Schammasch – The Significance of ThreeMonday, 23rd May 2016
When it comes to black metal bands on the verge, Schammasch has built themselves up as a band that is not afraid of pushing boundaries and trying new experiments. Take their latest offering – the triple album Triangle. Interesting in that it is the third release of Schammasch as well as containing three albums in and of itself. And not only are all three of the CDs in a different place, musically-speaking, they all come up with the same time (33:30) and tie into each other, conceptually-speaking. Clearly, there’s much depth to Schammasch’s process.
In addition to all of the musically-related ideas, Schammasch also puts much focus on the visual end of their work. There’s a deliberate sense to the album artwork, as well as the individual covers themselves. It’s a band that does provide a striking testament to the “metal as art” argument. So there was plenty to talk about, when DR was given a shot at talking with mastermind/vocalist/guitarist CSR, about all of these connections and more.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that the band seems to grow with each new album?
CSR: In quite different directions I would say. So far, between every album there has been a big leap. Not only in a technical sense but also in the approach – songwriting and thematics and things like that. We will never be a band putting out the same record over again. It’s always going to be different I guess.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there a conscious effort to try to break new ground and go in different directions with each release?
CSR: Not really. It’s more of a natural thing that just evolves that way. I have many different inspirations and there’s a lot of personal things flowing into the music that I write – aspects of everyday life and stuff like that. I went through a lot of changes last year so that influenced the work on Triangle. That might be one of the reasons that it turned out a bit different than Contradiction did.
Dead Rhetoric: There are three distinct sounds that come out with each album on Triangle. What was the goal in each album?
CSR: I wouldn’t look at them as three different albums actually, but one album containing three different chapters. There was a plan for the soundscape and the aura of all three chapters. The first one was basically the soundscape we had before on Contradiction – the rather modern, well-produced black metal sound but in a more raw state than on [Contradiction]. The second one was more of a cold, space-y industrial kind of soundscape, and the last one was more of an ambient vibe. Those were the basic inspirations when I thought about production. It wasn’t easy – it was a massive thing to do. Normally, you have one sound, more or less, for an album. There’s not three different, distinct soundscapes, and it was quite a big challenge. Not just for me, but also for the other two producers that worked with me on the final mixes. I think we managed to reach the goal quite well and I’m really satisfied with the production of every single CD.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned to think of it as an album with three chapters. If you were to talk to the average person, would you say that it is an album that should be listened to from start to finish?
CSR: No, I wouldn’t say so. I would say to listen to a single CD at a time. It’s hard to digest if you go through the whole 100 minutes in one shot. There’s also so many differences between the three moments and states. The overall aura of every CD is quite different, so to me it doesn’t make sense to go through it in one listen. It’s more like, you listen to the first one and digest it, and then so on with the other two. But that is up to everyone on their own to decide.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there an element that you feel ties the three together, either lyrically or musically?
CSR: There’s a lot of aspects that connect three CDs with each other. Not only lyrically, but different details in the sound elements. A very obvious one is the gong sound at the end of each CD. There’s one on the first album, two gongs on the second, and three on the third album. We created little details and little hints to connect the three, musically, but of course the lyrical concept is also a big thing. It’s actually telling quite a massive story in the end, which is hard to put only into three sentences. I could probably talk about it for one evening. It’s quite important to me actually, that everyone who is eager to explore the lyrical world of the album, or of whatever we do – that they put their own interpretation into all of the meanings. I think that is what one of the strong aspects of art is – that anyone can interpret it in their own way.
Dead Rhetoric: How much tweaking was necessary to get each album to the 33:30 point?
CSR: Strangely enough, it was quite easy. At certain points, I had to shorten things a bit – especially on the last CD because there were no real structures. There was a lot going on and I needed to cut out some pieces. But the other two there were typical song structures and I can’t really tell why that is [that made it so easy]. I didn’t really pay too much attention to it during the songwriting process. But probably what helped in doing all of those lengths was that the concept was developed early on in the process – so I could always consider it when I wrote the songs.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s good that you had to cut the songs instead of having to stretch them out…
CSR: I’m not really into cutting songs down, in terms of length, because I think that it’s somehow the wrong approach, at least for my songs. I write them in a natural flow, so just to cut out pieces – that would corrupt the flow of everything.
Dead Rhetoric: So how much thought goes into making sure that everything has one coherent vision (album title, threes)?
