Schammasch - “Triangle”
Schammasch’s Triangle is a perfectly-executed record whose heady blend of existentialism, transcendentalism, Satanism, and pagan symbolism finds me at a time when my personal philosophy, ideology, and even mythology are undergoing a sort of recalibration. We rarely score anything this high at Metal Lifestyle, so I hope that between this and Alex Brown’s excellent breakdown of letlive.’s latest, we can demonstrate what merits perfection for us here. My intent is to keep this review and analysis of Schammasch’s record only as personal as it needs to be in order to illustrate both its profound personal effects and draw attention to the sort of detail that leads to a perfect score.
It took me a while to decide on the format of this analysis since there are any number of possible approaches, and even longer to write given the complexity of the task (which you’ll see for yourselves soon enough), but I’ve decided to keep up my usual overview-review style. The album lends itself to it. Triangle is a concept album split into three movements: disc one is “The Process of Dying,” disc two is “Metaflesh,” and disc three is “The Supernal Clear Light of the Void.” As I move through each part, I’ll be buttressing my overall assessment of the record with track-by-track descriptions and mini-analyses regarding how each piece relates to the larger goal of the record and its performers. I think this is the best way to do Triangle, and Schammasch, any justice.
Triangle weaves strands from many different schools of thought to achieve its unique worldview, but let me make it clear from the onset that I don’t buy every bit of it, and that I have plenty of reservations regarding the album’s conclusions and its means of getting to them. What I can’t fault is the sincerity of the whole affair, nor can I fault the technical and logical skill that went into crafting a musical backdrop every bit as challenging and rewarding as the concept itself. Records like this, for which I have only a few corollaries, all but demand this sort of treatment. Off the top, I can think of only Deathspell Omega’s metaphysical trilogy (Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice; Fas - Ite, Maledicti, En Ignem Aeternum; and Paracletus, with the optional Kenose and Drought serving as prologue and epilogue, respectively), Blut Aus Nord’s The Work Which Transforms God, and Behemoth’s The Satanist.
Lastly, I want to make the point that I will not be making much reference to the actual music from track to track in the interest of keeping things as non-repetitive as possible. Schammasch play a somewhat avant-garde form of black metal whose avant-garde aspect is mostly confined to idiosyncratic song structures and lengthy compositions up until the third disc, when things take a turn. There’s not much in the way of genre-hopping or post-production ornamentation. For the most part, Schammasch stick to black metal’s tremolo-picked guitars, blast beats, and some surprisingly intelligible rasped vocals, which resemble a young or ill Nergal, for most of the record up until the second disc, when they begin to mellow out. The bass is audible and complex and there’s quite a bit of melody cooked into the record providing each track a unique musical signature: dense, expansive, and all-consuming.
Part 1: The Process of Dying
Disc one of Triangle is conceptually straightforward, although the title of the disc might be a little misleading: it’s certainly about death, but lyrically, I find that this portion of the record deals with death as an act rather than an event. That’s an important distinction to make since the overall arc of Triangle is one of a progression from life to death to the transcendence of both. Like Deathspell Omega’s metaphysical trilogy, Triangle skews or reinterprets conventional symbols and associations we make between light, darkness, good, evil, God, and Satan to arrive at a new conception of each. A basic example: we associate light, a symbol of life and purity, with God, and darkness, a symbol of death and impurity, with Satan. Schammasch swap the deities so that Satan, the instigator of our natural urges and impulses, becomes a symbol of purity, thereby signifying that our urges and impulses are our purest expressions. Any attempt to curb them is an act of impurity, and so the impulse to suicide, the subject of this first disc, is the ultimate purification. “The Process of Dying” tracks a progression toward the spiritual acceptance and performance of suicide as a statement of absolute rejection of the Roman-Catholic God, a conscious spiritual purging.
Triangle opens on an instrumental track whose title is a Latinate term indicating dusk or twilight. We start at the moment at which light and dark are most interchangeable, at the end of the day and the gateway to night; between life and death.
