Schammasch – Hearts of No Light (Prosthetic Records)Monday, 11th November 2019
Dense. Exacting. Crafted to match a well defined vision from which it refuses to waiver. That is the experience Hearts of No Light brings to the table. For Switzerland’s Schammasch, that vision is in the name and its millenia-spanning heft: THE SUN. Whether rendered in mythological terms or in the vastness of the real thing, the effect is the same: vast, unknowable, harsh and yet beautiful, warm, and necessary.
It also helps that unsurprisingly, the album fucking slays.
For anyone familiar with 2016’s Triangle will have a solid idea of what to expect here as it is a refinement of the ideas. Songs are big, multithreaded works, frequently pushing the eight minute mark and very much in the post-Paracletus school of black metal: progressive, melodic, and intense. “Qadmon’s Heir” is as traditional as Schammasch gets on Hearts of No Light and that traditional only applies to the form the band usually takes. These cuts are sequenced well, with frequently instrumental pieces like “A Bridge Aflame” or the gorgeous opener “Winds That Pierce The Silence” flowing directly into that tracks that follow. For “Ego Sum Omega” in particular, there is functionally no separation between the two.
The progressive ideas come out in unexpected ways, the highlight of which (for yours truly, anyway) is “I Burn Within You”, featuring a succession of build ups, not in the post sense of the term but in that the song cranks and cranks its intensity before unleashing a melodic firestorm upon the listener. The most unexpected is the almost rock-like chorus that anchors “Paradigm of Beauty” and admittedly the first couple spins it was…off-putting. It does settle in, however, and when considered contextually, actually works really well. The band’s use of clean vocals and intelligible harsh vocals continues to work in its favor wherever they’re utilized.
For those considered by the final act of Triangle or the interim EP The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite, the band’s affinity for industrial and ambient is used very sparingly across Hearts of No Light. Within that it is primarily focused in the back half of the colossal 15 minute closer “Innermost, Lowermost Abyss” where it is mixed with other instrumentation that really suits the theme of closing out the album experience.
And indeed that is the best way to approach Hearts of No Light – an experience. As an unbroken 67 minute experience that is also densely packed, it requires concentrated effort on the part of the listener. Though there are ample small hooks spread across its vast expanse, it does not make it easy. It’s easily the best sounding the band has been and is one of the best sounding albums I’ve encountered this year. Hearts of No Light, may it burn within you.