Swiss sonic adventurers Schammasch enter a decadent new phase

Schammasch promo pic 2017

Clearly not a band to rest on their laurels, Switzerland’s stupendously ambitious post-metal adventurers Schammasch are about to embark on another creative odyssey, little more a year after their mammoth, triple-disc, Triangle opus sent shockwaves through the underground metal scene.

The first of a series of releases based on Comte de Lautréamont’s surrealist, decadent and hugely influential 19th-century poetic novel, Les Chants de Maldoror, The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite is due to be released via Prosthetic Records on June 9. While still steeped in the band’s customary hallowed tone and driven by an exploratory impulse as if it’s about to step solemnly through a swirling stargate, Hermaphrodite marks a shift in sonic axis, gradually building up rich, tense atmospheres and riven with insidious spoken-word passages. And over the course of its mere half-hour run-time, it becomes a transformative experience that ritualistically ravishes the senses.

Thanks to the band and Prosthetic Records, we not only have an exclusive stream of the mini-album in full, but an interview with mainman C.S.R. too.

Perform your ablutions, fill your bowl with wine, blood or sacramental fluid of your choice and step into the dimension-warping wonders of The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite below!

It’s been little more than a year since Triangle was released, and that was a huge undertaking. How soon after did you start working on this new sequence of releases, and were you able to take stock after Triangle?

“I actually started to write bits and pieces of [first track proper] The Weighty Burden Of An Eternal Secret between two production sessions of Triangle, around late summer 2015, although, of course, not tied to any conceptual ideas yet. Pretty soon after Triangle was released it was quite clear what the next step will be, that it shouldn’t be another full-length album again. It seemed to us that Triangle was too massive for the follow-up to be another lengthy release, so we decided to do something shorter, something in between two albums, out of which the idea of the Maldoror Chants series arose. We could also have easily given Triangle another full year’s time without releasing something new, but on the other hand, why wait if there is already something new to get done? For not overstraining people? That’s just not the way we work. If there are creative processes going on we certainly don’t stop them without a proper reason.”

Is there any thematic link between Triangle and The Maldoror Chants, or do you see this as a lateral step?

“The only direct link I see is that there are a few lines inspired by the book as well on Triangle, but apart from that the two aren’t linked directly – although some similar symbolic elements can be found on both works if you’re looking a bit deeper. The Maldoror Chants series will become its own cosmos, without being connected to our regular work. You can look at it as an experimental playground for exploring different artistic landscapes than the ones within the full length releases – that’s its purpose, along with the expression of esteem towards the book.”

Les Chants de Maldoror seems to have been a hugely influential work. How would you describe the power of the book?

“I think the book’s power lies it’s unique use of language and its boundary-breaking character. Logic often gets completely abandoned like a duck takes to water. Through this the text has a very strong potential of giving the reader hints to a new perception of things. The reader gets challenged very drastically sometimes, and gets challenged to question his or her understanding of logic and reality, like every surrealist work of art does. It even plays with the reader as with a puppet, at times.”

The main character is opposed to God and humanity – what philosophical avenues did this open up for you, creatively, and what does the figure of the hermaphrodite in the title symbolise for you?

“I’m looking at the short story of the Hermaphrodite as kind of a contrast moment to the overall violent and gruesome atmosphere of the book. I chose not to deal with Maldoror himself for now, I chose the Hermaphrodite because of that sense of beauty, fragility and purity the story holds. The character always spoke to me in two ways: firstly as the perfect symbol for the feeling of deviation and alienation from society, and second as the ancient symbol of divine unity, the symbiosis of the male and the female poles.”

This is also different approach musically – how much has recording this been a journey of discovery for you?

“To be honest, the writing process felt rather familiar to the process of writing The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void [the more ambient, third disc of Triangle], because I wrote and treated both pieces as one whole piece instead of single songs. Although there was a major difference within the creative process on Hermaphrodite compared to all other Schammasch records: on this one I pretty much sealed myself off from seeking direct influences in other music, but instead only followed my instincts. Also the mixing process was completely different, because I worked with someone new and had more responsibility, which was interesting and made me learn a lot about music production.”

How is this series going to pan out, both structurally and musically? How many releases are going to be involved, and will they have a similar musical approach, or will the music shift to express different aspect of the tale?

“There are no plans for how many releases the Maldoror Chants series will include, but I already know which storyline to deal with next. As for the musical aspects, there won’t be any obvious connections between the records, but instead they will, as you wrote, follow the atmospheric landscapes individually.”

Is this suite going to be performed live at any point, and if so how are you going to approach the shows visually?

“We will perform the whole record in Germany one day after the release and on June 30 in Switzerland, as two exclusive release shows. Afterwards we will most likely limit it to one or two tracks in live sets. Visually there won’t be any major changes yet, because it’s simply beyond the means at the moment, due to various reasons.”

Check out Schammasch’s Facebook page here

And pre-order The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite here

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.