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Strange sounds from Hungary. - 80%

ConorFynes, September 28th, 2012

There's something to be said for a metal band that manages to find an original sound. Even in the so-called avant-garde metal style, a listener is bound to find scores of artists pulling out the same 'weird' cliches, without necessarily doing something fresh with them. First hearing Thy Catafalque and the work of Tamás Kátai through his more death metal-oriented project Gire, it was clear to me from the start that there was something sincerely 'out there' about this music. On "Rengeteg", fans of this Hungarian act's previous work will get what they expect: a viciously eclectic dose of strange folk melodies, industrial percussion, and plenty of synthesized goodness. It's not a taste for everyone, but "Rengeteg" is one of the most interesting musical experiences I've heard in recent times.

As far as avant-garde music goes, it almost feels wrong to get the impression of catchiness, or even 'fun' in the music. After all, this is supposed to be heavy, experimental art- catchy hooks and danceability are traits most often reserved for the worst forms of pop. With that being said, "Rengeteg" is an album filled with crazy hooks. "Trilobita" is a feisty folk metal jig fueled with mesmerizing vocal and synth melodies. "Az eső, az eső, az eső" is a little more melancholic, but no less instantly memorable, built around a fiery organ lick that blends perfectly with the more jarring metal riffs. Compared to Thy Catafalque's earlier stuff, "Rengeteg" comes across as a more melodic incarnation of the band's sound. The industrial riffing is still potentially heavy as ever, but Thy Catafalque has largely absconded its more black metal-oriented origins.

"Rengeteg" may have moments of accessibility, but at its core, it remains challenging, even ugly in parts. To counter off the shorter pieces, "Vashegyek" looms around the fifteen minute mark, swerving through Eastern European folk tradition and harsh industrial riffs. Although it largely amounts to personal taste, the industrial elements feel less fitting for Thy Catafalque's sound. It is not so much that it is so much heavier than the rest of "Rengeteg"s ingredients, but rather that it sounds so robotic. Thy Catafalque enjoys some brilliant guest vocalists, warm keyboards and synths, and vast atmosphere. In the midst of this, electronic double-kicks and noisy guitars don't seem to fit as well as they could have. As one could expect from something so eclectic, the production is a little inconsistent, once again favouring the warmer, 'human' elements of the album over the industrial sounds.

There are a great deal of synth and keyboards on "Rengeteg", but the strange Eastern melodies seem perfectly suited for them. Thy Catafalque takes a vast array of styles and ambitions, and condenses them into a blending pan of strange, enjoyable music. Comparisons may be drawn with Sigh, but it's clear that this Hungarian act has a sound it can call its own. Nightmares may ensue, but they'll be worth it.

Different, but in a good way - 80%

JTR4, August 31st, 2012

The brain behind Thy Catafalque, Tamás Kátai, has created very peculiar soundscapes with his most recent release. Dark and brooding moods interplay with light-hearted, mystical tunes and keyboards. The album provides a journey into the more bizarre side of music, but does so in a manner which is still digestible. Far and away from the constraints of a particular genre, the avant-garde nature of the album is free to go wherever it desires to.

For starters, one of the most striking qualities of this album is how well the keyboards are added. They aren't used to the point of being overbearing, and add much to the album in the way of atmosphere. For a majority of the hour long album, they play a vital role. Sometimes they are designed to evoke feelings of calmness and tranquility, but at other times, they provide a fun beat.

Another distinct quality of this album is the use of clean vocals as the primary style. The clean vocals here are actually quite enjoyable, and this approach works well considering how most of the music on the album doesn't lean towards the heavier side of metal. But when the music does take a darker turn, the vocals adjust accordingly. At times, the vocals can sound rather close to black metal rasps, but not nearly as shrill.

The guitars are also used marvelously. At times, they seem to become their own force to be reckoned with. The last track on this album sees the guitars shift into a black metal style. The first track of the album sees them, at the end of the song, create a death metal riff reminiscent of Nile. There are other moments when they sound fit for power metal or melo-death.

After listening through the album, my main takeaway is that Tamás has brought together several styles of music while making them all fit into a cohesive entity. To make black metal, calm keyboards, clean vocals, fun beats, and even a death metal guitar riff come together to form a sonic experience which doesn't sound contrived is a substantial achievement. If your metal listening experience is becoming less enjoyable due to the number of similar-sounding bands, then I highly recommend that you check this album out. It's different, but in a good way.

