*prognotes – Schammasch’s Triangle

*prognotes breaks down and analyses your favourite metal and progressive concept albums lyrically and musically. Read other entries in this series here

The last few years have yielded an incredible bounty of fantastic new music and 2016 was chief among them. Schammasch’s tremendous triple album, Triangle, was no exception as it landed in our Top 50 of 2016 and even made some of our staff writers’ top 10. A record of this magnitude deserves further analysis and attention. It demands it. And there is no better way to do so than with a *prognotes. Before we begin though, let us make one thing abundantly clear. We do not claim that our interpretation is ‘correct’. It is merely our interpretation of the lyrics, music and the concept contained therein – and we hope you enjoy it.

The conceptual nature of the record is obvious even before hearing a single note. The album’s title is Triangle. It’s Schammasch’s third album. It is a triple album, divided into three distinct parts. Each of these parts runs for precisely 33 minutes and 30 seconds. It thus comes as no surprise that the concept is based on the number three; the number symbolising the Holy Trinity and an overall sense of unity – key motifs for the record. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the numerology behind the number three centres on creative and artistic expression: a 100-minute behemoth of a concept album certainly seems to fit that criterion. One last note before we begin our deep dive.

Act I: The Process of Dying

Crepusculum

Triangle’s name gave an early indication that Schammasch have taken great care in titling at each of the record’s three levels: album, disc and track. Thus, Act I: The Process of Dying gives us great insight into the concept behind the album’s first disc and we can expect death, loss and acceptance to be major themes. The record begins with “Crepusculum”, meaning dusk or twilight, and a clear reference to The Process of Dying. Our subject matter is in the twilight of their lives and the bleak, shrill guitar chords which open the track offer early signs that all is not well. The track slowly builds in intensity with a tribal, tom-heavy drum pattern providing the driving force alongside rumbling bass and that reoccurring drone of the guitars. The rhythm evokes a sense of slow, inexorable doom. Death is coming; absolute in its power and measured in its approach. A brief, Floydian interlude halfway through the song offers a touch of serenity, as if our protagonist is longingly reminiscing on times gone by. However, the tribal rhythms never cease, death stopping for nobody as it continues its approach. The interlude only offers the briefest of respite before death’s march is once again our sole focus, the incessant rhythm joined once more by despairing guitars. By the end, it is trance-like, hypnotic and inescapable as we hit “Father’s Breath”.

 

Father’s Breath

The song begins with our protagonist launching into a snarling diatribe against Christianity and, in particular, God. The music gets heavier, almost doom-like in its pace as we encounter the first lyrics:

“Reason as curse
The plague he sent upon us
His own seed, in his own likeness
Drowned by chaining hands

Reason as name, reason as light
Descending to the sink of iniquity”

Bordering on spoken word, the harsh vocals lament the downfall of reason. Reason has become a curse, its once glorious place as the light of society relegated to one of wickedness and sin. It’s worth defining that the Holy Trinity is the expression of one and the same God in three different persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. They are three entities of the same God, each equal to one another and God, each with an identical constitution yet seen in distinct forms. Thus, we see the first two entities enter the stage, with The Father sending The Son to Earth, their influence spreading like a plague, “extending [their] reign… [and] defining [their] ubiquity”. Here, the vocals cease as a series of muffled whispers and eerie echoes evoke a sense of confusion and paranoia, our protagonist perhaps losing their stability as they near their life’s end. Crucially, such sounds can often symbolise Satan and it’s possible our protagonist has fallen under his persuasion.

