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Avant-garde that actually is avant-garde - 100%

Nokturnal_Wrath, October 23rd, 2013

I often find myself coming at odds with the avant-garde genre simply because it's a label that people use when they can't figure out what genre a band actually plays. As a result many bands that simply aren't avant-garde get labeled as such just because they mix two or more genres or because they don't sound like more conventional acts. Bands that spring to mind are Todtgelichter who play black metal with Progressive tendencies but for some reason the avant-garde tag is thrust upon them without mercy. Another even more ridiculous usage of the term “avant-garde” is the band Dir En Grey. Yes I know they change their sound on every album but it really irks me that people have this weird disorder that won't allow them to leave them as just metal but instead group them as avant-garde because they're “so experimental and totally unique” (yes that was sarcasm), when in actuality they play some pretty conventional albeit very good metal. On the other hand there's some bands who I totally 100% approve of the avant-garde tag, bands like Lykathea Aflame, Mr Bungle and Unexpect, these bands actually ARE avant-garde because they have a sound that is truly out there, experimental and unique. There's also bands who I'm sort of in the middle ground with in concerns to the avant-garde tag, bands that are sort of experimental and unique whilst still being fairly conventional at the same time, examples of bands who I feel this way about would be Blut aus Nord and Portal. Thy Catafalque is another band who I absolutely 100% approve of the avant-garde tag, no other band sounds like them, they're sound is totally unique and experimental.

Now that we've got the genre out of the way is the music any good? You'll be delighted to know that the music is great, wait that's an under statement the music is absolutely phenomenal. Thy Catafalque mix post and symphonic black metal, progressive metal, industrial, electronica and Hungarian folk music (the main styles being black metal and electronic/industrial) to create something unique and original whilst at the same time being enjoyable, addictive and at times beautiful. Despite my dismissal of bands who are labeled as being “avant-garde” sometimes I actually quite like it because it is in itself a VERY expansive label that incorporates a hell of a lot of sounds in it, to put it into perspective lets talk about black metal. If you listen to Burzum and then move onto Gorgoroth it's pretty obvious that they play the same style. What I like about avant-garde is that you can listen to numerous bands and you'd find nothing in common with them because the genre is SO expansive. I also like it because it stops me from having to say Thy Catafalque play post-progressive electro-industrial symphonic black metal with Hungarian folk influences because lets face it that's utterly ridiculous and makes me look like a pedantic genre Nazi.

Thy Catafalque's sound is characterized by a brutal guitar tone creating a wall of sound, electronic interludes, a mix of harsh and clean vocals and a lot of variation within each song. Due to this I wouldn't recommend them to those new to the metal world because of the simple reason that they will find it over bearing, overly complex and awkward to listen to, those among us who like their music to be experimental and avant-garde will find much to enjoy in this incredible piece of work. What surprised me most about this release was the remarkable consistency of it all. Unlike bands such as Unexpect who add random intervals that sound really out of place and as a result makes the music awkward to listen to Thy Catafalque avoids these pit falls and as a result of this the music feels much more real and flowing, all the bits come together naturally and there's no parts that make you think “that really shouldn't be there” like I do frequently with Unexpect. The whole album feels like it just came together naturally and that it feels natural to Tamás Kátai the genius behind the band. What's most impressive is that Thy Catafalque is a one man band. The fact that he can play so many styles of music and then interweave them all perfectly is an absolutely staggering feat.

All the sections of this release are magnificent. The metal sections are both intense and in your face whilst at the same time being melodic and catchy as hell. The guitars are mainly inspired by black metal but they lack the heavy focus on minimalism that dominates much of the genre. There are lots of tempo changes and variation within them that makes it progressive in nature. There is a large bass presence on this album which I think works magnificently, the bass isn't too far in the mix that it drowns everything out but you can hear it quite well and provides some really good undertones to the rest of the music. There's also a usage of clean guitar usage featured on this album that works really well. The best usage of this is on the track Kék ég karaván which is catchy as hell. Also the last track is entirely composed out of clean electric guitars giving it a melancholic and sombre feel to it. It's a great way to end the album. The electronic bits are also exceptionally well, being a sucker for electronic music specifically electro-industrial I was surprised by how well Thy Catafalque pulls them off. Just listen to the track Bolygó, bolyongó, this track actually feels like an electro-industrial/ electronic body music song, the first half of the song is comprised of an electronic beat repeated through the song with some other electronic effects and samples added over it, it also have some distorted vocals to top it off. The second half of it introduces the guitars whilst still retaining the electro-industrial feel to it. The vocals are also well performed. Like I said earlier the vocals are a mix of clean and harsh vocals. He's got a very good, clear singing voice that compliments the music greatly. He's also a very competent harsh vocalist, he's got this very aggressive black metal scream, though it's pushed further into the mix than the clean vocals so it's not all that audible.

Overall this album is absolutely brilliant, every time I listen to it I find myself liking it more and more than their other releases. Every aspect of this album is incorporated flawlessly into the mix, there isn't a single weak point to be found on this album at all, it's perfect. This is an album that isn't afraid to break the boundaries of metal and to traverse into new, unexplored territories, this album truly is avant-garde and experimental and it should be heard by all who crave new ideas and originality in music. Avant-garde fans will absolutely adore this album, it really is that good. This is an album you listen to when you're bored of metal because it no doubt will revitalize your interest in the scene. Thank you Thy Catafalque for this amazing piece of work, good job!