THY CATAFALQUE: RENGETEG - 97%

IslanderNCS, February 20th, 2012

If Rengteg, the 2011 album from Thy Catafalque, consisted of the 9 minutes and 20 seconds of "Fekete mezők" and 51 minutes of mind-numbing elevator music, I would still be happy. "Fekete mezők" is one of my favorite songs of the year. But that song is just the beginning of an album's worth of musical marvels -- and no two of them are alike.

The songs flow into each other without pause, pulling the listener along with them as they cross a constantly changing landscape of sounds and emotions. The idea of crossing a landscape isn't just the feeling conjured by the movement of the music. It also emerges from the lyrics.

The words are in Hungarian, but they've recently become available in English translations, and I found them interesting to read while listening to the album (for the umpteenth time). If there's a concept I can discern, it is one about the unity of life and matter, about the connectedness of human beings to the Earth, and more than the Earth, to the star-spawned matter of which we and it are made.

For example: That song "Fekete mezők" means "black fields", and the lyrics speak of the "thud of wheels hurtling along", of "pace, movement, dynamics in motion", of the "flames of mechanic icons above us" and "meteors burning in red to the Earth". The music is charged with a quasi-industrial rhythm -- it hurtles along like a locomotive and blazes like a meteor, driven by an amazingly infectious series of riffs and a heavy, distortion-effected guitar tone that becomes a signature sound on Rengeteg.

Ethereal keyboards and a piercing, clean guitar solo complement the persistent rhythms and make you see in your mind's eye what the lyrics are describing. The song includes not only harsh vocals but also -- and it's a sign of what's to come -- really impressive clean vocals in the chorus, provided by session vocalist Attila Bakos.

That opening song is followed by another in a similar musical and lyrical vein. "Kel keleti szél" (eastern wind rising) is an immediately infectious barrage of clattering drums and distorted riffing, with a synthesized melody flowing through and bounding above the powerful rhythmic charge -- and the lilting clean vocals of Bakos are even more present. The song tells the story of "an eastern wind rising to bring" a traveler home, rolling on iron wheels through tunnels, across bridges, through industrial estates. Again, you feel in the music the story that the song is telling.

With those two musically similar songs standing as a kind of "introduction", the album then moves into different terrain with "Trilobita". Electronic beats pulse urgently, and the song starts with a bouncy riff and tinkling keys. It has a pop kind of infectiousness, almost like a dance, with those clean vocals helping to spin out a swirling folk melody.

Lyrically, it's also a different path in the journey, at least as I interpret the words. People move across the Earth, but they also move through time, and matter moves through them. The trilobite heart beats beneath the ground and also in our bodies, as the atoms of physical existence turn and transform and move through the world and through us.

With the fourth song, "Kő kappan" (stone thumping), the mood dramatically changes again. The almost entirely instrumental song begins with a simple keyboard melody, sounding almost like a calliope, both playful and wistful. As the song progresses, however, strings and a pounding drum join in, and the music swells in almost orchestral grandeur. Brief vocals sing about blue clouds soaring above, a stone thumping, and woodland droning. It's a beautifully imagined, beautifully realized piece of music (even if it's not metal).

"Kő koppan" proves to be an interlude, or perhaps a prelude to "Vashgyek" (iron mountains), the album's 14-minute centerpiece, in which Thy Catafalque's alter ego  Tamás Kátai draws together all the musical strands on display in the album. The ingredients include those distinctive, heavy, grinding guitars and pounding percussion; acoustic folk-style melodies; shimmering keyboards; echoing guitar leads and pulsing bass lines; a varied mix of harrowing, harsh, distorted vocals and clean singing (including a memorable guest appearance by Agnes Tóth from the neo-folk band The Moon and the Nightspirit). It closes with all hell breaking loose in a firestorm of badass riffage.

Immediately after the strong finish of "Vashgyek", "Holdkomp" (lunar module)  switches gears again. It's entirely instrumental and the most avant-garde track on the album -- sampled mechanical noise and sounds of roaring, pulsing, droning electronica; a ratcheting synthesizer beat and a tinkling melody; industrial propulsiveness with a prominent bass line; that distinctive distorted guitar tone -- it's all there.

"Kék ingem lobogó" (my blue shirt waving) virtually reprises the melody from the opening track -- and thus it's also catchy as fuck -- but with more electronica in the mix. A bass line weaves a web, the heavy guitar makes you want to jump up and down, the exotic folk-inflected vocals still like nothing you've heard before (unless perhaps you're Hungarian), the lyrics telling of a blue shirt cut from the blue dawn and the dew on blue forests, and this:

"Look at me, my good mother sun, look at me,
Run through my roots, my veins,
Pour my heart to the brim with light,
Let it beat with the black soil."

