Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest – Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019)


Switzerland’s Celtic Frost are a unique proposition for those who have yet to discover them. They gave us the best metal album of all time (Into The Pandemonium), the worst metal album of all time (Cold Lake) and the most underrated metal album of all time (Vanity/ Nemesis) in the space of just three years at the end of the 1980s. 

Triptykon are Tom G. Warrior’s continuation of Celtic Frost and their two albums to date are a direct creation from the seed he created in 1984 with bassist, Martin Eric Ain. Anybody with even a passing interest in extreme music will know that death metal, black metal, goth metal and avant- garde metal would sound a lot different without the towering influence of Celtic Frost. 

True to form, Triptykon have no interest in delivering a live album to showcase the impressive work from their 2010 and 2014 albums. Instead, they enlist the Metropole Orkest from the Netherlands and deliver an overture, a transition, and a finale over three chapters. Sound baffling? You’re right to scratch your head until you realise the concept. Chapter One is a live performance of the Celtic Frost classic, ‘Rex Irae’, from 1987’s Into The Pandemonium; Chapter Two is a new Triptykon composition of 32 minutes; and the final chapter is a performance of ‘Winter’ from the 2006 Celtic Frost album, Monotheist

Whether you’re a Frost diehard (like this reviewer) or new to this music, you’re in for an hour of high culture that’s just as worthy of BBC2’s The Culture Show as the Brutal Assault main stage in the Czech Republic. Chapter One (‘Rex Irae’) is even better than the original with wonderful female vocals underpinning Tom’s trademark snarl and the distorted guitars adding a heavy wave of epic bombast to the strings and horn sections. After the dissolution of Celtic Frost, it’s the nearest we’ll come to a live performance of Into The Pandemonium, and we should be thankful for this reason alone.

But Tom G. Warrior is also synonymous with the avant-garde. That means you should always approach his work with dazzling expectations and a pang of fear. He does not let us down with Chapter Two (‘Grave Eternal’), which might be the most engaging – yet challenging – composition we’ll ever review at SBR. How does one articulate the glory of this piece, which starts off as a slow doom number and transcends into a dark horn section before building into a climatic Pink Floyd guitar solo? All this before the six minute-mark! Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is the obvious influence for the next modulation with chiming bells and violins weaving in and out of a sparse bass trombone. Imagine the background music to The World At War over the footage of British troops liberating Belsen, and you’ll run out of words to describe the emotional guilt invoked by this score. It’s fitting when the tempo picks up again with drums from a military execution parade driving the composition into a vertiginous journey through depravities we should not see. It will remind you of the eerie percussive sound effects from Hannibal, Series One. Every screech of the violin bow makes you shiver; every beat of the kettle drums makes you tense; every cello wail makes you curve your eyebrows in contemplation. Our angel of light is Safa Heraghi, whose female vocals drag us out of the abyss and elevate us to the higher state of existence we never thought possible as mere mortals. The four-piece choir from the Kobra Ensemble make sure we survive the introspective onslaught near the end but not before a final staccato of horns complete the outer body experience.

You have every right to be shattered at the beginning of Chapter Three (‘Winter’), but Triptykon know how to send us back to the soil with new life. The brooding yet uplifting strings are majestic as well as maudlin. There is hope among the fog, and rebirth from near death. It’s a mystical journey that comes around only once in our lives. The applause at the end is as incredulous as it is incendiary. 

It’s remarkable how Triptykon downplayed the importance of this project. The stage performance received little attention last year and the band allowed their label to promote the record as a standard live album but gave few details to the public in advance. The 32-minutes of new material in Chapter Two are reason enough to treat this like a new record, not to mention the budget that included the services of conductor, Jukka Iisakkila.

Triptykon and Tom G. Warrior know how to create art of the sophisticated variety, but this could be the pinnacle of high culture in the metal world. We cannot urge you enough to buy this record and experience the emotional journey of glancing at the abyss. You might not like what you see, but it will confirm you’re alive.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/05/2020

Record Label: Century Media

Standout tracks: Requiem, Chapter Two: Transition

Suggested Further Listening: Metallica – S&M (1999), Devin Townsend Presents: Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2015), Therion – Live Gothic (2008)