Label: Prosthetic Records
Release: November 8th, 2019
Steadily growing in popularity for the last decade, Schammasch have in their discography two long-talked albums, especially Triangle from 2016, which received a bulky amount of media praise. The determined and ambitious nature of the band draws the attention of listeners outside black metal, and they have won a commendable piece of the scene with their music and evolution during the recent years. Speaking for myself, I was never engrossed to any of their previous material, yet it is an act well inside the radar.
The new work Hearts of No Light is an hour and seven minutes long tome, since they were not shy already from the previous album to create a lengthy release. While Triangle was a journey in three parts, Hearts of No Light has one composition significantly longer than the rest (the last track), which pushes its whole duration to that point. The production is clear and charges a powerful atmosphere, right from the introductory, soaring piano piece "Winds that Pierce the Silence". Then hits a ferocious moment in the record, which is the brilliant track "Ego Sum Omega".
All the malevolent guitar melodies, the shrieked vocals, the compositional mastery of the band, are unfolding and taking over. The musicianship is on point, delivering interesting and filthy riffs, building a certain, chaotic feeling that characterizes the rest of the album too, at least for the most part. Keyboards are kept in use throughout, over the different tunes. Schammasch's compelling sound and their not completely traditional palette makes them very interesting to listen to, as the record surely has some highlight moments all around.
Some experimentation is working like a charm in Hearts of No Light, like the connecting track "A Bridge Ablaze", where I especially like the use of the piano with a more modern percussion approach, something that would even fit in a darker than usual trip-hop band. On the other hand, there is a strange part in "I Burn Within You", with frantic vocals and unstable keyboards, which feels as if the listener has stepped into an aural wormhole and into a Carach Angren record. Thinking of the whole atmosphere that the rest of the album has built, I thought that segment was very much out of place, even though the second part of that song is at least solid.
Things get back in track with "A Paradigm of Beauty", which has plain clean vocals coming from a passionate hard rock / post-punk group of a different time. Schammasch are feeling free to jam a bit in this track and even going to more psychedelic rock ideas, before crushing down with heavier lines in "Katabasis". It's quite pleasant to listen to that, as well as the combination of elements from different background they are employing. The fifteen minute long ending track "Innermost, Lowermost Abyss" is almost ritualistic, and it could be classified as a long dark ambient outro to Hearts of No Light, also justifying the title of the album.
It makes perfect sense for part of the audience to have admiration for this band, and while listening to Hearts of No Light, it is by no means a mediocre record. It is a multi-layered and challenging release, yet for me it was not flawless. Some halting moments in "Qadmon's Heir" or "Rays Like Razors" were longer than needed, "I Burn Within You" was turbulent, but as a whole we are talking about a very solid album that grows and you and has a lot to explore. Schammasch have not disappointed, and that comes from someone who is not a wholehearted fan of the band.