thy-catafalque_metaImagine your basic symphonic black metal, say, Emperor. One day, Ihsahn’s on a big electronica kick, so he throws some cash at the latest Toontrack update, digs out his high school band instruments, and rolls all his artsy friends over for a weekend. No blasting, no razor thin production, just a full plate of programmed drums and defied expectations. This is the sound of Tamás Kátai’s Thy Catafalque. The world’s most successful alchemist of black metal, electronica, contemporary, and anything else you can imagine, Kátai continues to fly solo with Meta, a more-than-worthy successor to his impressive catalog.

After releasing Sgùrr less than a year ago, you’d think Kátai’s creativity might crumble under the ten-ton weight that comes with layering albums as complex as his. But the Hungarian superman stands tall, his mind a unique cornucopia of elegance and harmony. Drawing comparisons to other experimental metal like Ihsahn’s solo work or Kátai’s time with Gire captures the avant-garde spirit but lacks the sonic accuracy to convey the breadth of Meta’s style. Even turning to previous Thy Catafalque releases falls short as Kátai proffers material divergent from both his aggressive outings (Rengeteg, Róka Hasa Rádió) and the more heavily produced (Sgùrr). The trademark electronica-black metal mashup pops its head up here and there, but largely yields to a slower experimental approach. The drag races of “Szervetlan” past are nearly expunged from Meta, limited primarily to “10^(-20)” and the Fleshgod-infused “Ixión Düün.”  “Uránia” pays respect to its blackened heritage, but spends most of its seven minutes establishing a crushing symphonic doom environment that calls to mind The Howling Void more than In the Nightside Eclipse. “Mezolit” revisits that style at the album’s close, opening with a lumbering Sabbath riff for the ages. This methodical pacing benefits Kátai’s aptitude for crafting meaningful down-tempo passages and ensconcing atmospheres. Closer “Fehérvasárnap” plays (and reads) like poetry1 weaving a punctuated finality with the church bells and priestly incantations that regularly waft through Meta’s proceedings.

As always, Thy Catafalque lives and dies with its long-form offerings and Meta’s defter touch hinders 21-minute “Malmok járnak” more than helps. Tamás Kátai has certainly earned the right to self-edit, but there’s simply not enough in “Malmok” to justify its length. The creeping intro that sounds a heartbeat away from a Leviathan-esque frenzy never develops, leaving only a synth-laden dirge in its wake. After 10 minutes, the song teeters into self-indulgent interludes and an electronic passage that, while adequate, do not deserve the time they demand. By the arrival of the next noteworthy excerpt at 17:30, I’ve checked out for good. Meta’s midsection largely suffers from the same problem, stumbling in the balancing act between atmosphere and tedium. Kátai crafts effective segments that never reach their full potential without a counterweight of furious black metal. “Vonatút az éjszakában” in particular would greatly benefit from a shot of Hungarian black with its pint of subdued folk. These shortcomings are truly a shame, as a touch more self-restraint and substance would make Meta an Album of the Year front runner.

thy-catafalque_2016

Thy Catafalque could field a baseball team with its guest musicians; fortunately Kátai selected his cohorts well and they add significant value to the recording. Notably, Balázs Tóth (ex-Casketgarden) throws some serious death riffs around the fantastic “Ixión Düün,” while an entrancing soprano performance from The Moon and the Nightspirit’s Ágnes Tóth stands out on “Sirály.” Preeminently replayable and the finest summation of Kátai’s curious mind, “Sirály” pits relaxing samples of seagulls and crashing waves against a melody as strong as any he’s ever penned. Kátai himself excels on Meta, arranging his myriad of instruments and effects in a fashion that never feels disjointed or derivative. However, on an album with such attention to detail, the mix is a shocking let down. It’s beyond me how Kátai could put this level of quality into his performance and then confine it to a poor-sounding DR6.

Thy Catafalque’s commitment to musical exploration has long produced some of the most interesting compositions in modern metal, and Meta is no different. With so many ideas banging on Tamás Kátai’s front door, this abundant quality should come as little surprise. There’s no gimmick here, no casual exploitation of mismatched sub-genres for the sake of headlines. If you approach Meta with clear eyes and full attention, I promise you will not be disappointed.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: VBR FLAC
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: thycatafalque.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/thycatafalque
Released Worldwide: September 16th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Though this could just be Google Translate’s interpretation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem.

