Schammasch – The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite
After what could only be described as quite a busy year the Swiss avant-garde/drone/dark ambient quartet Schammasch have come back with an EP, the first in a series of releases based on Comte de Lautrémont’s Les Chants de Maldoror. After releasing a triple-disc (widely acclaimed “Triangle“) and working on a live video release as well (“Live at Roadburn 2017″), one would think that they would take a break and do whatever Swiss people do to relax. Apparently, that is to record an EP based on a 19th-century novel. “The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite” is a 7-song, 30-minute long EP drastic stylistic change that is bound to alienate Schammasch’s fan-base, something like Opeth’s “Heritage” or Genesis’s “… And Then There Were Three …”. But the fact of the matter is that this is a challenging, well-crafted release by the band.
The EP opens with ‘Prologue’, curiously named as it is the second longest song but it serves the purpose of establishing the atmosphere and mood for the rest of the EP. The song is very dark, with binaural waves in the foreground and chanting in the background until the band enters halfway through. The result is a very gloomy and drone-y song that ends with polyphonic chants that segue into ‘The Weighty Burden of an Eternal Secret’. Here’s where the EP begins taking form, with an almost militaristic rhythm pulsating through the song and the guitars building up the dissonance, until two and half minutes into it we get the first hint of melody from C.S.R. and M.A. on the guitars, and the droning growls and chants from C.S.R. It doesn’t last long though, and 2 minutes later we’re back to chanting and minimalistic drums. Remember the name of the EP? There is going to be a generous amount of chanting involved throughout.
‘Along The Road That Leads to Bedlam’ starts heavy, with B.A.W. keeping the double kick drums going while both guitars demonically weep. After the subdued-yet-aggressive couple of minutes, the song ends with droning feedback before B.A.W. segues somewhat abruptly into ‘TheseTresses Are Sacred’. This is the shortest and gloomiest song in the EP, clocking in at 1:41 minutes of pure melancholy, with clean guitars repeating the same chord progression over and over. Somehow it’s quite beautiful, actually.
Next comes ‘May His Illusion Last Until Dawn’s Awakening’ (seriously? What’s up with these song names?) with the most melody we’re going to hear from the band on this release. The main riff keeps getting bigger and bigger thanks to B.A.W.’s great drum work. It’s the first song with discernible structure and actual riffs, and the music complements the chants very well. We also hear a nice guitar solo. As we segue into ‘Chimerical Hope’ we get into the more familiar Schammasch sound. Finally a blastbeat and harsh growling, in the second to last song. It doesn’t quite fit with the ambient-like character of the rest of the songs so far, but it comes as a nice breath of fresh, heavy, black-metal-laden air. This one is a straightforward pounder. As we get to the last song, ‘Do Not Open Your Eyes’, we fall back into drones but B.A.W. saves the day once again with superb drumming, and there’s a hint of melody in the tremolo-picked guitars. The chantings are back in full force. This is a great way to close this intense musical experience, it almost feels like coming back from meditating, with everything feeling much more intense.
All in all, this is a solid release and a great experiment in a new direction for Schammasch. As a concept, it is well developed and very cohesive. With each song segueing into the next one and a constant style throughout, it is a great listen. It also helps that there’s a little bit of the familiar Schammasch creeping in at some point.
2. The Weighty Burden of an Eternal Secret
3. Along the Road That Leads to Bedlam
4. These Tresses Are Sacred
5. May His Illusion Last Until Dawn’s Awakening
6. Chimerical Hope
7. Do Not Open Your Eyes