Thy Catafalque – Alföld

*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #37 of the SBR Album of the Week.


Metal experimentalist, Tamás Kátai, returns with his eleventh Thy Catafalque album since the formation of the project in 1998. In that time, the Hungarian has ascended to the status of a legend in the avant-garde metal scene thanks to his tireless reinvention and determination to write art with no boundaries or limitations. Scream Blast Repeat praised 2021’s magnificent Vadak album and noted that, ‘Like the mastermind behind Igorrr, Tamás Kátai knows how to merge extreme metal with the weird and wonderful and shows no signs of exhausting his imagination or capacity for innovation.’ Is it possible to follow his last effort with something of equal dynamism? You should already know the answer to that question if you’re familiar with his flawless back catalogue.

You’ll need to check that you selected the correct artist on your streaming platform when you plug in your headphones and the first thirty seconds of opener, ‘A csend hegyei’, blast through your speakers. Is this a Thy Catafalque record or a long-lost recording from German death metal legends, Morgoth? Burrowing guitar riffs remain in a minor key as the changes of tempo and slimy grooves fly around your head like subliminal urges to thrust a knife into your childhood enemy. Morbid vocal intrusions fester in a monosyllabic savagery straight from the mid-90s. That’s because Lambert Lédeczy of Hungarian black metal veterans, Ahriman, takes the microphone for this song. Listen how the action halts at 03:21 only to resurrect with yet another biting guitar riff straight from the charnel house of Samael.

The first three tracks of Alföld are an unashamed love-letter to the extreme metal of Kátai’s early days. If anyone deserves a break from relentless genre-defiance, it’s he. ‘Testen túl’ sees Kátai sharpen his blackened death metal credentials with a nod to Darkthrone and the early menace of Emperor. ‘A földdel egyenlo’ mixes the primal blackened thrash of Immortal with the sharp syncopation of Slayer. It’s not clear who has the microphone here. Is Bálint Bokodi responsible for the venomous vocal inflections, or is it Kátai exploring his harsher register? The latter shrouds the distortion in a green mist of enchanting keyboard accents before dropping out for a brief interlude of dungeon synth textures and fretless bass meanderings. You’ve no idea what to expect next, but an up-tempo Black Sabbath sortie followed by a Celtic Frost tangent of fifth chords and French horn musings provides the muscle before Kátai introduces a female orchestra into the blender. This is where the album takes a left turn towards experimentation.

Of course, a miscegenation of contrasting musical styles is what Tamás Kátai does best. In this regard, we should see Thy Catafalque as a successor to the avant-garde death metal of Edge of Sanity. The nine-minute title track builds from the imperious death-doom of Triptykon and uses Lambert Lédeczy once more to imbibe it with a sinister presence. Here, Wagnerian horns and marauding guitars create a malevolent atmosphere of sound worthy of Mayhem. How it transitions from this into a psychedelic piece of percussive rock boggles the mind. There’s no going back to the void here even though Martina Veronika Horváth of The Answer Lies in the Black Void is the person Kátai uses to change the genre from metal to folk with a beautiful cadence of voice phrasings. Breno Machado’s expressive lead work on the classical guitar will transport you to the autumn woodlands of Transylvania under a sky of grey and white formations.

How many times can Thy Catafalque produce an incredulous reaction in one song? ‘Folyondár’ threatens to unfurl in full symphonic pomp but reorientates towards a frenzy of flute and bass soloing before you can wave your imaginary baton. Fans of Dödheimsgard’s experimental work will appreciate the synergy of black metal tremolo rhythms and European folk rituals in ‘Csillagot görgető’, when sandwiched in between the most bone-headed of power chord eruptions. Sometimes, you can hear early Therion in this music; other times you’ll feel like Kátai has you in a prog metal odyssey with Igorrr at the decks. The abrupt switch from melodious gothic textures to a goose-stepping death metal assault on closing track, ‘Néma vermek’, will blind you to the conventional chorus at the heart of the composition. A vague sense of bewilderment gives way to a dashing overflow of bedazzlement at every turn.

Thy Catafalque are leaders in the experimental metal field. They have no interest in continuing any legacy but their own, even if the chasm left by Celtic Frost and Edge of Sanity still feels like yesterday. The metal world needs new heroes – let’s start with Tamás Kátai, the man who would rather die in obscurity than take one of the new pedestals beckoning him to glory.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 16/06/2023

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: A csend hegyei, A földdel egyenlo, Alföld

Suggested Further Listening: Edge of Sanity – Crimson (1996), Dödheimsgard – 666 International (1999), OSM – Plagued by Doubts EP (2023)