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • robpal

    I want my Opeth review!

    • Dr. Wvrm

      The headliner never goes on first.

      • robpal

        True… and sometimes the warm-up bands are better than the main act.

    • You’ll get what we give you!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I’d like to point out that this is a “Meta review” but at the same time not a “meta review”. And while it is a “metal review” it is not your typical “metal” review.

    Thy Catafalque are great and that’s all that meta-rs.

    • Dethjesta

      They’re Magnifalque

      • No, they are Metafanique.

  • AndySynn

    I think I… actually gave this a LOWER score than you guys (though only a little).

    What… what’s happening? My entire worldview has been rent asunder!

    • You need some time off. Maybe a relaxing stay in a science hospital?

      • jetblindracos

        Ha

      • AndySynn

        I’ll do anything for science.

    • sir_c

      I think you need to re-review the record then.

      • AndySynn

        No. I don’t.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I always forget about Thy Catafalque. I enjoy them when I get around to listening to them, but they’re one of those bands that just never really sticks with me. I’ll be checking this out regardless, good review Doc.

  • Bas

    This month is crazy… so many good albums….
    ..though till now good (high spirits, sumerland, slomatics, wretch, mare cognitum and asphyx) but nothing exceptional, though i still need to listen to this one (sample sounds very promising!!!), Neurosis (i was not very excited by anything after Times of grace) and Alcest (never liked them, but the sample songs sound good).

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Never thought Emperor could be described as “basic”. That’s not quite right.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    That cover reminds me of Obsequiae

  • Excentric_13073

    Soooo, is that cover art horrible or awesome? I can’t figure it out…

    • Dethjesta

      It’s definitely horrible, but I also really like it.

    • sir_c

      It’s just a foxy lady and a horny bastard

  • GardensTale

    Thy Whatthefuque?

  • Ein Sophistry

    This is a strong AotY contender for me. Weird, experimental, and still, somehow, catchy as all hell. Tamás has a godly ear for riffs.

    • AngryMetalBird

      Couldn’t agree more. Reading the review I expected this to be good but the catchiness surprised me. Makes it very easily approachable

    • sir_c

      Try some Smohalla after this then, in case you do not yet know them.

      • Ein Sophistry

        I was not acquainted, but I’m now happy to be so. Cheers!

  • brklyner

    The whole album has been streaming on bandcamp for a while, and it’s been one of a relative handful in recent months that I’ve kept coming back to, so I finally decided to go ahead and buy it. I think I’ll be enjoying this one for a long time to come. Lots of layers, lots of creative ideas, from crushing heaviness and ethereal harmonies. (And for DR6 I gotta say this sounds pretty decent to me, though I haven’t had a chance to listen to it on good headphones yet.)

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Oooooo…

    • Dr. Wvrm

      The clawww…

  • This is a fantastic review. I am big TM fan so I will pick this up stat.

  • groverXIII

    I love Thy Catafalque, and this album is a perfect continuation of the ongoing, ever-evolving Thy Catafalque discography. It’s definitely the doomiest album thus far, and has a fair amount of influence from Tamás Kátai’s self-title work, but it’s also decidedly a Thy Catafalque album. The return of Ágnes Tóth and Attila Bakos as guest vocalists is definitely welcome as well.

    • dedseed1

      The number of the blog is dead. Long live the number of the blog!

  • sir_c

    This one caught me by surprise, I was just getting used to Sgùrrand I did not expect a successor so soon. This is one of my favourite bands, across genres. Also check the back catalog if you haven’t done that yet, e.g. Róka Hasa Rádió or Tűnő Idő Tárlat are high on my list.

  • mtlman1990

    This was great. Though, I miss the Subliminal Tragedies sound. Via Millenia is one of my favorite metal songs ever

  • The Unicorn

    Awww shit, sons – this is my JAM.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “do not deserve the time they demand”

    That line right there, off the review. Genius. Pure genius.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Thank you kindly.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Tamás Kátai sure looks a lot like the guy who sings that “Rude” reggae song.

  • Requiem

    Gave the embedded track a spin… God damn I was sucker-punched by the soaring end portion o.o this is glorious! I will have to give it a proper spin!

  • Fuzzybunny

    I did not expect to like this. Impressed.