The late summer sky above Basel is clear blue and endless. It stretches over elegant, pastel and slate low-rise buildings still steeped in old-world, picture book charm, community gardens nestled within apartment blocks and the Rhine river that slakes underneath arched stone bridges. Gothic cathedrals rise above the skyline, their steeples like insectoid antennae hoping to catch a whiff of celestial static.
Sitting in a spacious, artisan caf in his picturesque hometown, Schammasch frontman and mastermind C.S.R has more than enough reason to be positive. The three full-length releases since the bands formation in 2009 have grown ever more ambitious from 2010s turbulent, black metal-steeped debut, Sic Lvceat Lvx, through to 2014s expansive, double album follow-up, Contradiction, to 2016s triple-album magnum opus, Triangle.
Not only are Schammasch visually striking, adorned in exquisitely embroidered cowls and black-and-metallic facepaint like a devout, mystic sect but, at the behest of C.S.R, theyve charted a personal, if somewhat cryptic odyssey of enlightenment thats marked them out as one of the most sonically arresting, genre-transcending and spiritually elevating bands to have emerged from the underground in recent years.
Theres certainly not very much danger in living here, says the frontman, when asked why Swiss bands from Samael and Triptykon through to post-metallers Abraham, metal-sampling industrialists The Young Gods, spectral black metallers Darkspace and even pop pranksters Yello are so naturally geared towards sonic grandeur.
I felt empty. There was nothing else to say.
The majority of the people live very comfortable lives, and also very predictable ones. Maybe that takes away the rawness within the music, but it makes space for something else, which for other bands wouldnt be within reach.
After the universal acclaim for Triangle, the high-profile tours supporting Batushka and fellow Basel-ites Zeal & Ardor, and the landmark set at 2017s Roadburn festival where Schammasch played all 100 minutes of that album in full, C.S.R ought to have been contemplating his next step with renewed confidence. The reality turned out to be very different.
With a new album, Hearts Of No Light, imminent, this is C.S.Rs sole face-to-face interview, an undertaking approached with a mixture of diligence and trepidation, as if hes trying to tune into and translate an internal frequency whose natural resonance isnt the spoken word.
I just felt very empty after Triangle was done, he says carefully, outlining the Hades-esque path that revealed itself in the albums wake. I had a feeling of, I said everything and theres nothing else to say. I just really didnt have a clue where to go and in which direction to go from there, especially from a thematic point of view. That put a lot of pressure on me, because its a pretty shitty feeling.
As an interim project, Schammasch had released an experimental EP, The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite a lateral step inspired by an 1869 poetic novel, Les Chants de Maldoror, by French proto-surrealist writer Comte de Lautramont.
It offered an opportunity for creative recovery from the understandably intense Triangle sessions, but it was the attempt to chart the next stage for the band that left him asking hard questions of himself.
Once I really looked into this situation and looked into the fact that I felt this way, the frontman recalls, suddenly something evolved out of that feeling. I reached a point where, if youre honest about certain things towards yourself, then you can go on from there, instead of just walking into the same wall again and again.
To find a way forward, C.S.R found a clue in his past. Having abandoned his first band, Totenwinter a black metal band with the Chernobyl disaster as its central theme (I was very fascinated by how it got handled and what it did to people. I saw it as a perfect representation of what of what humanity does to the planet, and to itself as well) he spent a year in a shitty grunge band before reaching an epiphany.
I realised it was never going to go anywhere, and that it didnt do anything valuable for me or [anyone] else, he says. Thats what the starting point for Schammasch was, basically, which was the exact opposite of what I was doing.
That willingness to destroy in order to rebuild was alluded to in the opening title track for Contradiction, its first lines a quote from Aleister Crowley: Worship what youve burned, burn what youve worshipped.
Its a very interesting formula to live by, says C.S.R, because it makes you question the things you do and the things you believe in. Everybody gets stuck at one point. Everybody gets trapped within their own dogmas, so burning them down is destructive, but it can also be the most constructive thing you can do to reinvent yourself every time and start from a new point.