Concerto for Orchestra and Automotive Plant - 86%

OlympicSharpshooter, June 1st, 2008

All music is art, but some music wants you to know that it is Art. Thy Catafalque are pretty emphatically the latter. Within the critical community there's often a backlash against these sorts of bands, as if to punish the band for daring to cut out the middleman and diagnose its own condition. Maybe we’re afraid of being rendered obsolete or something. In any case, this sort of Christgau-esque criticism would have every band play reheated Rolling Stones riffs till Keith Richards is rolling in his tanning bed sarcophagus (and getting cooked to a golden brown crisp on all sides!). While I would never dare to criticize the direct approach, the gargantuan egotism that art rock seems to inspire, the all-consuming desire to make something great of oneself, can bring forth magnificence from those with great talent Thy Catafalque wouldn't be caught dead playing the same ol' Stones (or, if you prefer, Slayer and Darkthrone) riffs, and their latest record Tûnõ idõ tárlat is a long, tough 69 minute slog through the mire and up the mountainside. But my God... looking back at the mountain once scaled, you begin to really appreciate the grandeur of the journey.

I must admit that my knowledge of electronic music is fairly slight. So forgive me if I get a little abstract in describing what these cats sound like, but the combination of the 'avant-garde' label that adorns this page and my own repeated attempts to decipher the thing suggest to me that even those who most scorn acoustic instruments would have trouble really getting to the heart of what Thy Catafalque is all about. If I were to deconstruct this techno-organic metal mountain and try to explain it, I'd find that this thing's foundations are deep in sooty black metal soil. Somewhere along the line though, it accrued a fair whack of industrial/techno trappings, which is common enough in black metal edifices. The Kovenant might be a touchstone, but these guys aren't nearly so well-behaved, and they've grafted on a broad swath of EBM, psytrance or maybe even digital hardcore (I'm thinking of DJ /rupture's awesome Mindsweeper Suite) and the result erupts molten lava all over the Kovenant’s poppy keyboard wankery. This fairly simple geological profile works as a reasonable jumping-off point for encapsulating Thy Catafalque's style, but this piece of work is quite a bit more complex than your average industrial black metal act.

The album is remarkably top-heavy in that the first three tracks sprawl over 37 minutes in total, whereas the latter five together comprise only 32. The first track, "Csillagkohó", is one of the more conventionally metallic, being an epic-length piece of nasty sympho-black business with a few nifty riffs and a kind of propulsive ‘Godflesh at 300 bpm’ thing happening. It does a good job of setting the pace and showing you around the place. But it’s not really a complete representation of the sound of the album. I’d recommend using this track as a sample to see whether you’ll enjoy the thing or not just because it acts as firm assurance that the record doesn’t sound like Dødheimsgard's later material (because fuck, Supervillain Outcast sucked dick). Surprisingly, Thy Catafalque choose to follow this nine minute barrage with the 18-minute “Neath Waters”, which as the album’s centerpiece, anchor and anvil really ought nought be the second track on the record.

That minor niggle aside, “Neath Waters” is a very post-modern composition that retains a pronounced debt to much older music with its Wagnerian sense of scale. It’s like Thy Catafalque took a vacuum to a record collection consisting of classical operas, Chopin’s piano waltzes, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene, nature sounds, Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano, Bathory, European house music and Limbonic Art, shook the bag out on the floor and assembled the pieces into something entirely new. It’s classically structured, in that there are clearly defined movements in the manner of a symphony. Each one begins with a minimum of instrumentation, crescendos, and then returns to near silence from which a new movement begins. The pulse of it, the backbone if you will, is some variety of keyboard-based spacey electro minimalism, which Thy Catafalque gradually builds into a furious cacophony of sound. The warlike melodies that result herald from the same roots as Summoning’s work, but “Neath Waters” is a beast of more eclectic breeding, dog-piling on tasteful violins, hypnotic samples, drums (both looped techno beats and occasional acoustic drums of the sort one hears in orchestras) and vicious guitar riffs in addition to the pervading synth orchestra. This is chamber music for androids and Eastern European meth addicts.

As a result of its size and quality, “Neath Waters” just towers over the rest of the album, and the more directly techno-based “Bolygó, bolyongó” which follows seems rather flat by comparison. As good as the rest of the record is, you can’t help but measure it by comparison to the 18 minute elephant in the room that so blew your mind (or at least mine). That said, the distance from “neath Waters” to the end of the album does somewhat help to ease you back into reality, as the second half of the record features considerably shorter songs and more focused ideas. By the time you’ve battled through the brutal doom metal of “Héja-nász az avaron” and come to the gorgeous, gloomy ambience of “Varjak fekszenek”, you almost feel ready to face the excruciatingly difficult task of trying to review this bastard. Almost.

This release is one of those records that makes you feel like you’re staring at life through an absinth bottle in an opium den. Everything’s a sickly shade of green, and images seem to swim in the air. Even the trite, behaved kind of muzak beauty one has come to expect of classical begins to reveal pointed teeth, even as eardrum-bursting black metal riffage becomes the sound which lulls you in a trance. Rightside-up and upside-down, up and over Thy Catafalque’s mad mountain we go. Tell me you can get this kind of cosmos-warping sensation from the Stones, even if you happen to be cosmically stoned.

Stand-Out Tracks: "Neath waters (Minden vízbe mártott test)", "Héja-nász az avaron", "Csillagkohó"