With the introduction of the vocals, the album finds its true opener in “Father’s Breath” and introduces its stable of recurring symbols: reason, fire, light, and surrender. The track wastes no time acknowledging God as both a creator and as a threat to creation, dispensing “Reason as curse” and rebranding Christ, “his own seed, in his own likeness,” as “the plague he sent upon us.” The role of the Biblical Christ is to redeem our sins, which is to say the indulgence of our base nature, our urges and impulses. This is presumed to be an act of divine reason, and the fact of human nature a symptom of the opposite: madness. Schammasch rejects all that, asserting instead that the act of denying our nature is tyrannical, a means to “bond...old mother night,” and “[extend] His reign,” meaning God’s. We see a clear association between darkness (“old mother night”) and those natural urges, where the use of the phrase “old mother” indicates an association between darkness and things like safety, familiarity, comfort, and affection. But God, who does not have our interests at heart, is none of those things. The ultimate rejection of His tyranny, therefore, is “exhaling Father’s breath,” said twice for emphasis: suicide. Life belongs to God, but death is “mine to claim.”
“In Dialogue With Death”
“In Dialogue With Death” elaborates on the emptiness of a rational, reasoning existence. It’s important to understand that “reason,” in this case, is any behaviors that serve God. By depicting humanity as “a thousand empty eyes...faces...selves...mirroring a thousand lives,” Schammasch goad our human need for individuality, that need to stand apart. Subscribing to God and to reason and to the curbing of one’s deepest impulses is an “isolation of the spirit” and a “paralyzation of the flesh” that leads nowhere and leads to nothing at all, serving only to extend the reign of a tyrannical deity. Suicide, as the act of opting out, is the only true act of free will available to us as long as we are alive, and everything else we do in the name of free will is only the “illusion of capitulation,” in the service of God.
Fire returns to “Dialogue” in the form of a “falling star...that guides your way,” which seems to allude to Lucifer’s fall from Heaven. Schammasch’s conception of Lucifer is more thoughtful than a mere master-servant dynamic: the Morningstar is the symbol of the rebel and the thinker who asked too much and was punished for it. This is the emotional pull of Satan: he is the symbol of the disenfranchised, the unjustly castigated, the downtrodden. In Schammasch’s worldview, his is the example by which we must learn to question authority and reject it when necessary. We aren’t called to worship or to pay tribute, but only to learn from him. I think it is crucial that we understand Satan as a teacher and a guide on Triangle’s journey toward enlightenment rather than its destination.
We can read this in the reference to “Satan’s breath,” which “creates the storms that hurl your salt water up to the clouds,” as opposed to “Father’s” on the previous track. Apart from directly linking Satan to nature, these phenomena - storms, salt water, and clouds - are tangible things we can see and comprehend. Theistic literature emphasizes the intangible, the unseen, and the incomprehensible while demonizing doubt in these things, because doubt is our best defense from ignorance and control. It seems better to doubt the importance of the things that do not affect us than to ignore the things that do in favor of things that may not exist at all. If that is madness, Schammasch embrace it: “A mind is burning down / heralding thy utmost / purifying rebirth.”
Another instrumental track with a Latin title, this one signifies dawn or daybreak. I think of “the bright flame / of old mother night,” and the mind “burning down” at the end of the previous track. The light implicitly belonging to the dawn is the light of revelation, maybe madness (behaviors that serve God, remember), and the first of Schammasch’s three “rays,” a concept which will clear up as we progress through Triangle.
The penultimate track on disc one begins with the words “Flesh / to the earth / Three beams of light” in French, addressing the fate of the body. It also draws attention to the number three, by name and by form: this is a tercet, a three-lined stanza. It’s a common theological exercise to think of God as the sum of His three aspects in one, just as the triangle is regarded as three sides in one, together giving rise to a new entity. Moreover, three is a “divine” number indicating balance. It’s all over the album: the three aspects of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the album’s three discs, and the three sides of a triangle, after which the album is named. On top of that, each disc clocks in at 33:03!