Interestingly, our protagonist then unequivocally renounces God, which suggests they’d once been a follower in their own right. They exhale “father’s breath”, forcing the Holy Spirit out from within them. The music feels as if a storm of darkness is slowly building, before clean vocals backed by choirs hit like a sudden, if brief, beam of light piercing through the brooding clouds:

“(Cleans) Guided by the laws of hopelessness
Pining for redemption
I seek to eviscerate
(Harsh) His name, his fire, his love forever

Exhaling father’s breath
Exhaling father’s breath”

As such, each member of the Holy Trinity has now been denounced, our protagonist rejecting God in all its forms. Their reasoning strikes at the central theme for this disc, as they seek out the place “Where death alone is mine to claim”. They will have no judgment. They will not be dictated to. They will take back their own power. Their resolve is emphasised by the way the music slowly fades away after the final word, the previously relentless pace broken. Soon the guitars begin churning again, the riff seeming to represent the machinations taking place within the protagonist’s mind as he works through his next move. Suddenly, the song resumes its forward march, only now the guitars are thicker and more layered, the drums pounding harder as we approach the song’s climax. The protagonist’s time as a follower of God has not come without cost, and nor will their renouncement, as they became that which they should never have become,:

“This gate is open now
Peeling flesh from bones and bones from spirit
I surrender mind and blood and tears
Of reason evermore
Unmasked as heaven’s breath
Compelled as knowledge’s death
Your will has made me what I am
And never was meant to be

I received your light, I received your wound
As a funeral rite for a heart entombed
As stigmata, envoys of the grave of holy creed”

Despite their wounds, despite the stain of disgrace on their being, they will peel themselves from the Holy Spirit – no matter the cost. Understanding washes over them as they reflect on how they were fooled and manipulated, their fury only building with the realisation:

“As your hand demands to fear
Your canon requires to persevere
To claim the heart of those
Pierced by such immense deceit”

 

Dialogue with Death

Right off the bat, we’re struck by a more sinister tone, one born entirely of death metal, as the guitars pick up pace amid somewhat hushed vocals:

“What else will you see, by gazing into
The reflection of your own countenance
On the water’s surface,
Than a thousand empty eyes from
A thousand empty faces
Of a thousand empty selves, mirroring
A thousand empty lives?“

Here we see references to symmetry, building on the interesting album artwork, as our protagonist encounters reflections and mirrors. When examining their own reflection our protagonist sees a sea of people that, like themselves, are empty inside. God is unable to fill the emptiness in their hearts. The thought triggers thunderous double bass drumming and furious tremolo riffing: their anger has yet to subside. The vocals then begin to grow more desperate, almost ranting at how “capitulation” to God’s will does not lead to a “harmonic state”, but only the decay and disrepair of the mind, spirit and flesh. However, they soon change tact, the desperate and crazed tirade replaced with a measured, trance-like chanting:

“I saw this falling star
Lamb of faith under reason’s will
I bind this sacrifice to the burning tree
And let it shine”

The song’s sinister tone begins to truly take shape as our protagonist is captured, perhaps willingly, by acolytes of Satan. Their ritualistic chants paint the protagonist as a lamb, finally falling under “reason’s will” as they offer him as sacrifice to their master, the Light Bringer. Here, Satan himself makes his entrance, his booming voice unmistakable as he posits himself as the deliverer of salvation. In exchange for devotion he will open our protagonist’s mind and help them overcome God’s deceitful ways:

“I am the star that guides your way
Your shrine, your temple
Wine and bread
As opposed to him who leads astray
For your mind was closed,
Your heart was dead”

The last word rings out with authority, the theme of the song abundantly clear. The chaos and fury of the underlying music then dies away like a ray of light piercing through the storm. Our protagonist considers “Satan’s breath”, an interesting symmetry with “Father’s Breath”, and acknowledges they would “rejoice at knowing hell” if Satan is truly as powerful as he seems. Satan’s reply is immediate, his power symbolised by the return of deafening drums, droning riffs and eerily triumphant synths as the dialogue continues:

“Embrace me now
Drown in darkness
Receive me now
Accept this guiding light
A voice to wake the truth of silence
Destroying forlorn hope
To renew what’s hidden
Beneath the ruins”

Thus, the power our protagonist needs and craves is within them, and has been their entire life. God’s influence has obscured it, our protagonist’s sense of self-crumbling atop their power in a heap of ruins. But now Satan’s light will clear the ruins and uncover our protagonist’s true power.