Triangles three discs were representations of separate yet connected states of being: the acceptance of death, the balance between the physical and spiritual worlds, and the ultimate liberation of the soul, free from the demands of the ego. Looming over the next horizon, however, was a reality check.
The overall goal or message of that album was always a very positive one and a very hopeful one, says C.S.R. Everything about Hearts Of No Light is the exact opposite of that. I feel like a lot of what Id been trying to reach with Triangle, Id nowadays look upon as illusions, or dead ends even.
"That might sound quite negative, but its just more honest than negative. There is a much more sober view on the new album. I think Ive just given up on certain things that I was trying to explore or reach within the Triangle cosmos, which kind of led nowhere, or they didnt lead towards the goal I wanted to achieve back then.
So was it a state of enlightenment that he had been aiming for up to that point?
Absolutely. And during the process of making the new album, I came to realise that a state of enlightenment is quite a vague goal. Nowadays, Im discovering a much more earthly, realistic view, ever since I started to really dive into this feeling of emptiness, and really embrace that.
"For a long time I tried to fight that idea. I was pushing it away and not wanting to realise that this emptiness is the starting point for creating a new cosmos within a new work of art. Its the first time I really felt this emotion while working in this band. It was tough to really accept.
Running at a relatively restrained 67 minutes, Hearts Of No Light is recognisably Schammasch, but this time around the surging, exquisitely wrought, Behemoth-pacing will to power and the apocalyptic knife-edge drama that roils throughout the album finds no oases of elevating calm.
The atmospheric way stations A Bridge Ablaze and the closing Innermost, Lowermost Abyss are states of elegant, awe-inspiring purgatory, beautiful to apprehend yet uncertain in their fate. Darker and more fevered than anything they have released before, the albums soul-scourging scope leaves you feeling like more than ever is at stake.
If there is one moment of succour, its the track A Paradigm Of Beauty. Amid reverberating, post-punk-infused riffs, C.S.Rs vocals turn from a gathering-stormcloud bellow to wracked eulogy: In the midst of burning ruins / Your light was never seen before a calling to a divine spark.
Thats absolutely what Im trying to say in that song, he agrees, that there is divinity in creativity. Im telling it to myself as well, because pretty much everything else on the album is putting the process of creation into a negative and destructive light.
"You have to let go of a lot of things, like your picture of what the album should have become and all the expectations you have towards yourself. Something in you dies during that process as well, and at the same time something gets born.
That seeming negativity reaches its apotheosis in the albums haunting final track, which is, as C.S.R puts it, a representation of the endless fall of man. Is there an ultimate benefit to reaching that point?
Well, you certainly let go of something by putting it into expression. It wasnt done because it was a constructive thing to do, it was the necessary point to end the album, which is the absolute lowest point where you could go. Its not necessarily a negative or a depressed state. Its just an honest state and a sober state, where Im not under any illusions.
Hearts Of No Light may not be brimming with PMA, but its a necessary and enthralling step in both Schammaschs and C.S.Rs personal evolution a willingness to give oneself to the cycle of death and rebirth, and submit yourself to all the self-examination that entails.
Honesty is a difficult thing, he concludes. Youve got to destroy a lot of your own self, your own ego, your idea of who you think you are, and its a very painful but very rewarding process as well. Because the more you get rid of these shells, the freer you are in terms of what you can become.
Hearts Of No Light is out now via Prosthetic and available to order on Vinyl, CD or MP3.