The track follows with a renouncement of God: “I relieve my fragile hands / of His grasp that guided me.” The language depicts the act as a relief, the release of a burden, and in its reference to “fragile hands,” also casts the speaker as a childlike figure. This is followed by a return to the album’s fire imagery (“and set my heart on fire / while dancing thy dance / of life’s decay”), the burning heart evoking classical depictions of Christ while also indicating to us that the fire begun in the mind has spread to the body, in turn signifying spiritual and physical acceptance of the task at hand.
The track then references Kephra, an Egyptian deity representing rebirth. We begin to see the larger scope of Triangle in this offhanded name-drop. The immediate implication of rebirth makes itself, reaffirming the point of suicide as an out from God’s rule and a gateway to true autonomy, but there is more to unpack: Kephra is the morning “aspect” of the Egyptian sun god Ra, one of three that correspond to morning, day, and evening. Like the Roman-Catholic God, Ra is the sum of three aspects simultaneously giving rise to a new entity, and I would argue that in Schammasch’s mythology, Kephra even parallels the role of Christ based on the similarities between Christ’s redemptive aspect and Kephra’s renewal. In the same way mortal sinfulness is transformed in Christ by the divine forgiveness of God, so in Kephra do the album’s symbols of light and fire transform into another symbol: the day that follows night, whose “sun reveals what comes to pass,” whose “rays accent the dying night.” This even prefigures the “supernal clear light of the void” we’ll encounter with the third disc.
With its talk of a “final breath,” “poison divine,” “a leap in the dark,” and a brief prayer in Latin (“The death of this life / It flows like a river to the sea / Descent into hell / To the light / The indefinite”), “Consensus” also appears to contain the suicide toward which we’ve been moving, and momentarily shifts perspective to whom we can presume to be Lucifer, waiting beyond death. From this point onward, the language of the record becomes more abstract, hinting at the musical shift we will see later on. For now, we have talk of “wind and...fire,” which to me recalls the earlier symbol of the falling star, and which in turn reaffirms Lucifer’s presence. We’ve come to understand him as a teacher, and the tone of the latter half of “Consensus” is indeed teacherly, even soothing: “my guidance is yours,” he tells us, “and from deathless desire...you will be unburdened / So rise my descendant...now encircled by grace / In three rays of light / So pure, so resplendent / is he who accepts / my presence in all.”
We hear Revelation 2:11 read in Latin, translated to mean “He who has an ear / let him hear / what the Spirit says / to the churches / He who overcomes / will not be hurt at all by the second death.” Jesus says this to his followers as assurance that their belief in him will keep them from the “second death,” the death that occurs after the death of the body and indicates a total separation from God - but, from the mouth of Lucifer, this is an entirely different kind of reassurance.
The second death is the destination.
“Awakening From the Dream of Life”
Like “In Dialogue With Death,” “Awakening…” elaborates on the previous track and introduces concepts that will come to fruition later. We see the completion of the rebirthing cycle (“Reborn as the sons of a new dawn”) and the canonization of stars in Schammasch’s stable of symbols, representing, by the transition from earthly to celestial fire, an “awakened” state. Other things, like the opening of the “spiritual eye,” the falling away of the “final curtain,” and an awakening from the “sacred chamber,” drive that point home.
There appear to be a number of contradictions or purposely confusing passages slipped into this piece of the album, complicating the narrative. For one, there appear to be two “awakenings” taking place, which may recall the matter of the “second death,” although it seems a bit early in the album’s arc for that. In any case, the rebirth following physical death seems to place us in a “sacred chamber,” later referred to as a “chamber of lightless sleep,” in which “voices slowly extinguish” to later allow “voices of madness” to “drown” “A secret unheard / A wisdom unseen.” It’s unclear whether the chamber is a part of the “holy halls” referenced later; if the mad voices belong to the chamber, which we are told speaks the “silent truth”; and whether the “change of form” brought about by death is, in fact, that truth.
