firepower, but the fact of the matter is that these gentlemen are crafting multi-layered songs and are more concerned with creating art than just music. Yes, you'll bang your head, but you'll find the listen fascinating as well. It almost begins to feel like one song, as M.A.'s solo piece on “Diluculum” sounds like it belongs tied with “In Dialogue With Death.” Don't expect much from the first disc, because it is only about EP length, but that's not a real issue as there's enough meat here to sell the Deathspell Omega worship and vere away from the slight core influences by which this band have almost completely shed. If you heard any core on that first disc, please let me know as I surely didn't and I think the band are much better for it. In other words, if you've put these guys aside for awhile because of their other works, it might now be time to pick them up. Prosthetic have dealt with a lot of core acts in the past, I am aware of their past just as much as the rest of you – but please believe me when I say that the label are transcending their core worship and have really cemented that with Schammasch. In just a little more than thirty minutes, these guys have offered a lot more depth than what I get from similar occult acts, which I feel makes them well worth checking out merely from the first part of the listen.
The second disc here takes us down a much different path and lends more into ritualism. Aside from some droning doom riffs, “The World Destroyed By Water” even features some unexpected industrial elements that I didn't notice the first time around. Boris A.W. (Cold Cell) does occasionally kick up the drums a little, but the listen almost brings us into something not unlike a more metallic Dead Can Dance. “Satori” is a ritual, which is apparent from the second I listen to it. It features a mantra which is repeated nearly in a fashion similar to Gregorian chants. That becomes even further relevant when the music is removed completely, leaving only Chris's vocals as the focal point. It almost becomes meditative at this point, even though we haven't even gotten to the real meditation. “Metanoia” is probably one of my favorite songs on the album, wherein a clean vocal fronts a blasting drum kit. Chris has the vocals to do this perfectly, and it feels pretty goddamned surreal. Chris and M.A. (Blutmond) truly deliver here, as these melodies really help to broaden and expand these powerfully ritualistic pieces even more. It's not just here, if you've noticed – they've been working very hard to turn the guitar into something of an ethereal instrument by which more than metal can be observed. If we continue to observe the former, we'll find that it has almost gone completely into synths, which feel deep and yes, meditative. Yet again, we haven't even reached the meditation yet. Next we have “Above The Stars Of God” which begins with a rock influenced guitar solo section that doesn't even sound a bit like black metal, and I can honestly say that I accept that wholeheartedly. I like the melody that M.A. plays with here while the vocal chants are being utilized, and it's quite catchy save for the fact that it ends and become a very difficult to hear series of spoken word sections. Maybe they went a bit too far here? In any case, the final vocal moment of the piece is uttered in a short acoustic piece called “Conclusion.” Spoken word decorates this, but no catchy clean vocal sections. Instead we're brought some very powerful leads and solos by which are a good note to end the experience.
Though we're not finished yet, as one more disc remains in this listen. This, is the meditation. Do not expect to hear any fiery guitars, blastic drums, vocals or metal on this one. It's a atmospheric meditation by which some metal fans will either love or loathe, depending on their tastes. You must leave your elitism at the door if you choose to traverse this record, as it's very much like the material I cover from Malignant Records (who just sent me two records in the mail today, as a matter of fact.) Most of the tracks here will either feature industrial synths or tribal chants with both male and female vocals. I am not sure if any of any of the band members are chanting here, but I can assure you that nothing here is metal, though it is highly deep meditative trance that fans of Dead Can Dance's more upbeat material will love. It's the kind of tribal atmopshere that you can dance to when things aren't quite so droning and cold, mixing two different soundscapes together in a very weird and difficult to understand manner. We do hear some electric guitar and Chris's vocals on album closer “Empyrean” which comes with a spoken vocal section and an ending chant that I feel I can discern much easier. It's quite deep, very spiritual and may put some people off – but that's fine, as not all art is meant for all ears. I quite enjoy it and I feel that you will too. The riff melodies are nothing special, they are meant as mantric as the trance and it's more about creating a soundscape in which to escape, rather than a catchy little song that you can raise your fist to. I don't feel that anything here will really come across in that fashion, as Schammasch have never been that kind of band. The lyrics here are very personal, transformational and without a doubt, ritualistic in a way that you only have to hear to believe. I feel that Triangle is a big step over Contradiction, and feel that whatever these gentlemen deliver in the future after this one will be by and large different. I feel that I'm ready for anything else that Schammasch will have to offer and would definitely consider it one of the best releases of the year. The listener gets three sides of the band, one of which no one ever saw coming. That's worth your hard-earned money, folks.
(16 Tracks, 103:00)