As the drums and riffs continue to relentlessly wash over our protagonist, Satan’s power pulsating all around them, the acolytes resume their chanting. The ritual continues as they outline what must be pledged and what may be received in this Faustian pact:

“Abjure these crumbling halls
Rebuild his rotten temple
Under the sun of eyes
To receive this gift with open arms
Lest you don’t fail to pass
Receive the sign of death
With purest dignity
Infinity beyond the walls of life”

The chanting’s end brings about another musical break, the song’s predominant guitar riff coming to the fore amid a series of hushed whispers, once again symbolising Satan’s presence. This time, the whispers have latin lyrics attached, with their translation outlined below:

“the waves of the sea,
foaming out their stars,
to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever”

The ocean begins to emerge as a key motif, having been mentioned alongside Satan numerous times, and in this context could symbolise formlessness, chaos and the unknown. For millennia the oceans were thought to be boundless and easy to lose oneself within. Ominous indeed, particularly when the passage’s whispers are amplified by the reemergence of Satan’s chaotic drums and increasingly panic-inducing riffwork. A throat-shredding scream pierces through the discord, our protagonist presumably falling under Satan’s influence. Satan then roars back into life, delivering on his promise to bare the truth for “ones who dare to see”; however, it will “be received through pain and anguish”. A barrage of tremolo riffs breaks out, the blackest of metals cutting through to the listener. Satan never promised it would be easy. Still, our protagonist’s devotion to Satan appears complete:

“Never again shall you crumble
At the nameless void
But kiss the deepest darkness
And embrace the holy flames”

The song concludes with a refrain of the acolytes’ second verse of ritualistic chanting. Only this time, there are no chants. Satan himself speaks the words, freeing our protagonist of God’s deceit and preparing them for death and, of course, rebirth.

“Abjure these crumbling halls
Rebuild his rotten temple
Under the sun of eyes
To receive this gift with open arms
Lest you don’t fail to pass
Receive the sign of death
With purest dignity
Infinity beyond the walls of life
As you sink deeper and deeper
Into this chimerical dark
A mind is burning down
Heralding thy utmost
Purifying rebirth”

The word “rebirth” is met with the strike of a gong, perhaps a nod to Hindu concepts of rebirth and eternal recurrence. The guitars then continue striking a similar chord to the gong, as if to unite the eastern and western mythologies and philosophies in play, yet another example of symmetry at play. By the end of the track the central tenets of The Process of Dying have been laid bare. Our protagonist has accepted death. More than this, they welcome it, for it will facilitate their rebirth as one of Satan’s followers. Thus, they’ve embraced the process of dying and all that that entails. On a more metaphorical level, death can be interpreted as the ultimate representation of change. Nobody will ever experience a greater change. Consequently, we could also see this as a call to embrace change. As frightening as it can be, it can be transformative in wonderful ways – ways which bring us closer to finding the self we want to be.

 

Diluculum

“Diluculum” immediately continues where “Dialogue with Death” left off, with similar riffs and the regular ringing of bells and/or gongs. In the absence of lyrics the track title does the perfect job of portraying the song’s message. Diluculum, meaning daybreak or dawn, simultaneously points to Lucifer’s literal translation as the morning star and our protagonist’s new dawn. They have given themselves wholly into Satan’s light, the music continuing the ritualistic theme with a processional vibe permeating its entire runtime. Halfway through the guitars begin escalating, issuing a siren-like call as the bass neatly rumbles beneath them in the mix. Unsettling whispers and gasps occasionally cut through, adding to the foreboding feel of the track and ensuring Satan’s present is omnipresent.