I think it’s best to regard this place, wherever it is relative to the first and second deaths, as a brief stint in purgatory. Schammasch let us know that we are “Ending the state of contradiction.” At this point, I can’t help but feel as if I’m missing a crucial element of the narrative due to my own negligence: I haven’t listened to their previous album, Contradiction, and so I also can’t help but wonder if they’re referencing the theological conclusions of that album. I’m blissfully unaware of what they might be, so I can’t comment. In any case, the end of this “contradiction” signifies a major push forward as we see a fusion of Godly and Satanic imagery: “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.”
This is immediately followed by another Latin reading, this one of Luke 9:23: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and followeth after me.” Once again, this is a line from Jesus to his followers intended to be a sort of reassurance, but I’d like to point out the verse that immediately follows this one in Luke to flesh out the point Schammasch makes: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Here in the narrative of Triangle we complete “The Process of Dying” and stand at the brink of disc two, “Metaflesh.” The character whose journey we follow over the course of the album is only a cypher, not really a character at all, but a place for the individual to project him or herself. It’s an easy trick for emotional investment that requires almost no effort and is almost always effective, and so, if it’s difficult to make out exactly who is speaking or doing what at this point in the album - who is losing their life? For whose sake is it lost? - I would argue that that confusion is intentional, and the answer is the simplest one: it’s you, losing your life for your own sake, to escape physical, spiritual, philosophical, and divine tyranny. “Father’s Breath” told us as much, and I’ll reiterate here:
Life belongs to God, but the choice to die belongs to you.
Part 2: Metaflesh
Disc two of Triangle is also fairly straightforward, but fewer lyrics force us to work a little harder to understand what’s happening. So, what better place to start than with the disc title? Broken down, it’s pretty simple: we understand “flesh,” but the prefix “meta-,” which literally means “after,” “above,” or “beyond,” indicates to us that the term “metaflesh” refers to a higher form, a better vessel created by and for the spirit we see transformed over the course of the record. As the body rots, the soul enters the “holy halls.” Disc two is a “meditation on madness and pure faith” that seeks to reconcile these two poles and achieve that higher form. The final words on “The Process of Dying” regard “eternal suffering and the pain of creation,” the latter of which has the most import on “Metaflesh”: creation is arduous, and for all our desire, all our fortitude, all the “teaching in our blood,” no one is God, and it will not be done in seven days.
But it will be done.
“The World Destroyed By Water”
In alluding to the Biblical Flood, Schammasch draw upon a rich spiritual metaphor and waste no time making the most they can of it. They drop the following passage in wholesale:
“And the Lord spake;
I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth. Both man and beast and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air. For it repenteth me that I have made them.
And behold, I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth,
To destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life. And everything that is in the earth shall die.”
Put simply, the Flood is a global reset. On a deeper level, it represents the moment at which God recognizes that He has made a mistake in creating mankind. Christ, who comes later, is a refinement of God’s plan for the Flood (with far less collateral damage), but the Flood is the only event in the Bible, to my knowledge, that makes us aware of the fallibility of God. It nearly humanizes Him, and by exposing us to His divine regret and therefore to His fallibility, we glimpse the “pain of creation” and find cause for doubt as to whether all our planning and forethought can actually guarantee that the things that we introduce into the world can survive.
On one hand, I take Schammasch’s reference to the Flood as a great big caution sign. Given the implications, it’s a reminder to not abandon our most essential tool: doubt. No philosophy is complete without a strong case of it, leading to constant, healthy reassessment. The Flood is a reminder of what stands between us and the higher state sought in death: the possibility of regret, error, and failure on an existential scale.
On the other hand, the concept of a violent reset like the Flood closely mirrors the very point of suicide from “The Process of Dying” and echoes the meaning of “exhaling father’s breath”: not just shuffling off this mortal coil, but ripping it off in absolute rejection of it and its maker. We’ve unearthed the record’s central threads of spiritual freedom more than once and associated the act of suicide with an act of free will and autonomy, a means of taking hold of our own reins. We are our own God in this worldview, and just as He destroyed the world, we have destroyed the body, and now await something greater:
“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”
Schammasch pluck a thread from Zen Buddhism for the title of this one: “Satori” roughly translates to “enlightenment” or “understanding,” and the nature of that understanding is made clear in the briefest set of lyrics on the album, which are split into English and Latin.
