Swiss black metal avant-garde band Schammasch return with their brand new album ‘Hearts Of No Light’, which lays its foundation in the heights of their past work while presenting their most flowing and organic approach to date – pitch-black at its core and vast and expansive in experimentation. The band’s name refers to Shamash or Šamaš, the Sun God from Akkadian/Babylonian mythology.
This album is an unconventional composition of unsettling madness. It’s unapproachable for a superficial mind. It’s complex beyond any measure of complexity. It’s melodic and fast. It’s philosophical. It tests your boundaries, patience, sanity, senses – it’s hostile and it makes you think.
It’s almost cliché these days to be “genre-defying.” Maybe tearing down the walls that divide metals various genre is a good thing but combining many sub-genres also has a hazardous effect, both commercial and artistic. When a band is all over the place, it can be difficult to get the music heard by the right fans, although commercially, it’s a good principle. Too many sub-genres within a single album can have disastrous effects on the cohesiveness of the album. This is not the case here.
“Hearts of No Light” is a turning point for Schammasch. From now on, we deal with a band that makes music for a higher purpose. Each song is a part of a journey this album takes you on, particularly to remember the depth of the soul and the hypocrisy of this bare and materialistic society. In modern times, a defining existential outburst happens as we sink in the throes of social decay, lack of morals and increased consumerism.
”Winds that Pierce the Silence” is the first song of the album and it starts with a prominent, very spacey-sounding piano piece. From the start, I was mesmerized by the sound. This music creates a sense of wonder and transposes the listener into a reflective state. This song also has some rather simple guitar chords, clear and off in the distance, adding substance to the music, helping keep the keys at the right pace.
“Ego Sum Omega” is easily one of my favourite track of the album. The title could be translated into “I Am the End”. The albums’ philosophical undertones became ubiquitous with this track. After everything you’ve heard so far, after all the chaos, the unmitigated torment this album caused, you’d expect the next song would give you the chance to catch your breath and regain your calm state. But there is no such thing.
After the surprisingly peaceful piano intro, the band breaks into the album’s third track “A Bridge Ablaze”, yet another reason for introspection. The petrifying slowness in this song could only strengthen my opinion that this is no ordinary record.
What this album does, is answer the question if there could ever exist a near-perfect record. It’s not often I find an album that meets almost all criteria, but here comes Schammasch to prove me wrong. A weird sense of isolation exists throughout this album, caused by the spacious ambience and from the austere feeling.
Those moments of calm, though they give a brief moment of solace, are captured with full force, and the black void of nothingness begins with the fourth song “Qadmon’s Heir”. I believe this song refers to Adam Kadmon, the “Primordial Man”; in Kabbalah, is the first spiritual World that came into being after the materialisation of God’s infinite light.
The esoteric teachings continue with “Rays Like Razors”, a complex, solar song.
“I Burn Within You” rely on somewhat similar riffing patterns, which serve to make this sound like a unified whole work, very clean but heavy and introspective, with enough melodic trills in-between to make them interesting and propulsive. The drum-work is powerful and incisive and the vocals vary between a harsh, rugged shout and a sort of emotive moan that does tend to grow on you. Everything swirls together into a devastating weight, and the sound is crushing.
This rollercoaster of sounds will continue with little rest for your ears. “A Paradigm Of Beauty”, despite being a more avant-garde, dissonant song, it has very catchy guitar work and its own identity. And a rock’n’roll vibe that I find so appealing.
“Katabasis” starts slower only to go maniacal in mere moments after the jazzy-like clean guitar opens the song, featuring different vocal harmonies amidst the chaos. The term “Katabasis” or “catabasis” (Ancient Greek: κατάβασις, from κατὰ “down” and βαίνω “go”) has multiple related meanings in poetry, rhetoric, and modern psychology and signifies descent of some type, such as moving downhill, the sinking of the winds or sun, a military retreat, a trip to the underworld.
“Innermost, Lowermost Abyss” end the full-length in a majestic, melodic manner. As the album reaches its end, a piano and a classic guitar play, while some kind of orchestral sound accompanies them, only to dissipate in complete silence.
The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but for all their introspective work, this black metal band easily come closer to delivering a substantial esoteric work against today shallowness.
“Upon reaching the end said bridge, now groaning
Under the pressure of impending death, she turns her head
For one last view of, not the piece of work that is about
To face its certain end, but the land that lies behind it,
And for just one second
A gleam of content flashes up in her eyes.
And so she marches on.”