CSR: Quite a lot. I think some of it is quite obvious because of the number three and the holy trinity symbol. But I don’t actually know how clear the whole concept is underlying all three albums that we have released so far, including Triangle. Those three albums build a trilogy. The first album starts as the symbol of birth, or first light. The second deals with the aspects of duality, and now Triangle is the third part, and deals with unity, and the number three, which is a symbol for uniting with God, or the light, or whatever you’d like to call it. I didn’t have to search much for the concept when I started to write Triangle, since it was quite clear that it was dealing with the number three and the unity theme. But it was still quite a lot of work to get everything to fit together into the concept. It was quite an effort. I basically spent the whole last year writing that album. I didn’t work or do anything else besides write that album. And now I’m broke! But that’s fine – I chose right.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms that number aspect, you have gone 1-2-3, and the same for the number of CDs in each album. Do you think that next time you would go for a 4?
CSR: [laughs] I get that question a lot these days. No – it was supposed to be a trilogy and that trilogy has come to an end with Triangle. How much bigger can you go than a triple album? It would start to become ridiculous – a 4 album thing, that’s not going to happen. I also think it would be a lame attempt to even overcome the triple album and from there go one step further. That’s not really the goal anyway. If you interview artists that put out a new record – I don’t want to call out any names, but bands who are 20-30 years old, they say things like, “on this one, we did more of that and that” and they are saying that the new one is better than the old one – that’s something that I don’t like to say. What does that mean anyway? It’s always a momentary state of life and being when you write an album. My goal isn’t to make a better record than last time, but to make the most honest artwork that I can create, and the most satisfying to myself. Going from that point, we are going to do an EP next. It’s already written, we just need to create the drum lines basically. We are planning on recording it during the summer before our fall tour. We are planning to release it in early 2017.
Dead Rhetoric: So was this done while you were doing Triangle?
CSR: No, I think I started the first bits during the production sessions of Triangle to get my head clear of all the production shit. Most of it was done once I was out of the studio. There’s even song pieces from the album that should be the next one to occur after the EP, but I don’t know if I will use them by then. But the EP is quite clear – I can also say that it will include one cover song as well, which will be quite a risky thing to do. The whole concept of the trilogy is done, so there is now space for everything else. I have a lot of inspiration for thematic feels as well, so I don’t have to really search for things like that.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say of the images that come with each album, as I know the cover certainly relates to the Triangle aspect?
CSR: It’s basically done with the same model. They all show the aspects of the individual CDs and what they stand for. They represent the titles of each individual CD. They all show one piece of the triangle, so they all build one aspect of the holy trinity, but a different interpretation. I basically took the holy trinity symbol and re-interpreted it in my own way, with clear aspects of life: dealing with death and loss and change, and accepting that. That’s the first one – The Process of Dying. The second one – Metaflesh, deals with the spiritual world and the physical world. The third chapter, deals with the void, or the limitless light – the state of detachedness. That’s what they all represent in a human kind of way. I didn’t want to go into any typical black metal or cult symbolism, which are most of the time, pretty lame nowadays. That was the goal, and I think it was reached quite well.
Dead Rhetoric: The visual aspect is something that has been just as crucial as the music itself. Would the band be interested in releasing an album that accompanies a film or series of images?
CSR: That would be awesome really. I also had some ideas to visualize The Supernal Clear Light of the Void – doing psychedelic visual/video work to it. Doing a triple album is doing so many costs than a normal release, so that was not a possibility. The label would not have went for it. We already spent way more money than we had at the moment for the overall production of Triangle. But yeah, if there was ever a possibility to do something like that in the future, I would love to do it. I think the music itself is just not enough – you could even say that it wasn’t enough at all for Triangle. There were so many more aspects that I could not express because there was no base for expressing it. Just the music, lyrics, and artwork – there was no other dimension to it. If we have the possibility, we would aim to do something like that.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of looking at heavy metal as art – do you feel that it’s something that is a possibility, or is it something that is considered more on a band by band basis?
CSR: Of course, absolutely. What I do – I see Schammasch as an art project and not only a band, in the usual meaning. I think that you could call old school heavy metal one kind of art, as it’s a certain kind of expression and creation. I think every kind of music has an artistic route to it, whatever it is. Even hip hop can have an artistic approach definitely.
Dead Rhetoric: What can we expect to hear from Schammasch as we move foward?
CSR: You could expect anything from raw black metal to ethnic music with clean vocals, or more ambient sounds. I think it would be going in this direction. The EP will be special in terms of vocals, as it will be a very different approach. It will be quite experimental. I get more and more inspired like Dead Can Dance these days, and I think you could hear that on The Supernal Clear Light already. The clean vocal aspects, from “Metanoia” and others as well, we could dive deeper into those aspects. I like that a lot and it’s very interesting – it also gives a broad and wide field to create something new out of that, in connection to black metal, which is always the root thing I’m going back to.