See more here:
- Spiritual Enlightenment: What It Is and How to Experience It - November 10th, 2020
- 5 Things You Should Know About Spiritual Enlightenment ... - November 10th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - Truths & Paths | Live and Dare - November 10th, 2020
- The 3 Stages Of Spiritual Enlightenment : In5D - November 10th, 2020
- What Is Spiritual Enlightenment or Spiritual Awakening? - November 10th, 2020
- Is there a spiritual side to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? - RTE.ie - November 10th, 2020
- National Trust observes Divali with educational presentations - Loop News Trinidad and Tobago - November 10th, 2020
- The Wanteds Tom Parker and wife Kelsey say newborn son is light at the end of our tunnel after brain cance - The Sun - November 10th, 2020
- The best response to Islamism is Christianity - Spectator.co.uk - November 10th, 2020
- Astrology 2020: Message of the Day (November 8) - Newsroompost - November 10th, 2020
- Huge chalk art project brings positivity to street on the Outer Banks - OBXToday.com - November 10th, 2020
- The birth of modern Europe - The News International - November 10th, 2020
- NLE Choppa Dated A 46-Year-Old Woman When He Was 16 - HotNewHipHop - November 10th, 2020
- Roy Exum: We Need God's Help - The Chattanoogan - November 10th, 2020
- Faith and Governance: The Role of the Church in Social Justice - THISDAY Newspapers - November 10th, 2020
- When Raving Was Radical - The Nation - November 10th, 2020
- Navigating the Mind: What Medication Cannot Address - James Moore - November 10th, 2020
- No Man's Sky: 10 Things You Didnt Know About The Korvax - TheGamer - November 10th, 2020
- It's Not That Detroit Is Too Poor, But That Seattle Is Too Rich - TheStranger.com - October 19th, 2020
- Eye Gazing Exercise: Possible Benefits and How to Try It - Healthline - October 19th, 2020
- Batman: Bruce Wayne Has The Same Origin Story as The Buddha - Screen Rant - October 19th, 2020
- Fiction: Into the Darkness With Don DeLillo - Wall Street Journal - October 19th, 2020
- Rabbi Art Green (still) believes Hasidic ideas are key to the Jewish future - The Jewish News of Northern California - October 19th, 2020
- Alan Arkin on Hollywood success: 'I was miserable pretty much all of the time' - The Guardian - October 19th, 2020
- The joy of the Mallorcan landscape - Majorca Daily Bulletin - October 19th, 2020
- Sudbury author explores the power of healing - The Sudbury Star - October 19th, 2020
- The Revolutionary Beethoven - CounterPunch.org - CounterPunch - October 19th, 2020
- Exercising Religion and Taming Faction - Los Angeles Review of Books - lareviewofbooks - October 19th, 2020
- Op-Ed: The civil rights legend who opposed critical race theory - The Center Square - October 19th, 2020
- Chant of the Buddha - Part II - Outlook India - September 26th, 2020
- Tantra exhibition review: An enjoyable journey on the road to enlightenment - Evening Standard - September 26th, 2020
- The Revolutionary Beethoven - Dissent - September 26th, 2020
- Review: Capital in the 21st Century - Camden New Journal newspapers website - September 26th, 2020
- Finding God: Christianity and the Global Mystical Societies - THISDAY Newspapers - September 26th, 2020
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith Used This Parenting Technique That Inspired Jaden and Willow To Be Unusually Close - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - September 26th, 2020
- The art of tantra: is there more to it than marathon sex and massages? - The Guardian - September 26th, 2020
- Saying goodbye to the Israeli one-state prophet - +972 Magazine - September 26th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - How To Become Enlightened - August 10th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - The Most Profound Truth Revealed ... - August 10th, 2020
- SERMONETTE: Seek the Holy Spirit and hold on! - Crow River Media - August 10th, 2020
- What Is Spiritual Bypassing? 7 Steps To Avoiding Toxic Spirituality - YourTango - August 10th, 2020