First, “I have seen all that is done under the sun, and behold: All is emptiness and affliction of the spirit.” This is actually a corruption of Ecclesiastes 1:14: “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” The substitution of “emptiness and affliction of the spirit” isn’t a very drastic leap from “vanity and striving after wind,” and the meaning of the track is clear.
Looking back on life from the vantage of death, we can acknowledge, and more importantly accept, the fact of a God-ruled existence.
The title of this track, however, is a little more complicated. There are three distinct meanings attached to the word “metanoia” that I believe are all equally and concurrently vital to understanding the song and its place in the record’s arc.
In psychology, “metanoia” refers to the “healing process” which follows a psychotic break. This reading lines up with what we’ve covered so far and is rich with metaphor, variously signifying: the opposite of the first disc’s process of dying; the rebuilding of the mind burned down at the conclusion of “In Dialogue With Death”; and the return to reason, or an enlightened form of it, following our0 descent into madness. “Metanoia” also refers to a rhetorical correction, the act of retracting a statement and immediately following up with an improved restatement, but while this is also a rich reading that harkens back to the regret we were warned of in “The World Destroyed By Water,” it’s a bit too drastic an interpretation at this point in the record. I prefer to think that the correction taking place is the creation of the “metaflesh” following the destruction of the physical flesh.
In theology, however, the definition of metanoia is actually a point of debate. My money’s here for that reason alone. Commonly translated from the original Greek as “repentance,” recent translations place the meaning of the original word closer to a “transmutation of consciousness” rather than to the “superficial change of heart” indicated by standard translations. Modern reprints of the Bible have started using terminology closer to this “lost” meaning, and in context, I feel pretty confident assuming that Schammasch are not only aware of the nuances of the word, but are banking on this definition.
We see strong elements of this reading throughout the track and the largest shift toward the language of transcendence yet. As the track opens, we find that time no longer has bearing on us. Its “sands...no longer speak in tongues of persuasion,” and as the “sphinxes vanish in the winds,” we also witness the elimination of mystery, secrecy, and obscurity, and a return to the day-and-night imagery of disc one: “I know his day is nigh / I know the night must die.” Given what we’ve established of day and night, it seems we’re looking at a clean break from both the tyranny of God and “old mother night.” Having once signified destruction and then spiritual awakening, we again call upon fire, the “flame of consciousness...of knowledge” to “pervade my physical body...my higher spirit,” to “Light my path and every step I take, so that I am able to guide myself / To wander in brightness and with fortidue [sic].” The end of the path is described in a way that will be familiar to spiritualists: “the mountains of being and the depths of reality.”
There is no darkness, here, and the light is not that of God, but the new light “beyond the prevailing death.”
“Above The Stars Of God”
Fittingly, this light is found above Him. As the world dissolves around us (we watch “the sun descend into the open void...the spirit fade between the walls of sleep...the pillars of adherence being destroyed”), the “silent flame” which has been our guide, purpose, and Self comes “rising from the deep” to take its place “above the stars of God.” Very few lyrics are ever repeated over the course of the record apart from the anaphoric “and it will be’s” of “The World Destroyed By Water.” “Exhaling father’s breath” comes to mind as well. The way “I will raise my throne” is continuously chanted produces an almost frenzied emotional triumph furthered by the completed phrase: “I will raise my throne above the stars of God.”
In the midst of this emotional climax, we come to what might be the creation of the “metaflesh” in the final passages of the song, which I take to be not in any sense a literal “flesh,” but a guiding principle, or a set of them, to carry the soul beyond death and God. These passages, I feel, are absolutely pivotal to the record, and I’ll be the first to admit that I may not fully understand what’s being communicated. That’s the problem with interpretation However, through a close analysis of these passages, I hope to give you my understanding and trace out the logic by which I came to it:
We’re told that “At the creation of mind / the creation of reason becomes necessary,” harkening back to the shared imagery of “In Dialogue With Death” and “Diluculum” that depicts the destruction of reason. Again, what was considered reason was a narrow category of actions that served to extend the reign of God and mute our free will. Under that conception, it was “inevitable” that we “rely on the creation of God and all that is empty,” denying us the ability to “either receive nor [sic] perceive the essence of the eternal.” The destruction (“burning down”) of the mind was the destruction of that conception of reason, and now with the creation of a new mind (the “metaflesh”), it becomes necessary to create a new conception of reason, informed by the “silent truth” heard beyond death.
