Review: Schammasch – Hearts of No Light
A Swiss black metal fondue with a sprinkle of Joy Division.
Got your attention, porcelain connoisseurs? Good, because this album is great. With Hearts of No Light, Schammasch delivers their next full-length after the phenomenal 2016 effort Triangle. This time, they don’t release a 3 CD behemoth with one whole CD reserved for ambient noises, but instead return to a more traditional album structure. However, this doesn’t mean that they have abandoned their unorthodox image.
The album opens with “Winds That Pierce the Silence,” a foreboding intro to a calamity, where frantic piano playing gives way to a driving build-up before giving us the calm before the storm, which bears the name “Ego Sum Omega.” Soon, all hell breaks loose. Lamenting guitar riffs are accompanied by galloping drum beats, heralding the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who wreak havoc and leave “A Bridge Ablaze,” the first ambient track on this record.
“Qadmon’s Heir” reintroduces the dissonant riffing, for which Schammasch is known. It’s a blastbeat-laden song, all while C.S.R’s raspy voice preaches to the audience. Haunting chants are accompanied by driving drums, accelerating the arrival of Qadmon’s heir, the new God, who proclaims a new age of darkness, culminating in a despairing outro leading into the explosive “Rays Like Razors,” probably the most traditional song on the album and also one of the catchier ones. Reminiscent of “In Dialogue with Death” from Triangle, I more than once caught myself randomly humming it.
“I Burn Within You” is frantic, signifying the confusion in this new age. It’s interspersed with clean spoken segments and jingling piano. The pace constantly changes until finding an equilibrium and building up into “A Paradigm of Beauty,” which is the stand-out song of this album. It’s a complete departure from black metal and is instead reminiscent of 80s New Wave, but like always, Schammasch doesn’t just copy it and instead twists and bends it to fit their sonic aesthetic. The song itself is an ovation towards the new God and finally the point of acceptance of fate.
With “Katabasis,” quite literally, begins the descent towards the end. At first, the song sounds like the closer, but then the drums pick up, the riffing becomes more and more foreboding until exploding, while the listener stumbles into the “Innermost, Lowermost Abyss,” the second 15-minute long ambient track, to finally worship the darkness. At first, this abyss sounds almost happy with its guitars, but the darkness encroaches and finally consumes ending on a cliffhanger.
Schammasch already stated in an interview, that this album is the first part of a two-part endeavor and I can’t wait for the second part.
This album is a journey from the arrival of the apocalypse to the acceptance of the new dark world. Black at its core, it relentlessly drives the listener through different soundscapes, which are a testament to Schammasch’s constant willingness to experiment with sounds and adapt their aesthetics to these experiments. Simultaneously, this is their most complete record yet. They evolved, but they never betrayed their roots. It has dissonance, it has spiritual lament, it has drive and it has the chants, which made them famous. On top of that, it is masterfully crafted and will definitely find a place in my personal top album list for this year. However, as with their records before Hearts of No Light and despite the experimental nature, it suffers from a certain sameness between the tracks, which, while part of the hypnotic and mysterious identity of the band, can devolve into tedium, when consumed too often back-to-back in a short span of time.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Hearts of No Light was released on November 8th, 2019 via Prosthetic Records. You can get yourself a copy here, or, if you’re a fan of physical media, here.