(Season Of Mist)
Tamás Kátai is back with another offering in what comes as a bit of an unexpected surprise – avant-garde act Thy Catafalque’s seventh album. You might remember that the previous record Sgurr came out just last year, and Meta is no small EP recording to tide you over to the next one. It is the next one, all sixty-six minutes of it. Yes, you’re getting nearly seventy minutes of what is expectedly not just black metal, but doubles as something so much more. After Sgurr it’s relatively tough to even call the band black metal anymore, but I will say that the record begins a bit heavier than the previous release.
“Uránia” gives us a similar approach that reminds me heavily of the band’s early material, but the next cut “Sirály” is unquestionably different. It’s quite simple to say that it isn’t even metal at all. It feels like a bit of electronic rock with some psychedelic elements and even a female vocal presence. Perhaps there are some metallic thumps here and there, but it’s certainly not what you were expecting. Even so, that doesn’t mean that the piece isn’t effective. It even throws in a rather killer solo section that I didn’t expect to hear, showing just how versatile and magnificent this kind of act is. Songs like this are why I still have a lot of faith in this act, as well as Kátai’s willingness to experiment. The mood changes drastically with the next piece “10^(-20) Ångström” which turns from hard-hitting metal to DnB influenced metal. Kátai is still performing the scowl as we might (or might not expect) on a piece of this nature, but it’s a more upbeat track and you can dance to it.
One of the longer tracks on the disc follows in the form of “Ixión Düün” which once again changes the mood, throwing us right into the center of a video game – preferably one of role-playing fare. This seems to offer what almost feels like a little bit of Rotting Christ or Nile, possibly even Septic Flesh in it’s tone. The track itself is exponentially heavy, with the drums often blazing at full speed and darker vocal realms than I’ve heard from any of Kátai’s projects. These aren’t scowls, folks – and this isn’t black metal. It’s atmospheric death metal. We can even go back to Lykathea Aflame with this. Adding to that, we have the inclusion of the trippy guitar compositions, as well as another fine solo section that almost feels a bit inspired by Nile. This track is literally so good that it could stand out on it’s own, completely separated from the album and even if people don’t care for some of the other realms traversed on the disc, I think that a lot of people will notice this one from the start. It certainly took me by surprise and doesn’t even sound like the same band. Of course, the track mostly succeeds in it’s atmosphere, by which the guitars and keyboards just sound plain majestic. There are times when you listen to a piece of music and are overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer amount of work put into it – this is one of those times. Following that, we have “Osszel Otthon” which feels like a sort of light after dinner mint in which to settle one’s stomach after the explosive and startlingly raucous epic that we had just experienced. It doesn’t bring in the guitar until a little later in the cut, but the almost easy-listening factor of the piece brings with it a very calm, very cool feeling that is akin to a refreshing glass of ice water. If one wants to call it “elevator music” then it is definitely one of the best songs that I think I’ll ever hear while on an elevator.
Little did we know that this short piece was only an intermission to what is unequivocally the largest cut on the record. “Malmok Járnak” is just a little over twenty minutes long, and has several sections within itself, as you might imagine. It begins with something more metallic in the realms of atmospheric black metal (albeit played slower than you might expect, much closer to some of Summoning’s material) as the female vocals come back along with some electronics and atmospheric guitar leads. About midway, the entire nature of the piece changes, transforming the song from metallic to electronic. I’ve done things like this on crude electronic albums with emulated guitars, but they never sounded anything quite like this. The metal sections come back in for a little longer until the whole thing becomes atmospheric prog-rock with one last metal kick and a chant. There are a couple more tracks after that, but my intention is not to give away the entire record.
From just this observation we can sense that Thy Catafalque have returned with not only a much heavier, but far more atmospheric and proggier record than before. It won’t be for everyone, but most of Thy Catafalque’s material is a bit tough for some to chew on and that’s perfectly fine – these songs aren’t necessarily so catchy or easily absorbed. Regardless of that, there is truly something for everyone here and that’s where I find this disc most valuable. Even people who don’t like heavy metal music at all will find at least something here, and that’s worth saying something. Kátai has created a sense of musical harmony between many dissimilar styles of music, and that’s what makes Meta one of the most interesting and ambiguous albums of the year. It is an absolute must have for all avant-garde and experimental metal enthusiasts. (The Grim Lord)