And then in the next song the rain falls: "Az eső, az eső, az eső" (the rain, the rain, the rain). And it is the sound of rain, slow, melancholy, beautiful. "I leave during the autumn, fog follows me slowly / The runway rolls through hazy fields . . . And it is raining on and on / Tumbling down on my heart . . . And I shall be the mist in a city long gone / The time roaming on streets deceased."

Two songs left, and the next one -- "Tar gallyak végül" (bare twigs eventually) -- is also largely instrumental, but the music is full of power, the drums clattering and pounding, the heavy guitar sound falling like granite and a different guitar tone flowing like molten lead, the synthesizer again carrying the melody, and it ends with the sound of wind or rain and what I imagine is the sound of crows calling to their kind. And these words:

"A bell on the forest,
A song of poplars,
I know, the arm shall become mud
Or bare twigs eventually.
Into the depths leans everything,
Into the sun greylags are flying,
And wind rattling in the body at night."

How can this album finish? I was curious as hell to find out, as I came to the final track. What mood would it convey? Would we be carried further into sublime philosophies? Or would we return to the wildness of nature? Well, the last song came out of nowhere, nothing like the conclusion I expected. It warmed my black heart.

"Minden test fű" is the most truly black-metal song on the album. From the beginning, it's a howling onslaught of pounding percussion and roaring, eviscerating waves of distorted guitar -- scything, blistering, galvanizing. Brief, clean spoken vocals are almost overwhelmed by the cacophony -- and then the song becomes something different, something more, with the wonderful vocals of Attila Bakos slowly crying that "all flesh is grass flying away in the wind", while the instrumentation behind him whips like a fury.

And at the end, the lead guitar breaks into a folk-inspired dance, the drum hits a rock beat, and suddenly the music stops. In retrospect, it's a perfect ending. Nothing has been predictable up to now, so why start at the end?

Given my usual extreme tastes in metal, there's a lot of music in this album I shouldn't like -- but I loved every bit of it. It's fascinating, unorthodox, emotionally powerful, beautifully worded, heavy as fuck, truly inspired -- as connected with the part of me that wants to spin around and headbang 'til my neck hurts as it is with the part of me that wants to believe that I'm part of something larger than what I can see around me, the part of me that wants to believe it will live forever.

I'm not going to say this is my album of the year for 2011, because I'm so mercurial that no doubt I'll wake up tomorrow and think of another that would be a competitor, but as I write this now, I'm thinking it has no equal.

(http://www.nocleansinging.com/2012/01/10/thy-catafalque-rengeteg/)

Brilliant avant-garde! - 96%

nilgoun, December 18th, 2011

Thy Catafalque has released four full-lenght records up to the present day, all written by mastermind Tamás Kátai. Although he took part in a lot of other projects as well, his release policy avoids this flood of records you could know from several (especially one-man) black metal bands, and so there is a high standard of quality. The first four records were released through some independent labels but Tamás managed to acquire the support of Seasons of Mist for his latest record!

Rengeteg surely is something special, due to three simple reasons: First of all there never was a combination of black metal and eastern-european folk like this before (at least I don’t know other examples), secondly there are a lot of electronic influences/elements, which is quite unfamiliar and last but not least there is a melodic theme that runs through the whole record, without becoming boring at all. The record offers a good mixture of frantic, fast passages with a lot of black metal in them and calm ones, with a lot of well done clean vocals.

Those passages are perfectly shuffled on the record and so there is a good arc of suspense, so you will love to listen to the record without loosing interesst. As there is this mixture of fast and calm passages, there is an interplay of gloomy/melancholic and exciting-solemn atmospheres as well. The sound of the songs is wavering between typical black metal tracks and folky ones, that could remind you of bands like Arkona. The sound is defined through warm synthesizer sounds as often as it is defined through cold black metal riffs.

There are, nonetheless, some points which could be criticised. One of them might be the drums, as they only are programmed and therefore lack dynamics and the sounds are really artificial sometimes. In other passages it’s okay, as the really electronic sound harmonize with the synthesizer based lead melodies quite well. As mentioned, there is a main theme which functions as a golden thread throughout the whole record and although I think it’s well done, it could annoy some of you. The last two points could be somewhat strange electronic/pop beats in – actually – grim songs and the long-drawn drone sounds in songs like Holdkomp.

Conclusion:

I just got to know Thy Catafolque with this record, and so I really was unreserved while listening to the record – and I was carried away by enthusiasm for this album. This combination of black metal and folk elements with these electro influences and those really well done clear vocals seems to be quite unique. The sound is ambitious and fresh and the final outcome shows, that it was worth the try. Buy it!

Originally written for http://threnodies.com