Existence is a series of challenges – ones that force you to adapt, to change and to create sides of yourself that you show to the world, ones that are more appealing and accepted, ones that help you feel more at ease and able to cope with the journey we call life. Those ideas are at the heart of Contradiction, the second full length from Swiss band Schammasch, which takes the split of the self to new dimensions in a two disc package that provokes and gives much to reflect upon. Schammasch’s music is deeply rooted in blackened death metal, although their progression from debut Sic Lvceat Lvx is obvious with the scope and incredibly expansive nature of their newer work leaving much to be admired. Contradiction is huge – in sound and in weight – and the band is to be commended for holding the attention of their audience over its extended running time. The modern music audience often suffers from a need for immediate satisfaction but Contradiction is a slow burner that builds its path through darkness, light and evocative words.
The album begins with “Contradiction” and on slow, delicate guitar notes that softly build and move towards a spoken word introduction that is laced with aggression despite its deliberate cadence. Frontman Chris S.R. injects his words with tangible hostility and the song sweeps from harsh, violent heaviness to epic, almost choral moments that play against each other and ensure the band are set apart from their peers in their inventiveness and command of the material. The obvious comparisons here are to Behemoth’s latest work, or to fellow countrymen Triptykon and in turn, Celtic Frost (Triptykon’s V. Santura produced this work) – yet the similarities are so small as to be ignored when the record is taken as a whole. Schammasch are a completely different prospect and while it’s easy to compare a band to another in order to create a frame of reference, in this instance the band reject any such judgments and would rather Contradiction be accepted for what it is, and not as a work that can be compared to anything else – unless that thing is a record that is probably one of the most intriguing of the year.
“Provoking Spiritual Collapse” is a fiery ode that contains a fantastically rousing chorus that burrows under the skin and digs its claws deep into the psyche before “Until Our Poison Devours Us” seeps ever further into the bones and lays the foundations of true inner darkness, the record showing itself to be the dialogue with oneself when everything becomes all too much to handle. Schammasch have created a deeply personal work with this record and the horrors and honesty that is contained within its walls are tangible and known to most.
Contradiction is a movement of two halves, with the subtle intricacies of the (mostly) instrumental “Crown” splitting the album down the middle and allowing the band to push through the shadows of the first songs and take on new elements that showcase the light that dealing with atrocity can bring. It may seem extreme, in this respect, to think that good can come of pain, but often total darkness can bring about change within the self and what is interesting about Contradiction is that that change manifests through the music and the journey. “Golden Light” is the biggest advocate of this in that the song speaks of allowing the “serpent” into the soul in order to move forward and lay waste to the past.
Schammasch turn away from the more traditional sounds and aesthetics of black, or death metal, and instead work hard to create an atmosphere that is unique to them. Soft moments often fall in the middle of harsher territory – “JHWH” – and spoken word passages contrast to the hard, low vocal approach that is favoured throughout. The usual subjects of Satan and cold, harsh landscapes are eschewed in favour of a more personal tone and rich passages that are soaked in sweeping progressions of guitar that evoke a cinematic narrative and a closely-held regard for the subject matter.
“JHWH” is, for want of a better phrase, truly epic; the seventeen minute long composition shifts and turns from spoken passages to driving drum beats to wonderful choral movements and not once does it feel contrived or forced – Schammasch are adept at working outside of the constraints of time and space and instead create music that flows from a place of utter desolation and carries with it a need and want to overcome. People are conflicted at their core and Contradiction does much to reveal that truth, although it’s clear that there is still so much to learn…if you should want to.
9.0 / 10
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