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Dark voyages to the morbid depths. - 80%

Empyreal, May 23rd, 2014

Tom Gabriel Warrior is probably the most pretentious man in metal who actually consistently puts out good stuff – well, mostly puts out good stuff. Monotheist was eight years ago now, and since then he has been releasing similar stuff with his new band Triptykon – dark, sludgy, pounding metal somewhere in the Aether void between black, death and thrash. This is difficult to categorize because Warrior’s style predates modern genres, and he helped define the general ethic and atmosphere that genre-specific bands would later adopt. Melana Chasmata could be called dark metal, if anything – it’s slow, evil music with melodic flourishes recalling old goth rock, but firmly rooted in the metal stew Warrior has been squeezing out since the early 80s.

This is a great album in its style. The songs are easily identifiable and have a real dedication to dark, macabre atmospheres and feelings. I really enjoy the immersive nature of this album, as it is consistently suffocating in its thick, misery-fueled riffing and bellowing howls from the vocals and grungy basslines. It’s dark, seedy, malicious music. Tracks like “Tree of Suffocating Souls” and “Breathing” are old school Celtic Frost brought kicking and screaming into the modern day. With chugging riffs and punishing rhythms, they provide the kind of energetic workout old CF used to.

The real meat of the album is the other tracks, the more experimental ones. “Boleskine House” is a slow and eerie tune with female vocals mixed in and some dissonant, gothy chords breaking up the heaviness. “Aurorae” is similar in style and tone – nice atmospherics in this one, with some cool drawn out mellow sections that don’t miss a beat on the misery and madness this album excels at. The best track on here for me has to be “In the Sleep of Death” – with sludgy, droning riffs and Warrior’s emotive muttering, it’s a hugely emotional and dark song that brings to mind jilted love and the disappointment so prevalent in life that one has to find ways out of. Fortunately, songs like this are cathartic enough to provide a cushion for that disappointment and help us out of it. “Black Snow” is a 12-minute exercise in soul-crushing nihilism – just a black void full of tribal marching beats, crushing riffs and massive, devouring heaviness that will consume you whole.

Overall I like this more than Epistaria Diamones, but it doesn’t have a patch on Monotheist - not by a long shot. I guess Warrior will always sorta be chasing himself. That’s the price of making such innovative and exciting music; you run the risk of sounding less interesting with each subsequent release if you keep on doing the same style. It’s not saying anything negative about the music at hand to say it doesn’t sound as fresh and exciting as Monotheist did. The innovation, when played out in the same style over multiple subsequent releases, ends up diluted from its original burst of fresh air. It’s not like with a band that sets the bar low on innovation, a la Incantation, Dismember, et. al – with those bands, we don’t care if they don’t break new ground, because they don’t set that expectation. When you release something as completely uncompromising as Monotheist, however, it’s practically set in stone that doing the same thing over and over again won’t sound quiiiiiite as fresh afterwards. While there are new elements to this album, it’s only a little bit.

It seems Warrior is playing out history yet again – he got famous in the 80s for his punishing blend of heavy metal riffing with thrash heaviness and that cold, dead-sounding guitar tone – he set the stage for what was to come later. That played itself out over time and became moribund, and he reinvented himself with Monotheist years and years later. These Triptykon albums, as good as they are, end up sounding less and less startling and unique in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong though – sounding less interesting than Monotheist is not a heavy indictment against this album. Melana Chasmata could be faster at times to vary up the songwriting, and the songs could maybe be shorter, but overall I still find it incredibly entertaining and engrossing – I’m never bored listening to this. I enjoy the melodic, gothy flourishes and the mellower bits in contrast with the heaviness. I wouldn’t say this is truly arresting or the best stuff Tom Warrior has put out, but it is a sufficiently creepy, melancholic, dark fucking trip of morbidity and the depths of the macabre. Pick it up if you liked anything else he’s done – this won’t disappoint.