Thy Catafalque – Róka Hasa Rádió (12/13/2010)

Tripping-on-a-bed-of-stars-core.

There’s a certain propensity shared by a great deal of modern Black Metal bands to dump a lot of haphazard influences and styles into their music, or to just outright pretend Ulver didn’t do it 10 years ago.  Obviously this is not any direct indicator of quality, or indeed creativity, but it also not any sort of stable platform in which to garner a support–which makes the balancing game much more precarious, and the bands walking it much more incomprehensible.  You’re going to piss off traditionalists–Black Metal purists are going to dump your music in the “Gone whorin’ after Musical Babylon” pile.  There’s no real ‘what if’ there.  However, when these bands make this leap, the actual audience being aimed towards is this fluid, amorphous ether that doesn’t have any sort of literal definition, and more often than not the band is left without any real support or direction.  Shooting at vapor and hitting the wall behind.    It’s hard to see what is going to stick, and what is going to fall apart, fade or just burn out.

This hodgepodge movement of Post-Black Metal (Post is the 21st century musical buzzword) has a few astounding highs, and a great maw the low.  Thy Catafalque is up at the top.  Surprisingly, actually.

Thy Catafalque’s musical journey is anything but unique–starting out as an Epic Black Metal band, they quickly dumped it for the incorporation of a slew of unusual influences like trip hop, electronic and space rock into their musical stew.  Pretty by the books at this point.   There are two paths generally taken at this point–for lack of better terms and at the risk of berating–which I’ll refer to as Ulver and Arcturus.  One has the band completely abandoning the previous music and making vague musical references to their past, making unrelated music; the other has the band keeping their metal frame, but adding a myriad of styles into it, incorporating whatever manages to stick into the mess.  Thy Catafalque took the Arcturus route.  What matters, and the reason I’m reviewing this album, is what they did on that path.

There’s something about this album, and much of Thy Catafalque’s music, that is hard to categorize.  It’s spacey and ethereal, but pinned down by an earthy rock and metal foundation.  One word that returns to my mind often is “BIG.”  Not Epic, or Grandiose or even Pompous–there’s a quality to the music can only be described as massive, something observable only from a distance.  This is probably helped by the general Stargazing feel of the album–like some sort of Ayreon-esque space metal, but much better than that.

The main components of the music, in non-pretentious terms, are generally black metal, trip hop, electronica and space-ish rock, with dashes of folk and rock thrown in.   Yeah, woah. I know.

What becomes of the music, however, relies heavily on how things are placed, and why.  The album is a musical panorama–a kaleidoscope of sounds and styles, floating around in splendor.  Keyboards are [i]thick[/i].  Thick like the time you went over to your friends house for breakfast and his mom didn’t care how much maple syrup you had on your pancakes.   Much of the music is centered around some strikingly memorable and well written melodies, despite the strong influence from Black Metal, and there is no doubt this is a key component towards the general ‘floating in space’ feel.  There are some surprisingly whimsical sounding keyboard tones being presented here, and there’s probably no other way things would have worked, but they fucking do.

Lyrically, the Hungarian is probably going to dissuade most people from deciphering the lyrics, but thankfully they’re not integral to enjoying it.  For those actually curious, the subject matter fits well within the unusual and bizarre musical structure, dealing with childhood paranormal happenings and a story revolving around an old radio.  The lyrics are fairly sparse, given the longer compositions, but interesting enough to warrant a reading (and translation) to fully get the story and atmosphere.  To say they’re not integral would be to sell them short, but you can fully enjoy the album without having to know Hungarian.

The album progression begins with two monolith songs, pushing past 11 and 19 minutes respectively, dancing the kaleidoscope of sound while still pinning down strong melodies and a fairly heavy metal core.  These are the highlights of the album, arguably, featuring spacey trip hop break downs, blazing metal riffing and double bass, harsh male vocals and hazy female vocals, all carried surprising deftness when it comes to overt melodies and structure.  After that, the needle hovers between 4 and 6 minutes, but still flirts with differing styles, ranging from trip hop to clean vocal-laden metal tracks.  For those unsure about the darker vocals, there’s plenty of clean, melodious singing from both male and female vocalists, so despite the addition of black metal screaming, there’s a lot of variety to be had.

Suffice it to say–otherworldly stuff.  Deliciously so.

There’s a lot I can say about this album, and I’ll end up rambling more than I already have.  But it’s good.  Really good.  I say that a lot, but this is an adventurous sound, a band forging something original and unique, and doing it very well.  It’s unusual, painting a vivid picture of story and music, and this is something to hear.   It’s good to hear originality and quality coincide.

For a fairly heavy release, metal-wise, I’m still going to throw this out to just about everyone–metal friendly or not.  There’s a great deal of fantastic structuring, melody, creativity, and atmosphere being presented here, and it’s quite a trip.  It runs the gamut, so don’t expect it to stay long.

Get it and ride that wave, dude.

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