If there’s one thing I can say about Thy Catafalque, it’s that the project is extremely consistent when it comes to releases. Even though a short break was taken after 2018’s Geometria, we saw the release of Naiv last year and are now seeing the release of another monumental album here in Vadak. Now I know that some of you might be wondering where that old black metal inspired sound of the band’s earlier efforts might be and that’s not to say that they’ve completely dropped that style – but this is something altogether different where metal blends with pop, prog-rock, avant-garde, folk music and electronica. Some of the songs are even instrumental, so the listener will feel as though they’ve been lifted up out of the living room and taken on a journey through realms that one cannot completely describe. As I also may have expected, some of it can sound like a video game or the soundtrack for a visual novel.

Wait! Don’t go yet! I know you folks want metal and I’m going to assure you that heavy, crunching metal riffs are definitely here, but let’s give the project some credit as they’ve already gone above and beyond what can be done with black metal in the past. The band’s classic albums will always be there for you if you feel that you need to go back to those days, but I cannot blame mastermind Tamás Kátai for his decision to move forward from that. There are still harsh vocals on some of the songs, but you’re also going to witness deep male chants on album opener “Starvas” which feels like a heavy folk song. In contrast, female chants are featured on the next track “Köszöntsd a Hajnalt” which is yet another heavy folk song that helps to establish the album’s theme.

That soon changes when we get to the crunching groove-thrash of “Gömböc” complete with some rather tasty riffs and atmospheres as very quickly this album rolls into the realms of extreme metal. Without warning, another hard-hitting cut by the name of “Az Energiamegmaradás Törvénye” appears, which is certain to get your head banging. No, there aren’t any real vocals to be had here, but I think that’s because we’re being taken on this metal robot space journey kind of thing that I’m certainly not complaining about. I don’t think you’ll get tired of it easily, but it does have more twists than a Shyamalan film. The death metal nature of “Móló” soon rears it’s ugly head, replete with both growls and folky keyboards that I’m sure will perk up the ears of any listeners out there who are bored with standard approaches to the genre. Interestingly enough, the song also goes on for ten minutes, which allows it a chance to breathe in the vein of keyboard atmospheres that remind me a little of Dan Swano’s Moontower. If that wasn’t enough, a shred-fest soon occurs that will quite literally rock your socks off. Folks, if there was any kind of metal evolution to be had in the modern era, this track would seem to be a very good definition of it. I do realize that maybe throwing into synthwave after a major head-banging shred fest might not be what some people want, but I would personally have it no other way. After all, the album is meant to take you on a journey and is almost up there with Solefald’s World Music, Kosmopolis Sud.  

When I mentioned that some of the music on this album sounded like it belonged in a visual novel, I was referring to “A Kupolaváros Titka” which even features some dialogue bits back and forth. Police sirens and saxophones also make a clever appearance, sounding like something out of a seventies cop drama. The next track here is “Kiscsikó (Irénke dala)” which brings folk and ritualistic elements in, quickly changing from a jaunty dance to something perhaps a bit more spiritual. “Piros-sárga” comes immediately after, with a folk meets psychedelic landscape that once again subverts expectations. That being said, it is interesting to note that this latter portion of the album isn’t quite as extreme as the middle of the disc and I find that oddly perplexing. While I don’t see a problem with this, there may be some who get the wrong idea from the last couple of songs and expect a heavy metal shredfest.

Then comes the title track to subvert all my expectations once again. After a few odd folk experimentations, the closest thing to black metal on the album appears like a sucker punch complete with the scowls that we all know and love from the band’s earlier efforts. I suppose that if you’re looking for a black metal moment on this one, this title cut is as close as it gets. The piece reigns in at twelve minutes of music and quickly changes steam around the three-minute mark. So what’s next? Well, after visiting Norway, we’re taken to realms that the normal listener would consider middle-eastern and bring up images of the pyramids. There’s also a violin present as well as as a saxophone, which makes me think of a detective who just happened to be touching down in that region. This changes greatly, bringing up images of a woman chanting on a hill, so again, you never really know what to expect, especially when the piece throws us a curveball back into the black metal influenced heaviness by which it began. Vadak sends us off with “Zúzmara” which is a slow and brooding piece with female chants. I mean, I get it – but this is the only song that didn’t leave a mark on me. It felt like more like an outro, which is fair.

Ultimately, Tamás Kátai and Thy Catafalque deliver a labryinth of sounds and more twists and turns than an episode of Game Of Thrones. Some listeners may not be too keen on that, but others will become attracted to this as flies to honey. Vadak might not be for everyone, but those looking to open up their musical palette a little may find themselves greatly rewarded by the experience laden within. (The Grim Lord)

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