- Will Tammy Duckworth be the first deist veep since Thomas Jefferson? - Religion News Service - August 10th, 2020
- Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism - PopMatters - August 10th, 2020
- Creation, conscience and the bomb | Earthbeat - National Catholic Reporter - August 10th, 2020
- DREAMS OF WALDEN POND: The Way of Liberal Religion - Patheos - August 10th, 2020
- Let's Show Power! Rev Abbeam Danso and Apostle Nkum challenge The Mystic Twins to open battle - GhanaWeb - August 10th, 2020
- Jacob S. Rugh: An open letter to the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging - Salt Lake Tribune - August 10th, 2020
- Your Weekly Horoscope News: August 10th - August 17th - Sporteluxe - August 10th, 2020
- #482 Author and Intuitive Michael McAdams and His Book, An Angel Told Me So - BlogTalkRadio - August 8th, 2020
- Hinduism Survived Years Of Raids Through Its Inclusiveness, Not Violence And Bloodshed - Outlook India - August 8th, 2020
- A rebuttal to Sam George's mid-length propaganda: "The path to enlightenment ain't easy. We get it through trial, struggle, self-flagellation.... - August 8th, 2020
- Dimension of Krishna Sadhana - The New Indian Express - August 8th, 2020
- Why Bodh Gaya is Considered the Navel of the Earth - Ancient Origins - August 8th, 2020
- 6 Facts About Water Lilies That Will Make You Love Them Even More - MSN Money - August 8th, 2020
- Satan in the Times | John Mark N. Reynolds - Patheos - August 8th, 2020
- How To Meditate, Body Scan, Breathe Mindfully And Become More Present - elle.com - August 8th, 2020
- When panic disorder hits a nation - The Star Online - August 8th, 2020
- World Teacher and Happy Science Founder Ryuho Okawa Introduces Four Principles of Happiness that Transcends Race and Religion in His New Book... - August 8th, 2020
- ARTIST: Zachary Ian Garden featured in The Art of Tattooists - The News Herald - August 7th, 2020
- Honey I Joined A Cult Coming To Brainwash PCs in 2021 - GameSpace.com - August 7th, 2020
- Pick of the Podcasts: Guru, Calm Down Dear, Give Me Some Good News - The Sunday Post - August 7th, 2020
- Excerpt: From the Translators Note to Rumi; A New Collection Selected and Translated by Farrukh Dh... - Hindustan Times - August 6th, 2020
- 'History will judge us' Have progressive UK rabbis reached end of the road on Israel? - Mondoweiss - August 6th, 2020
- Chulayarnnon Siriphol on Finding Ways to Express Opinions - Ocula Magazine - August 6th, 2020
- Speech and Slavery in the West Indies | by Fara Dabhoiwala - The New York Review of Books - August 6th, 2020
- Power of 5am thoughts - The New Indian Express - August 4th, 2020
- India is a spiritual country, but we're still not taking the wealth of the Bhagavad Gita: Vedanta scholar Jaya Row - The New Indian Express - August 4th, 2020
- The Sacrifice of All Doubts - Kashmir Reader - August 4th, 2020
- View the awe-inspiring Hermitage of St. Sava - Aleteia IT - August 4th, 2020
- A Suitable Boy: Seven films to watch that are set in India - Spectator.co.uk - August 3rd, 2020
- Chingy wants to uplift with self-reflective new album, 'Crown Jewel' - STLtoday.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Feds sprayed chemicals into the eyes of a retired ER nurse and veteran - Street Roots News - August 3rd, 2020
- The American Founding vindicated against its foes on the Right and Left - MercatorNet - August 3rd, 2020
- Lam Tian Xings Anthem of the Calamus is an ode to Hong Kongs resilient spirit - Lifestyle Asia - August 3rd, 2020
- Asking the Clergy: Why is patience a virtue in difficult times? - Newsday - July 31st, 2020
- El Topo: The weirdest western ever made - BBC News - July 29th, 2020
- Lam Tian-xings Anthem of the Calamus is an ode to Hong Kongs resilient spirit - Lifestyle Asia - July 29th, 2020
- Corruption, the Devaluation of the Human Spirit and the Futures of Black Humanity (2) - The News - July 29th, 2020
- 'It took genius to chisel these buttocks' the top 10 bottoms in art, chosen by our critic - The Guardian - July 29th, 2020
- Hippy In the Mikvah - Lubavitch.com - July 29th, 2020