REVIEW: Schammasch – “The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite”

Lautréamont was a French poet who wrote ‘The Chants of Maldoror’, in which the protagonist Maldoror is the incarnation of all evil. He falls to earth, and as he watches the rotten humanity, he decides to show them their own wrongdoings and rottenness. This is an interesting theme for today’s similarly titled record: The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite is the new record by Swiss black metal masters Schammasch, and the record is going to come out on the 8th of June.

I have quite the affinity for atmospheric and extravagant black metal, and this specific record satisfied this particular proclivity of mine. With a good load of drone and conceptual cohesiveness, Schammasch have earned themselves a round of applause for creating the most unique black metal album of the year so far.

The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite is an incredibly cohesive album, and I advise you to listen to the album in one go; it’s best if you can really focus and enjoy it in peace. Beginning with extremely dense and dark droning atmospheres, the album pretty much tells the listener right away what audience it wants to attract. Those of you who read carefully have probably noticed that I was speaking of atmospheres, by which I mean the ever-changing, morphing ambiance that twists and turns like a leviathan in the depths. The album only comes alive slowly, getting quite noisy before gradually succumbing to a calmer state. Then the drums pick up and start to pull the overall tempo of the songs up, rapidly hurtling towards the points at which all other members kick in. This is quite nicely done, as it acts kind of a lifeline, something one can grasp out of this avant-garde droning.

While the concept of the songs slowly gaining its body and spirit through a neatly planned-out build-up is nice, you certainly want to know how a fully-fleshed out song by Schammasch sounds. After the track “These Tresses are Sacred”, which delivers a chamber music- or occult church-like atmosphere, comes “May His Illusion Last Until Dawn’s Awakening”, the album’s first fully elaborated song. It starts off with a clean but reverb- and delay-heavy guitar riff that gets continuously more distorted over time. A monologue starts to chant of ominous and surreal evils, and out of nowhere, an absurdly heavy guitar riff begins to tear through the song like a mad behemoth. The second guitar joins in, but it delivers the lead lines on top of the gritty background with octave riffs and single note picking. The monologue devolves into an almost Gregorian chant, and after a short but all the more sweet solo, the song slowly fades out. Once having heard this, the listener will surely want more of this intense, unique and almost Lovecraftian music.

In retrospect, I can confidently say that I adored every minute out of this record. It is mature and experimental, but manages to keep a cohesive and well-executed theme throughout. It is exactly the right amount of every element the band tries to incorporate, namely black metal, avant-garde and drone. A fantastic record and something I listened to daily, what am I saying, at least twice a day since I got it.

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Score: 9/10

Notable Tracks: “These Tresses are Sacred”; “May His Illusion Last Until Dawn’s Awakening”; “Chimerical Hope”

FFO: Zhrine, Uada

You can follow Schammasch on Facebook as well as on Bandcamp.

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