 

Consensus

Speaking of unsettling, “Consensus” kicks off with dry, raspy shouts worthy of the undead themselves. The French lyrics, which are repeated near a dozen times, are translated as follows:

“From the flesh
To the earth
Three beams of light”

Again we have clear references to the Holy Trinity, whilst the use of a third language emphasises that this album’s message transcends the language in which it is delivered. This passage then makes way for some incredible interplay between the drums and guitars, the former full of tom-heavy and percussive rhythms which punctuate enchanting Floydian guitars weaving and dancing across the soundscape. The tribal pounding behind the kit and the sci-fi nature of the guitars makes for an incredible juxtaposition, yet they work perfectly alongside one another. Our protagonist soon returns to the stage with arguably their most emotive vocals to date, announcing that they have “relieve[d themselves]… Of his [God’s] grasp”. They continue:

“Kephra by my side
Your sun reveals what comes to pass
Your rays accent the dying night
As I walk your path in ecstasy
Secrets burn divinely
Truth may come with a million faces
This I can see now at last
Truth is already here”

Kephra likely refers to the Egyptian solar deity Kephri. Representing the morning sun, creation and the renewal of life, the parallels to both God and Satan are clear as Schammasch continue to highlight symmetry all whilst interweaving different mythologies. Our protagonist can finally see the light, can finally see the truth. And now that they’ve reached that point they have attained true freedom, the music continues to build in intensity as double bass rips through the listener:

“I will not compromise my truth
For anyone or anything
For I can see now at last
That I am already free”

Having unlocked their inner power the following verse serves as a milestone, summarising our protagonist’s journey to date:

“To reach consensus on death
Thy wisdom, thy aspect of truth in all that is holy
Beseech this final breath
Thy essence unsealed by poison divine
And tear down all these bonds to become the solution of every concept of truth
As thy hands are unbound, thy spirit is free
And enlightened by the brightly burning tree”

They have come to terms with death. They know what is truth. They know what is holy. They have achieved enlightenment. All is now in place for the ritual to be completed, the leap of faith to be undertaken and for our protagonist to become a devotee, an acolyte, of Satan. The music builds in intensity as we reach a critical juncture. The menacing sci-fi riffs and tribal drum patterns from the beginning return, a wild scream in the background signalling our protagonist has crossed the threshold into Satan’s domain.

Suddenly, a musical break sees the tempo dissipate as we return to the slow, ritualistic riffs from “Diluculum”. Right on cue, Satan’s acolytes emerge with their Gregorian chants, Schammasch’s love of ironic symmetry again coming to the fore as they use Latin, the language of God, to describe our protagonist’s death and conversion. The translation is as follows:

“It is the death
It flows like a river to the sea
Descent into hell
To the light
to limit;”

Satan confirms as much, punishing riffs and drums in tow, as the protagonist “become[s]… [Satan’s] devotee”. Ironically, he uses God’s own imagery against him as he completes the ritual, our protagonist’s metamorphosis complete:

“So rise my descendant
From unfolding depths
Now encircled by grace
In three rays of light”

 

Awakening From the Dream of Life

The final track of disc one kicks off with a beautifully melancholic guitar solo, a reminder that our protagonist’s life has come to an end. The first couple of verses reiterate what has transpired, confirming our protagonist’s rebirth through death and newfound freedom and enlightenment. From there the music takes a turn for the dark, the guitars taking centre stage with a somewhat alarming tone, as if they’re announcing something. Sure enough, shortly afterward Satan reappears with his swirl of hard-hitting musicianship and bellowing voice:

“Ending the state of contradiction
We walk in silence
Praising the gift from his right hand
We breathe in silence
Accepting the strength of surrender
We pray in silence
Receiving the truth from his left hand
We die in silence”

Satan and his followers have always needed to work from the shadows, but there is a genuine drive and purpose behind these words. They’re methodical and clinical in their delivery and one gets the sense that they may not keep to the shadows for much longer. A reckoning may be at hand. The music continues to build towards a crescendo as our protagonist returns and sets up a dramatic finale to the disc:

“We have awakened
From the chamber of lightless sleep
From states of division in disguise
Fuelled by time and word
We are awake
And the final curtain falls
We are awake
Wide awake
As we’re entering his holy halls”

