In Lisandro Alonso’s “Los muertos” a recently released convict, Vargas, wanders a vast jungle, both literal and metaphoric, set on a path towards his daughter. The hero’s true intentions remain hidden from the viewer as we’re left trying to interpret the film’s loose and pregnant imagery. It’s a reflective and crawling pilgrimage, an exploration of the human condition. Outwardly crude and drenched in vibrant tinting, the director is intently focused on a dark, disrupted soul. Swiss black metal quartet Schammasch’s magnum opus, Triangle, feels like “Los muertos’” substance turned inside out, with a biting metallic, almost industrial surface hiding a makeshift spirituality and an earnest externalization or a carefully conceived concept of an ugly, imperfect world. Based on vocalist and guitarist Chris S.R.’s amalgamation of a number of religions and philosophies, Triangle is a sprawling, grandiose effort that bridges progressive black metal, progressive rock, post-rock, and ambient music, while hinting towards a deeply personal struggle.
The first of the album’s three CDs, named The Process of Dying, is in some ways a logical continuation of the style that the band nurtured on their predecessor, 2014’s Contradiction. A forward-looking, engaging form of black metal reminiscent of late period Behemoth pervades here. Grandiloquent lyrics, alternately chanted and growled, break through a curtain of broken drumming, reverberating guitars, and muted traces of glowing melodies. This is confrontational art that, whether through slower, sludgy pieces like “Father’s Breath” or the ravenous ferociousness of “Awakening from the Dream of Life,” depicts a Promethean conflict, a yearning to grasp the light and break free from past burdens.
The second side of the triangle, Metaflesh, is situated somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead, and documents a transitional style for the group. Expansive and utterly progressive, it takes the compact attack of The Process of Dying and explodes its structure, interjecting sparser, doomier sounds that occupy seemingly colossal spaces. This feeling of seeping agoraphobia stresses the ominous, foreboding sentiment that Schammasch coyly present from the start of the record, but that now becomes unshackled from its blackened elements. Metaflesh thus becomes home to some of the release’s best, most diverse cuts, such as the driving, powerful “Metanoia” or the Pink Floyd-cum-Deathspell Omega wah-wah scorcher “Above the Starts of God.” As the lyrics seem to suggest, Metaflesh marks the point of rebirth.
Having gone beyond the veil, the album concludes with The Supernal Clear Light of the Void, a mostly instrumental, ambient exploration of the otherworldly. In many ways the densest of the record’s three parts, it draws from the darker sides of tribal, world, and electronic music influences. In combination with the band’s reliance on simple, marching rhythms, the result evokes the martial industrial and neofolk of Death in June or Rome, while lyrics become unsung parts of the atmospheric musical tapestry itself. “Cathartic Confession” is a prime example of how well Schammasch deal with this stylistic left turn, using rumbling drums and spaced out, but thickly layered noises to create a visceral, engaging song.
An ambitious and daring endeavor, Triangle is almost beyond reproach as it becomes a testament to a clear, but ultimately open-ended vision, a demonstration of Schammasch’s compositional and musical prowess. One of the year’s best.
Tracks to Check Out: “Father’s Breath,” “Metanoia,” “Above the Stars of God,” and “Cathartic Confession”