I’d like to pause here to draw attention to the significance of the number two, now that we have ample evidence to review. I pointed out the two repetitions of “exhaling father’s breath” and the matter of the “second death”; we’ve examined a string of opposites, contradictions, and dualities (God/Satan, day/night, light/darkness); and now, on the penultimate track of the second disc, we reach the apex of Triangle, split into two passages that mirror each other’s structure and language. This, if nothing else, must represent the “second death” - and since “death is only a change of form,” it follows that this must also represent a transition to a second, higher form.
The second passage begins: “We now play the same role again / with the only difference of standing on the other side of this river,” a rare moment of self-awareness immediately followed through with a hard distinction. I kind of arbitrarily assume the allusion is to the Styx, being the river that separates Earth from Hades, and if not that, then Lethe, the river of forgetting. Either one contributes about the same to our understanding, so we’ll concentrate on the remainder of the passage, which most closely resembles the former:
To rely on the destruction of God and all that is holy
adrift and unaware of being, unable to see,
incapable to either receive nor perceive the essence of the eternal
which is the essence of God alone
Our new “reason” relies on the spiritual purging it has taken us over an hour and nearly two discs to achieve, but standing Godless now on the other side of death, we can wryly observe how God still figures into our philosophy. It doesn’t matter than we’re actively striving to separate ourselves from Him, because if the only distinction between this side of the river and the other is the presence of God, then clearly, he continues to have an influence and a place within our “new” conception of reason.
It’s the problem of inversion: you’re free to flip as many crucifixes as you like, but this supposed act of rebellion depends on an understanding, and therefore an acceptance, of what the crucifix signifies. This isn’t a failure in Schammasch’s worldview but rather its turning point, indicating a reconfiguration of the concept of God. Rather than rejecting the oppressive Roman-Catholic deity under which we previously operated, Schammasch reassign the meaning of the word “God” to signify “the essence of the eternal”: all that which exists beyond us, and which is ultimately beyond our capacity to understand or control.
Once again, Schammasch follow a revelation with an elaboration, easing us down from the emotional peak of “Above the Stars of God” and transition into the third. Lyrically, “Conclusion” defines the self - if not our “metaflesh” - by the things it is not, as has been the album’s custom: “We are not...the thought that we think...the words that we speak...the names we are given...the bodies that we live through...nor all the things that we do...not what we believe in...not the mind we bear within us,” until finally concluding that what we are is “that light that we become” Or:
“The Third Ray of Light”
Part 3: The Supernal Clear Light of the Void
The third disc of Triangle is almost entirely ambient, with the departure of the vocals signifying, to me, a transformation of consciousness. Most of the black metal instrumentation goes with it, leaving behind layers of tribal rhythms, synth, and ambient noise, with generous world music influences, to comprise Triangle’s last movement. This is where Schammasch stretch their avant-garde necks out furthest and where they will lose most listeners as a result, since it’s in stark contrast to both of the previous discs. “Void” is just as long as “Process” and “Metaflesh,” clocking in at the same length of 33:03, but with only four tracks, it also features the longest compositions of the record. It will reward you for your patience: what it lacks in hooks it more than makes up for in the best-sustained mood of awe and mystery on the record, providing a fitting comedown from all that’s come before - or an elevation of it, depending on what side of the river you end up standing.