A keyword that continues to arise is “we”. Our protagonist isn’t alone, Satan seems to have a veritable army of followers that have awakened. Not only that, but they’ve awakened through death and they’re on the march… towards God’s “holy halls”, his Kingdom. As the music grows slower and mellower and the vocals dissipate, leaving us to focus on that last line, one’s imagination can’t help but wander. Whilst a departure from the concept’s metaphorical and symbolic nature, I can’t help but picture a vindictive Satan leading an undead army through the gates of heaven, ready for war. Just as the thought strikes, the instrumentation begins to kick back into gear. First, some ominous drum fills build the tension, before a menacing, lurching riff evokes the sense that a war machine is on the move and ready for action. It’s an incredible passage of musicianship, the drums as enormous as ever as we hit the disc’s clear highlight. The tension is then released as guitars and drums go hell for leather, the all-out assault commencing in a flurry of organised chaos:

“I carry the voice of death
Deep within my open heart
And deep within my shining spirit,
Redefining what I am,
Redefining what we are,
A truth that may become forgotten
But can never be erased by time
Nor word or form

We speak the voice of death
We speak the love of death
We speak the truth of death
Obscured by darkest art

We carry the strength of death
We carry the sign of death
We carry the light of death
Deep within our shining hearts”

Putting aside the fantastical notion of an undead battle in the middle of heaven, we can see that at the very least our protagonist is confident they stand on the right side of history. They can “never be erased”, they will continue to spread their message and they will continue to bring more of the flock into their herd. They are “obscured by darkest art”, safe from God’s reach as they continue to kill, rebirth and enlighten. A series of tremolo riffs accompany a sampled passage of spoken word whose message is allegorical to the journey our protagonist has ventured. That of being pulled “into the void”, of escaping a “dying world” (corrupted by God), of focusing on their inner strength in “a meditation on madness and pure faith” and, finally, of tears borne of “eternal suffering and the pain of creation”. As the final words are spoken, a gong begins to chime. The rituals have completed and service has ended. Likewise, as has this chapter, and onto the next one we go.

 

Act II: Metaflesh

The World Destroyed by Water

The second disc begins with grim guitars, solemn drums and industrial samples, the prolonged build-up followed by spoken word vocals. The lyrics quote from the Bible, describing God’s summoning of the flood and intention to “destroy man” and ensure everything on “the earth shall die”. Again we find a compelling symmetry, bordering on irony, as God and Satan are cast as two sides of the same coin. Such vengeful, malicious actions are generally attributed to Satan, not to God, whilst God’s flood is a very similar motif to Satan’s chaotic ocean. As the spoken word concludes, blast beats herald Satan’s return as his acolytes resume their chanting, their words only furthering the symmetry and reinforcing Act I’s message:

“Beyond the prevailing death
A light will unfold
And it will be truth
And it will be salvation
And it will be fire
And it will be unity
And it will be god
And it will be eternal”

The final word rings out for close to a minute, a neat touch considering its meaning. Its prolonged hum lends the song a meditative feel and continues to fold in eastern flourishes, strengthening the overarching concept and hinting at a subtle shift with this disc. It still hits hard when required, but there is more of a spiritual feel to the music. If Act I was symbolic of our earthly lives, Act II certainly throws our spiritual lives to the forefront as well. Sampled whispers continue to scurry across the track’s soundscape, Satan ever-present as foreboding guitars fade out and it sounds as if a storm begins to roll through.

 

Satori

Satori is a Zen Buddhist term to describe enlightenment, truth, or identifying the very essence of one’s true nature. It is thus no surprise to find that the song is a mantra, the same lyrics repeating over and over again throughout the full 8-plus minute runtime:

“I have seen all that is done under the sun, and behold:
All is emptiness and affliction of the spirit”

Tremolo riffs and thumping totemic drum patterns ring out in cycles, each iteration growing in intensity, pace and layers as the message is hammered home time and again. The speaker, his booming voice likely placing him as Satan, has concluded that all that walk the Earth are empty, their souls afflicted by God. As in the previous song, blast beats arrive to crank things up a notch before Satan’s acolytes return, chanting the same lyrics in Latin – reinforcing that the message is universal. It does not depend on language. By this stage, the mantra seems to have become something of a sermon, the instruments fading into the background as their eerie chants envelop the listener – pulling them in.

