Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Album Review; Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Track Listing:

1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls
2. Boleskine House
3. Altar Of Deceit
4. Breathing
5. Aurorae
6. Demon Pact
7. In The Sleep Of Death
8. Black Snow
9. Waiting

If you know anything about Extreme Metal in any of it's many forms, then Thomas Gabriel Fischer (AKA Tom G. Warrior) should need no introduction whatsoever. For those who are not aware; Fischer is the Swiss genius behind the legendarily experimental First Wave Of Black Metal band Celtic Frost, which itself rose from the ashes of the notorious Venom-worshipping Hellhammer. Celtic Frost, I'm sad to say are no longer active after the group imploded in 2008, but Tom Fischer is still going strong with his trademark misanthropic soundscapes taking form in the music of Triptykon. 2010's 'Eparistera Daimonas' was a brilliant album, befitting the legacy of Celtic Frost. It's been a hell of a long wait, but now we have Triptykon's second full-length album 'Melana Chasmata'.

From the beginning, there's a claustrophobic feel to this album, with enough of an avant-garde edge in opening song 'Tree Of Suffocating Sorrow' to keep any fans of Celtic Frost happy. Fischer's distinctive vocals cut through what is very catchy music with an almost Thrash Metal feel to it. The chorus may be one of the catchier in Fischer's career. The whole song is propelled by Norman Lonhard's drumming. There's a tinge of beauty brought to the song in the form of an acoustic string instrument that makes for an interesting segue into an electric guitar solo.

'Boleskine House' takes things into slower territory, with a downright filthy bass tone and a great drum beat. It turns out female vocals work with Fischer's clean vocal style brilliantly. This composition, named after Aleister Crowley's estate in Scotland, is both chilling and tantalising at the same time. There's something almost peaceful interspersed between moments of heaviness in this song that stands as a strong contrast against the usual chaos to be heard both in Triptykon and Celtic Frost before it.

'Altar Of Deceit' continues the journey with a Doom Metal sound. It's worth noting that Thomas Fischer's voice has lost none of it's venom over the years. Every syllable seems to ooze with conviction, but then you would expect as much from one of Extreme Metal's most extreme people. The riff that dominates this song is a great example of simple but effective. There's a well placed burst of a guitar solo that saves the droning from becoming even nearly tiresome. 'Breathing' takes things back up to higher speeds. The moments of reverb-laced clean vocalisation are sublime stop-gaps between what is otherwise a brilliant, straight-edge Metal songs. Towards the end it veers off in a Slayer-esque style of whammy bar abusing Thrash Metal, but it soon slows down to a crawl in good fashion.

Some might believe that the album, up to this point, has not displayed enough of the experimental edge that Tom G. Warrior's work is so famed for. I could see where they're coming from, but I think to make that accusation would mean you were missing something. To my ear, the experimenting going on within 'Melana Chasmata' is to be found within the way songs are structured and the flow of emotional charge. It's the expert use of dynamics here within the composition itself that grants this album it's biggest strength, hand-in-hand with the flow of the album as a whole. To me, this is of more worth than simply adding random instruments that are considered unconventional within Metal.

One need only listen to 'Aurorae' to understand what I mean. This is a fantastic, beautiful and soulful piece of music. Emotionally it sits somewhere between being misanthropically jaded and being deeply sorrowful. It's absolutely captivating, and as a piece of honest, moving music, I can't think of anything I've heard in recent times that is quite so powerful. 'Demon Pact' is one unsettling song, which sees the return of the avant-garde; there's a wailing, high pitched noise heard throughout the heavier moments, while Tom's vocal style during the verses is almost throat singing. The percussion is great, I'm always a fan of tribal sounding percussion. There's a gothic weird-and-wonderful vibe to this song that many will, and should love.

'In The Sleep Of Death' continues in a downright disturbing vein. That's really the only phrase I can think to use in regards to this song. It's a steady, doom-laden song that sounds like a bereaved man falling into despair and the beginnings of insanity. Deeply unsettling stuff, very effective, and all anchored down by great, haunting music.

'Black Snow' is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 12:25, and it starts as a cast-iron heavy, droning, hypnotic piece of work. It starts off damn slow yet manages to slow down to a snails-pace half way through. Metaphorically, the general theme of the song writing on this album has seemed to be that of a suffocating smoke, and this song shows this more than any on the rest of the album. Vanja Slajh's bass and Lonhard's drumming remain consistently great focal points that anchor the music well.

The beautiful female vocals are again present in the closing song 'Waiting' which offers up a moment of serene peace at the end of what has been both a tasking and rewarding album to listen to. This song serves well to bring the album to a curious close. There's a bold melancholy feeling to the bluesy guitar lead that takes up a good portion of the track.

Lyrically, Thomas Gabriel Fischer has often used death as a theme, but on 'Wiating' there's an almost chilling acceptance, even a welcoming of it. It makes for one hell of a powerful close to what is a moving and utterly captivating album. In summery; those who wanted a great album to follow on from 'Eparistera Daimonas' will de far from disappointed. Those who wanted Triptykon to release an album that lives up to the legacy of Celtic Frost will be equally satisfied. Indeed; this is not an album that can only be appreciated by Metalheads. Music fans, fans of art in any form, could surely see this album as an exceptionally executed representation of a true artist's vision. That's a thing that is very rare these days. I heard Tom G. Warrior in an interview saying that he wanted to take music that was heavy and combine it "with something that approaches art".

'Melana Chasmata' does not approach art. It surpasses it. My hat is forever off to Triptykon and Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

Rating: 10/10

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