Given that there aren’t any lyrics for “Cathartic Confession,” “Jacob’s Dream,” or “Maelstrom,” the most we can do is speculate on their titles, which has been a useful approach for the album’s previous instrumental tracks. Of them all, the only one I’d like to give special attention to “Jacob’s Dream,” since it’s extremely likely that it refers to Genesis 28, verses 10-22 (I really encourage you to take a minute to hit that link and read through the passage to get the full background. I’m not going anywhere). The image of a “stairway resting on the earth” impresses me as as a pretty crucial allusion, because just as heaven figures as the place to be after Earth, the “supernal void” to which we have ascended from our place on Earth is our heaven, or a more holistic conception of it. Since the dream is also Jacob’s motivation to found the city of Bethel (renaming the city of Luz in the process and creating another interesting tangent for interpretation, since we’ve been reassigning, renaming, and rearranging things all along), we can also take this moment to signify the official founding of our place beyond God.
Surprise! The vocals return for Triangle’s closing track, delivering a list of images that are sometimes loosely connected by allusions to fire: that of “untruth in which we burn through the days”; “The blazing skies at a new dawn”; “untold memories, searing all flesh and mind”; “The burning lakes of pasts unspoken.” Cumulatively, these images offer a glimpse into the Void, but not the complete picture. That’s beyond us, of course, but we can gather that it’s as much a state of ecstasy as it might be a physical location “above the stars of God.” The word “empyrean,” after all, signifies all those things celestial, ethereal, supernal, the highest reaches of heaven, where:
All anxiety and anguish,
Pain and grief, hatred and envy,
Every tear that falls,
Every instant in desire, in solitude,
Every spark of hope or illusion,
Joy or forgiveness,
Peace and content,
All passion and love
All these things are one,
For us to witness
Once we return to our birthright
And all is none
This would be a fine last word, a return to and a celebration of nothingness and nonexistence, but Schammasch choose to end thusly:
ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व:
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि
धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।
This is the Gayatri Mantra, a passage that evokes, and is also said to inspire, wisdom. I’m not very familiar with Hinduism, and the amount of research I’ve done in no way makes me an expert on the topic, so I’d like to apologize in advance for any facts I might bungle or toes I might step on in connecting back to Schammasch’s worldview. As I understand it, mantras and prayers are distinct religious exercises serving distinct ends. Mantras appear to be syllabic exercises whose “positive influence [is] not due to any philosophical meaning...but simply due to [their] utterance alone.” A Hindu prayer, on the other hand (and here I’m only making an educated guess) is more comparable to Catholic and Christian prayer: a plea to a higher being. The Gayatri Mantra uniquely occupies both functions, and translates to the following:
Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life,
Remover of pain and sorrow,
The Bestower of happiness,
Oh! Creator of the Universe,
May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light,
May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction
According to the same page from which I culled the translation, the Gayatri Mantra is meant to be chanted three times a day: at morning, noon, and evening. Several bells should be ringing for us as we see the number three resurface alongside the cycle of the day, last seen in relation to Kephra, and to the three aspects of God, by extension. Additionally, as we dive ever deeper into the numerological aspect of Triangle’s lyrics, the Gayatri Mantra is supposed to have a syllabic power in the original Indian: it’s first nine words, roughly spanning from “Oh God!” to “Universe,” describe the glory of God; the second piece “pertains to meditation”; and the last piece constitutes the actual prayer. We can see the parallels between this syllabic breakdown of the Gayatri Mantra and the discs of the album. We see the glorification of death in the first disc, the intensification of Schammasch’s philosophy in the second, and finally, communion with something greater than us on the third disc.
I don’t think it’s too great a stretch to say that Triangle is very much a black metal Waste Land, although even that comparison is a bit limiting - while both works are patchworks drawing from seemingly infinite sources, their means and intentions are pretty radically different, and the results decidedly even more so. As stated, this is by no means a definitive interpretation and I welcome any kind of discussion regarding the album, whether of its narrative, its symbols, its philosophy, its genre; whatever. There’s more here to consider and reconsider than even I probably realize, but the only way to get to that is through opposing views. So, again, if you have one, I and the rest of the guys at Metal Lifestyle would love to hear you out.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll call it now: enjoy my favorite record of 2016!