 

Metanoia

Metanoia is a Greek word with numerous translations, namely repentance, atonement, reformation and conversion. With this in mind, it’s fitting that our protagonist returns to the stage. Newly converted, here they begin diving deeper into their new philosophy. They have been changed and they are coming to terms with their new being:

“The sands of time no longer speak in tongues of persuasion
An ocean changed in form and sound to swallow thee
The dust of silence procreates, but fades immediately
As I observe the sphinxes vanish in the winds
I know his day is nigh
I know the night must die
Revealing lasting peace beyond all fragile woe
I feel the void extending
I feel the self-transcending
Dimensions falling down beneath the open eye”

Satan’s ocean has changed them. The sphinxes, symbols of treachery and deceit in Ancient Greek mythology (remember, “Metanoia” is a Greek word), have vanished before our protagonist. They have become the void. All the while the surrounding instrumentation is… pulsing. It waxes and wanes like the tides, but it’s ever-present and provides a platform upon which the vocals can command the listener’s attention. Gone are any traces of anger, frustration or pain. They’re measured, deliberate and forceful, but more than anything they scream calm and confidence. There is no second-guessing. No doubt. Only spiritual peace, for our protagonist is “surrounded but untouched by all things ill-conceived”.

“Void is mind itself, and mind itself is void…
I know these roots are sprawling
For benediction comes through him who is in all
I feel them flowing through my veins
I feel them slowly breaking chains
And reason resignates with unexpected grace”

We see that our protagonist has completely given themselves unto Satan and that they’re beginning to feel the effects. They can feel him within them. They feel benediction and the return of reason. To emphasise this upturn in fortunes we have a blistering solo, a rarity for this behemoth of a triple album, its tone epic and uplifting. We then see a return to the tribal drum patterns, our protagonist spouting a new mantra:

“Receive the silent voice
The sound of transformation”

They are transformed. They are enlightened. The “flame of consciousness… [and] knowledge… flow through” them as they see the light before them and the journey they must continue to undertake. As the vocals end we’re left with sci-fi sounding guitars reminiscent of “Consensus”, the track slowly fading away as our thoughts are left to linger on our protagonist’s transformation. The final two minutes see a musical mantra take over, a simple repeating drum pattern re-centering the listener, cleansing them and preparing them for the end of the disc.

 

Above the Stars of God

The penultimate track of the second disc brings with it a welcome change: acoustics and a clean lead guitar. Much like the occasional solos we’ve encountered thus far, the tones are much brighter than the rest of the record, bringing with them a sense of triumph and ascension. It feels as if the characters we’ve met are savouring the moment, proud of where they’ve come and eager to continue their spiritual journey. Again, there is a strong Pink Floyd vibe as the lead guitar carries our attention, emotion dripping out of each note, highlighting how much work has been done to reach this place. When the vocals kick in they’re different than anything we’ve heard – loud, well-pitched shouts akin to a stoner metal or progressive sludge frontman. Digging into the lyrics, the voice can only belong to one person: Satan.

“I watch the sun descend into the open void
I watch the spirit fade between the walls of sleep
I watch the pillars of adherence being destroyed
I watch the silent flame rising from the deep

And I will raise my throne
I will raise my throne
I will raise my throne
Above the stars of god
I will raise my throne
I will raise my throne
I will raise my throne
Above the stars of god
When the voices fall silent
I will raise my throne above the stars of god
When the voices fall silent
I will raise my throne above the stars of god”

After aeons of patience and subterfuge, his time in the sun appears to have come. The seeds of insurrection he has planted are taking root, his waters feeding them as he tears down God’s “pillars of adherence”, the flame of rebellion growing strong. He feels that his moment of triumph is near. He will usurp God’s place. His kingdom will be higher. His flames will engulf God’s pillars, and in their stead, he will build his own. All the while our motif of symmetry continues to circle round again.

