Schammasch - Triangle review
|Release date:||April 2016|
Disc I [Part I: The Process Of Dying]
02. Father's Breath
03. In Dialogue With Death
06. Awakening From The Dream Of Life
Disc II [Part II: Metaflesh]
01. The World Destroyed By Water
04. Above The Stars Of God
Disc III [Part III: The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void]
01. The Third Ray Of Light
02. Cathartic Confession
03. Jacob's Dream
05. The Empyrean
In recent years it seems double albums have been somewhat coming into fashion - both Iron Maiden and Metallica have recently released one, and Mastodon were initially planning the same for their upcoming album. However, Swallow The Sun in 2015 went one further by releasing a triple album, as did Schammasch in 2016 with Triangle. Including three discs within one self-contained package allows bands to offer up both more music, and potentially explore different genres by separating stylistically different material onto different discs. However, when releasing all this music as a single collective piece under one title, one can argue that there is both a need to link the music together, whether tonally, thematically, or otherwise, and also to optimize the quality and the pacing of the album, such that it can be enjoyed and consumed as a single whole. For this review I will cover each disc individually (all with very similar runtimes), and then the combined experience.
Part 1: The Process Of Dying
The heaviest of the three discs, The Process Of Dying may be the closest thing to what existing fans of Schammasch might be expecting. Opening ominously, a mid-tempo, tom-heavy beat and slow, creepy black metal tones lead towards "Father's Breath", a powerful, mid-paced black metal track with a lead guitar line on top that concludes with a final flourish of blast-beats. The rest of the disc follows in these tracks, with regular shifting between blasting, rapid black metal and slower grooves with more tribal-esque drum patterns, regularly accompanied by tasteful guitar leads. The production on The Process Of Dying actually puts the instruments slightly low in the mix, with the harsh vocals most prominent on the disc, alongside occasional appearances of chanting clean vocals. Schammasch's low, barking extreme vocals (slightly reminiscent of Nergal from Behemoth) have been much maligned in some quarters - whilst I could not argue them to be the strongest aspect of the band's sound, I don't consider them nearly off-putting enough to distract from the rest of the music, which on The Process Of Dying I find to be effectively creepy and dynamic.
Part 2: Metaflesh
Metaflesh opens very similarly to disc 1, with ominous tom beats and black metal tones culminating in blast beats in "The World Destroyed By Water". However, partway through "Satori", after a first half of blasts and tribal drumming, we enter a second half dominated by a repetitive groove accompanied by deep, chanting clean vocals for several minutes, producing a very hypnotic atmosphere. "Metanoia" has a similar vibe, as a cleanly sung vocal line over blasting, tremolo-driven metal gives off a ritualistic vibe, crescendoing towards a tasteful guitar solo before returning to a slower, reverberating groove beneath lead guitar and spoken word, until finally decomposing into sparse noise. "Above The Stars Of God" is another effective slow, crawling, powerful piece that culminates in an emphatic heavy drum groove and lead guitar combo. Rounded out by a sorrowful semi-acoustic piece, Metaflesh is a highly effective collection of epic, almost ritualistic (generally) mid-paced black metal with a range of vocal styles, percussive approaches and varying tones, and acts as a fine midsection to Triangle.
Part 3: The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void
Eschewing almost all black metal, disc 3 is instead a dark ambient/tribal musical voyage, and a surprisingly compelling one at that. Most songs begin with a sparse musical landscape, especially opener "The Third Ray Of Light", before restrained instruments, noises, and voices are slowly added as the music crescendos, ebbing and flowing in a transfixing fashion. Most songs utilize tribal drumming patterns of some form of other, and in the case of "Cathartic Confession", different drum arrangements are layered to gradually raise the emotional intensity of the music. Vocals are utilised, often sparingly, and typically in the form of sustained non-verbal singing. I could expand into far too much detail about each of the five tracks, but I reserve special praise for "Cathartic Confession, "Maelstrom", and the black metal tremolo-driven closer "The Empyrean". An unexpected gem, The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void is a remarkably successful experiment on Schammasch's part.
From the rest of this review readers may successfully deduce that I am a fan of each of the three parts of Triangle, particularly parts 2 and 3. Certainly, whenever one is in the mood for foreboding black metal or tribal ambient, each disc offers a real high quality half hour listen. However, does Triangle work as a single entity, with each disc listened to back to back? Hitting around 100 minutes, it is a lengthy listen, and with over an hour spent delving into a sinister (discs 1 and 2) and ritualistic (discs 2 and 3) atmosphere, it's not an easy one. However, if you have a couple of hours spare to listen to it, and a reasonable supply of patience, the gradual shift in intensity is just about well-judged enough to keep things fresh, and the even split between the three discs keeps the changes in tone almost perfectly well-timed. I would argue that after a solid hour of sinister black metal, it does definitely require the right person and the right mindset to handle another half hour of dark ambient tribal music, but with that right mindset, it's a real experience transitioning into the meditative atmosphere of The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void.
As far as cohesion across the album goes, "The World Destroyed By Water" acts as an apt bridge froms discs 1 and 2, and whilst disc 3 is a major stylistic departure from the other two albums, the likes of "Satori" and "Metanoia" offer just enough in the way of tribal drumming, dynamic build-ups and ritualistic repetition to offer up the kind of tonal link that stops disc 3 feeling overly out of place. Ultimately, despite the length, the variety and quality of the music (potential complaints over the extreme vocals and perhaps the vocal/instrument balance in the mix on disc 1 aside) pull through to turn Triangle into a real monolithic and rewarding listen.
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