The Bible, I have learned, mentions a trumpet blast or rather multiple blasts performed by angels announcing the apocalypse, preceding the resurrection of the dead and the return of God to Earth. The angel on the cover of Schammasch’s new album Hearts Of No Light has either already blown that trumpet, or is just about to do it. His eyes are turned upward, his facial expression is anything but serene. He’s awaiting a reaction. Behind him, there is a wall of fire. The world is ablaze. The image captures the moment before utter mayhem ensues. Schammasch have made an album that’s set in that moment, that point of time when Earth as we know it takes its last breath. The album’s music is the equivalent of your life flashing before your eyes when you die.
The best bands do not allow themselves to be limited by genre borders. They don’t care about genres. They have a vision, and their goal is the realization of that vision. For them, genres are only a means to an end. Schammasch are definitely such a band. Hearts Of No Light is a medley of different styles of music, brought together under a dark cloak. Schammasch are, therefore, like their countrymen Zeal & Ardor, visionaries that push black metal towards the avantgarde, much like well-established bands like Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord have done and still do.
People who have had near-death experiences are often reported to have seen a review of their life in front of their inner eye in a jumble of pictures and experiences. While Hearts Of No Light is not an uncontrolled jumble, it does appear to be a compressed version of everything musically dark: there is classical music in the instrumental intro Winds That Pierce The Silence, there is psychedelia and stoner in A Paradigm Of Beauty, there is a bit of dramatic theatrical music in I Burn Within You, there is acoustic guitar virtuousness in Innermost, Lowermost Abyss, and there is black metal of course. The vocals are similarly diverse and range from spoken, whispered, growled to clean and choral singing.
Throughout the album, the mood changes constantly. We go through all kinds of emotions: sadness, threatening vengefulness, raging and rebelliousness, but also ecstasy and a flicker of hope. Qadmon’s Heir states, for example, in black metal tunes, that “We are, indeed, dead but breathing,” while the chorus of Rays Like Razors, “These fires beyond death will never rise again!”, sounds like a rhythmic battle chant, and A Paradigm Of Beauty witnesses an epiphany “in the midst of burning ruins”.
The latter track is my favourite song on the album. It is a good starting point to fall in love with the band’s music if you haven’t yet. Through a relatively long, somewhat experimental and industrial-sounding build up, we arrive at music with a stoner and psychedelic feel, with clean sung, intense lyrics that read like a love poem: you are a paradigm of beauty / in the midst of burning ruins / your light was never seen before / you gave me everything and more / everything and more.
The album’s lyrics, in general, though not unintelligible, are in no way easy to make sense of. Sometimes they sound like a coded language, but pondering them and interpreting them will contribute to the lasting satisfaction this album will offer you.
Extreme music, and black metal in particular, has occupied itself with the upcoming end of the world as we know it for quite some time now, has taken on the role of messenger. In the process, it has again and again proven to be one of the most visionary and forward thinking of all musical genres.
Schammasch are one of the messengers of the approaching apocalypse and there is tremendous beauty in their musical chaos.