At this stage the music grows darker, guitars taking a back seat as the drums pound away mercilessly – the earth trembling beneath their rumble. The remaining lyrics are mere whispers buried within the mix, impossible to make out without the lyric booklet. The roaring drums and building guitars continue to repeat themselves, lending the passage a strong sense of recurrence – a theme central to many eastern philosophies. Here, it builds on that sense of mantra, the consolidation of a new state of being. To that end, the whispers explain some of the context behind the album as well as Satan’s plans:

“At the creation of mind
The creation of reason becomes necessary…

We now play the same role again
With the only difference of standing on the other side of this river
To rely on the destruction of god and all that is holy”

 

Conclusion

Unlike the brief acoustics in “Above the Stars of God”, “Conclusion” is near enough to a full-blown acoustic track. For the first time, the music is truly peaceful and relaxing. The vocals are spoken word throughout, our protagonist calmly stating his concluding thoughts. They state that we’re not our masks, or our thoughts, or our words or our actions. As the list goes on we’re treated to another beautiful clean guitar solo. Again we find an uplifting quality to the melody, our protagonist finding true peace. Having detailed everything that we’re not, the final line confirms that we are the “light that we become”. Only when we unlock our inner strength are we light. Only when we have achieved enlightenment are we something. Only then have we found our true self. And with that, a gong signals the end of the second disc and we turn our thoughts towards the third and final installment of Schammasch’s epic triple-album Triangle.

 

Act III: The Supernal Clear Light of the Void

The Third Ray of Light

Triangle’s name was the first sign that the Holy Trinity would be crucial to its concept. The first disc followed The Father. It revolved around our protagonist’s disillusionment and fury towards Him and how that guided him towards his eventual enlightenment. The second disc was analogous to The Son. Just as Christ was both physical and spiritual simultaneously during his time on Earth, disc two seeks to balance the physical and spiritual aspects of being. Now we’ve reach disc three, which only leaves the Holy Spirit. “The Third Ray of Light”. As the name implies, we’re now in the spiritual domain and as such lyrics are few and far between – it isn’t until the album closer that we encounter them again.

The track opens to the ringing of gongs, their calls seeming to ripple outwards in waves, again hinting at Satan’s oceanic symbology. They occupy much of the opening three minutes, their calm and meditative rings soothing the listener before the tribal drums return, joined by shamanistic calls and chants. Similar to a didgeridoo in sound, the calls bring a wonderful world music atmosphere, synths and choirs adding further layers of texture to the passage. It really is transportive music, evoking images of people dancing around campfires at dusk, smoke snaking skywards, stars beaming, an expanse of red dirt shaded blue in the moonlight. The lack of distinct lyrics to the vocals reinforces the idea of a universal message, one that transcends words and language. Our protagonist is no longer speaking, listening or thinking. They are simply being. As the gongs return and the shamans lay their heads to rest, softly plucked strings enter the scene, bringing with them an unsettling vibe. The atmosphere darkens, a pair of saxophones entering the fray, their harrowing calls reminiscent of the conclusion to David Bowie’s “Blackstar.” A tense build-up, replete with an ominous concluding chant, ends the song, neatly transitioning into the following track.

 

Cathartic Confession

Picking up where “The Third Ray of Light” left off, we find a simple, recurrent, tom-heavy drum pattern, tense synths and eerie samples to build on the dark atmosphere. It feels as if the song is building towards something. Even in enlightenment, our protagonist has their challenges. Something about their old life is clawing back at them. Halfway through hushed, indecipherable whispers can be heard, but the tension continues to build. Catharsis will not be found in whispers. Ethereal female vocals join for the first time on the record, the influence of Dead Can Dance on this disc becoming increasingly obvious. And that’s a wonderful thing, the execution superb as a throng of percussive instruments clamour at the listener, energetically driving the song forward. Female and male vocals combine to end the track with a funeral dirge, evoking a real sense of loss and yearning for that which is gone, never to be seen again. After all, nobody said transformation was an easy process.

