Tom G. Warrior has had a lot to prove since his blunders in the early 90’s. But it seems metalheads can finally put to rest any doubt that Tom knows what he’s doing, more than anyone, when it comes to punishing and dark recordings. The most startling thing is that even over 30 years into his career, he’s still getting better at it; his hybrid of black, doom, death and thrash metal never more convincing than in his latest effort, Melana Chasmata. His last two albums, admirable as they were, seem like angst-filled teenage power fantasies; the lack of control and anger in Monotheist and Eparistera Daimones held them back from becoming real works of art. Melana Chasmata is a departure in all the right ways, taking every successful aspect of both records and bringing it into a more mature, reserved and refined whole. It becomes a beast of its own, in the most literal of senses that can be applied to music. It’s heavy in a way that almost seems alien, yet refreshing, despite being a logical succession to every album Warrior has been a part of.
The jarring moments that seek to catch you off guard have been restrained to allow a much more intelligent flow, while keeping every bit of the darkness and heaviness you’ve come to expect of Mr. Warrior. The thrash and death take a backseat to the black and the doom metal this time, but it’s executed nigh-on perfectly. It ascends and descends as opposed to throwing you haphazardly from one style to the next; the abrupt transition from “Shrine” and “A Thousand Lines” a distant memory. Sure, they worked in context, but this record is a whole other entity and it’s this that makes Melana Chasmata the finest effort that Warrior has produced yet [C’mon man, Morbid Fucking Tales! — Steel “Traditionalist” Druhm].
The amount of nuance put into these tracks is startling. Where many from Eparistera Daimones seemed like abrupt and spontaneous bursts of anger, every song here sounds like a myriad of feelings at once, an immeasurable amount of thought in each. Even in the most accessible of tracks such as “Boleskine House,” there’s so much to decipher. “Breathing” sets you right at home with a jarring, abrasive Celtic Frost ethos featuring fast riffs and unharmonious transitions from one section to the next. “Aurorae” being an unusual, but brilliant mix of Celtic Frost‘s later material and the post-metal sensibilities of Isis in the clean guitars.
Warrior’s subdued vocal performance is far from a hindrance as he lets the atmosphere of each piece dominate the emotional power. The tortured and scornful cries of “In the Sleep of Death” being skin-crawlingly creepy without being forced at all, and even though the song was written mainly by Santura, it stands proudly among Warrior’s classic compositions. The drum-work offers some of the most memorable moments like the introductions to “Demon Pact” and “Black Snow,” which bring all the tension to the foreground, pulling you in instantaneously and supplying punishing doom metal pieces that put almost any other ‘dark’ doom metal to utter shame.
It’s arguable that the impact suffers from its consistency — there are no blunders in this record at all, but I also find that it can feel uneventful from one track to the next unless you’re really paying attention; but that critique would be doing this album a disservice. It’s Warrior’s confidence in the sum of its parts that makes this album so excellent and it needs no individual part to hold the rest up. It’s definitely not as in-your-face or furious as Warrior’s last two efforts, but in its grace and uncompromising approach to thoughtful songwriting it’s far and away his best effort from start to finish.
Clearly Tom knew what he was doing when he disbanded Celtic Frost and put this band together. I don’t think this would have been possible if it had persisted under the Frost banner. Some may miss the aggressiveness associated with his legendary outfit, but with an album this good most will be hard pressed to complain. A doom metal masterpiece and more.