Review Summary: ...for I consciously perish in the bright shining embers of the golden sun.
Have you ever felt there was an album out there in the aetheric dimensions of soundwaves that would completely redefine and reshape everything you thought you knew about music? Unbeknownst to the ears, yet hiding in plain sight... a work of music that would rise above every masterpiece that has graced your mortal ears to stand steadfast - if even for a fleeting moment - as the very pinnacle of spiritual engagement manifest through sound. For many like myself, Schammasch’s sophomore effort, Contradiction
, stands nobly among the ranks of such lauded masterworks.
In these modern times, a defining existential weariness is easy to come by as we lambaste in the throes of social decay and profiteering alarmism. It wears on the soul and brittles the bones, yet the common human trait of seeking divinity and empowerment, whether a conscious effort or subconscious manifestation, is something that still holds true in these times of idolatry and confusion. Schammasch are clearly well versed in these esoteric waters of the immaterial relations between earthly realms and the seat of our souls - this penultimate duality of knowing and unknowing that underscores the woes of all humanity. With this grand purpose of illumination guiding their hands, Schammasch have offered us a wholly transformative and purposeful ritual acknowledging the contradiction of divine beings desiring for a divine grace beyond themselves. If you will, a universal ode to the last vestiges of ignorance and a harbinger's hymn to the rising of the light within us all.
Split in two halves by the hauntingly elysian interlude "Crown", the dualist structuring here is less a lateral journey than it is an observation of left and right hand path philosophies, moving in tandem and parallel as complementary forces of unification through a common consciousness. With this in mind, there is a veritable Mariana's trench of thought provoking elements that form this modern masterpiece.
Rooted heavily in blackened death metal, the influences are clear. Dashes of the familiar Behemoth and Triptykon run through its veins. However, emphasis must be made upon the fact Schammasch haven't settled for paying tribute to the lesser realms of this world in the slightest, and instead have transcended the sum of their parts with a genetic progressiveness punctuated with intrinsically purposeful and meticulously crafted compositions.
Though the kvltists of yesteryear will cry against the sheen of its production, Contradiction
's mastering is second to none. Tool's magnum opus Lateralus
immediately comes to mind when the steam of the title track begins to suck you in. The harmonizing guitars resound on sacred wave lengths and the drums induce feverish trance with their gnostic, multidimensional movements. The resplendent richness and depth of this album’s layers is so flavourful its borders on ostentatious while beckoning your attentiveness at ever climbing volumes. It really does sound perfect; decadent and illustrious with a garland of triumph coursing to the heartbeat of the occult icaros. Every nook and cranny of the soundscape has a lesson to teach and instead of relying the usual sonic haze to illicit mystery, Schammasch opt for kaleidoscopic songcraft and supremely esoteric lyricism to carry the weight of the less-than-immediate joys this album has to offer.
Every musician's performance is unified by a common goal, and through its runtime, Contradiction
is void of self-congratulatory showmanship and needless frivol. Every note, every progression and spoken word is executed with the utmost certitude. The strings weave effortlessly through infinite labyrinths of balanced melody and dissonance, resonating flawlessly and patiently building into cathartic climaxes and infernal bursts of golden victory. With an equally divine drumming display, Boris A.W. shows the restraint of a Tibetan monk, with each percussive hit serving its part but never falling victim to a desire to cavort. The percussion balances forces of Neurosis-esque tribal hypnosis, metronomic outbursts of weaponized aggression, and humbly intricate beguilement. Playing as if they were one mind divided among the instruments, they work to induce vivid and evocative imagery of flowing sacrificial blood, golden temples, and the rituals of high priests transmuting to the nameless voids of the afterlife.
Christopher Ruf’s curation offers one of the most breathtakingly pedagogic vocal performances in recent memory. His Swiss accent only compliments an already esteemed conviction that will confound and entice even the most seasoned metalheads. Dusty yet lavish, his engaging voice carries the lyrical depth of his wisdom with unmatched diction. In lieu of the aridity of his delivery, every word is annunciated with the passion of a prophetic connection to the esoteric realms of the afterlife, and every word is clearly understood with seemingly telepathic clarity. Haunting cleans and Gregorian chanting frequently accompany to great effect, and punctuate the sermon at essential moments to elicit the sensation touching true divinity, creating a contradiction in itself; both wholly god-like and serpentine in equal parts, simultaneously.
No anguish left to feel, learning to forget wherefore
No use of speaking anymore, for the world turns without sound
Though nothing is stranger to men than silence, even as a star became the soul of silence most profound
Singing songs of serpent silence, even as a star became the soul, of silence most profound
It was absolute
No voice, no song might pierce or penetrate that enviable universal state
The sun and moon beheld, stood still, forging numinous instant under will
As we were sailing out of equilibrium
On a spiritual ocean without end, into the eyes of a thousand storms
The wheel of desperation, that never stops turning
We will never reach heaven, so I teared god apart within me
And we may never see the sun again, but staring into the abyss with pride
Praising silence as the last remaining joy, still waters run deep
The climactic moments on this album are placed brilliantly beside builds that entrance and captivate, offering orgasmic releases of tension. The patiently vitriolic second track, "Split My Tongue" is but one example of how Schammasch can take a slow burning candle and set an entire forest ablaze with a blasting crescendo hotter than a million suns. Moreover, "JHWH" (the monolithic 17 minute conspectus that draws the album's final section) is one of the most provocative and awe-inspiring finales in the history metal. A slithering orgy of tense blood-ritual slowly mazes beneath a spoken observation highlighting the cruelty of the creator man has crafted in his own image. Before unleashing the climactic splendour that brings the listener to heights that stand far above the God they have so desperately worshiped, a slight reprieve of acoustic guitar signals the fast-approaching arrival of a revelation. What follows can only be considered absolute musical perfection, and creating a chasm between darkness and light that is unspeakably divine and emotionally cathartic. Rife with perpetual dynamism, each and every track has moments of brilliance that stand out to make this double LP an insidiously engrossing sacrament from start to finish.
The long and short of it is this; Contradiction
is true to its name in almost every sense of word. Polarities run deep to form a complete work of philosophical art drawing contrast between the bestial and the divine, the indulgent and the restrained, the unified and the divided, the conscious and unconscious. Schammasch make music with a purpose bigger than themselves and it drips from every single note and every single word. A crown jewel at the heart of modern metal, Contradiction
is well worth the hyperbolic praise, and stands as album that will continue to reveal secret wisdom long into the sands of time as an immortalized vessel of illumination.