 

Jacob’s Dream & Maelstrom

“Jacob’s Dream” iterates upon the opening two tracks from disc three, implementing many of the same elements. The gong, saxophone, male chants and female backing vocals are all there in differing ways, though there are two key aspects which set it apart. Firstly, the atmosphere has become much more pensive. Secondly, there are samples of someone breathing, as if through an oxygen mask. There a myriad of ways we could take this. Perhaps our protagonist has been dreaming? Perhaps we, the sheeple listeners, have all been asleep to this point in our lives and we need to awaken? To change our lives in pursuit of our own enlightenment, in whatever shape or form it exists for us. As with all instrumental music, more so than ever before, our own personal interpretation will be key when dissecting these parts of the record.

 

“Maelstrom” follows a similar structure to “Cathartic Confession” in that it begins mellow and slowly builds throughout the track. Occasional Gregorian chants are interspersed with synchronised guitar chords/bell rings to lend the track an eerie vibe, Satan’s whispers making their presence felt throughout. The breathing samples from “Jacob’s Dream” are replaced by someone’s, perhaps our protagonist’s, dying breaths. This may suggest that there are stages of enlightenment and that they are finally leaving behind all that they had once been, forever. The final such breaths are followed by a return of the shamanistic cries and rumbling drum patterns from “The Third Ray of Light”, indicating that our protagonist has finally reached their true, natural state. Beautiful acoustic guitars, bordering on Latin in nature, are accompanied by female vocals to close out the track – the passage serving as one of the highlights of the disc and, indeed, the record as a whole.

 

The Empyrean

Empyrean means the highest heaven, the one which contains the purest element of fire… of light. If the track names to date have given us anything to go by, this suggests our protagonist has reached the pinnacle of their enlightenment. Musically, the track is somewhat of an anti-climax given the monumental scale of this record. However, the simplicity is not without its purpose. It sharpens the listener’s attention on the lyrics, delivered via our protagonist’s spoken word. Yet, even then the message is simple and singular. Everything we feel, everything we see, everything we are… is the same. Whilst Schammasch’s delivery is much more verbose and poetic, that is the crux of it. “All of these things are one… and all is none”. Life is death. Pain is joy. All is void. The world exists as we perceive it and therefore it is within our control. It is within our power to make of our life what we wish. It doesn’t matter whether we follow God, Satan, an eastern religion or an ancient cult. What matters is that we empower ourselves to critically examine our beliefs. To not only accept change, but to embrace it. To put our egos to the side and chase enlightenment, even if the price is dear. To unlock our true power, our true selves, to change ourselves for the better and to make the most of our lives.

The record would not be complete without a final language with which to close out proceedings. The final lyrics, written in Devanagari (an Indian/Nepalese script) and sung as a Gregorian chant, are the Gayatri Mantra. In Hinduism, it’s symbolic of a rite of passage and it’s no surprise to find that the Devanagari script is noted for its symmetric characters. The mantra has been translated innumerable times; however, here is a translation which suits our interpretation:

“We meditate on the effulgent glory of the divine Light;
may he inspire our understanding.”

The symbolism of light could refer to either God or Satan, a final point of symmetry, but one thing is clear. Our protagonist has found peace in their meditation and, if they haven’t found it already, they’re well on the way to attaining true understanding.

 

And there we have it – our analysis behind Schammasch’s 2016 epic: Triangle. I’m not sure if you’re exhausted at the end of that, but I certainly am – in the best possible way. As mentioned at the beginning, we make no prescription that this is the definitive interpretation of the lyrics, music and concept. This is my interpretation and I hope that these words can help you find your own. That’s when music’s light shines brightest and when it can affect you most deeply. Until next time.

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Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Karlo is an aspiring author in fantasy/historical fiction with a passion for music, literature and history.