on April 16, 2014
I remember buying a copy of the Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return album on cassette as a thirteen year old kid. Purchasing an album at that age is a serious investment. You've got no predictable incoming capitol. Chores, mowing lawns, birthday money, whatever, the choice you made at the record store, (in this case a Turtles Music housed in a strip mall,) could serve to gall you terribly. In this case however, my seven or eight dollar gamble continues to pay off in spades twenty five years later. I owe this band a great deal of thanks for expanding the margins of my imagination. Celtic Frost rests comfortably couched in my personal pantheon of musical innovators. Claude Debussey hangs out there. Voi Vod hangs there. Leonard Cohen. Eric Satie. Tom Waits, King Crimson....it's ultra swag. Ulver waits absently on the stoop sharing cigarettes with Nat King Cole, Talk Talk and Slint. Animals as Leaders hangs back, just out of frame; but they're leaning ever closer into the light. What every one of these absolute lions of self expression have in common is a sense of dogged yet utter vulnerability as they navigate the tightrope. They make mistakes. They commonly create bizarrely special and LASTING instances by a sheer flaw in their initial design. Their work is inletted with nuance. It's their signature.
When discussing Tomas Fisher's body of work, it's common shorthand to reference Celtic Frost's broadly maligned Cold Lake album with a roll of the eye before moving on. I say, revisit that album with a more open mind. It ain't perfect, that's a given. Read the track list, take a gander at the band photos and have a laugh. After you're done, ask yourself, are the song titles and band photos REALLY sillier than Celtic Frost's beloved sophomore album To Mega Therion? Really? You can be tried and true to your scene or whatever and still be a total poser at heart. You WILL NOT make lasting art without taking reckless risks. In my book, Cold Lake is a weird, WEIRD, silly album that happens to have loads of solid riffs that are utterly worth your investigation. Frost juked and took a way bigger chance on us than I did on them as a thirteen year old kid. This was at the very heart of their own dogma. These sorts of choices are designed to cleave us, the listener, but here's the good news: the cleaver's good and sharp! It engenders opinion. It entices you to really, truly FEEL!
The Warrior's returned with another album under the Tryptikon standard and I knew, per usual that I would invest. I owe this man. However, once again, per Morbid Tales, per Into the Pandemonium, per Monotheist, I've written a check my butt can't cash. I can't repay this band for the acquisition of their art. I CAN'T.
I wasn't personally wowed by the Tryptikon debut or the follow up ep. They're both "good" certainly but I'm in no dire need for new, "good" music. By contrast, the new Tryptikon is so dense and so damn heavy it can barely contain itself. It's a hoary old bomb, uncovered and still horribly active. Any second now......
There are so many great, distinct moments on Melana Chasmata that are worthy of mention here, but what's more pressing is how these moments collude to create a whole that is so crestfallen and impenetrable and distinctive that they couldn't have been sculpted by anyone lesser than this one entity: Tom Fischer and his chosen associates. I'm very glad to have lived through so much fitfulness in modern music to be able to hear it summed up and ultimately vocalized in this precise way. I'm gladder still to know that this is music with a signature forceful enough to endure the changes that I will inevitably undergo as I continue to age. This is album is an archipelago that I can return to and rediscover every day, for the rest of my all too cocksure however frangible life. I'll run my course for sure but Tomas Fischer, aka Tomas Gabriel Warrior is an immortal, if not by way of flesh, than certainly by way of the message inveterate in his art.
on June 19, 2014
Just as Celtic Frost emerged out of the ashes of primitive black metallists Hellhammer, so did Triptykon out of the ashes of C.F.. After forming in 2008 and debuting in 2010, the Norwegian ensemble pretty much pick up right where frontman Tom Gabriel Fischer (a.k.a. Warrior) and Company left-off on their masterful 2006 swansong, "Monotheist," on their second record. 2014's "Melana Chasmata" has as much in common with the doom, advant-garde, progressive metal genres as it does with anything blackened, a surprising fact when considering how influential Warrior's previous projects were to the black metal world. And heck, there is even a little bit of folk metal present, here.
The end result is a musical opus that definitely gets better with age. In fact, this is true on two accounts: The fact that it gets more and more intriguing the more the listener journeys through it; and the fact that it gets better, revealing more and more musical secrets, with repeat listens. And this result of getting better with age makes "Melana" possess an undeniable sign of long-lasting quality. What better way is there to describe an album that might be a challenging musical statement, but one that is ultimately much more rewarding than most of the meaningless, paper-thin fluff put out by many a metal band in this day and age?
The set kicks off with the sharp, piercing sound of a wall-of-guitar feedback before grooving into a solid main riff. "Tree Of Suffocating Souls," the blistering, belligerent, and thrashy opener, is a little misleadingly heavy, but it nonetheless sets the tone of the album well, with a pulsating, pounding wall-of-sound and harshly barked, yet intelligible vocal line. It also lets fly a pair of wah pedal-harassing solos, and even goes so far as to interweave in a distinctly Middle Eastern-flavored lead, into the mix, sounding not unlike Nile. And yes, in another move also similar to that band, "Tree..." does also eventually grind to an ominously doomy dirge (complete with grumbling bass notes); but for the most part, this is an up-tempo and aggressive opening blow.
From there, "M.C." transitions through one of its most memorable moments in "Boleskine House," which utilizes an extremely gloomy and doomy ambiance with its mournful bass/drum intro. But this is then replaced by a bouncy, reverberating, tom-tom-heavy drum fill and a few angularly crunchy guitar licks and a sparse bit of nicely melodic leads. With that said, however, it is actually the tune's use of gentle, heavenly female backing vocals that stand out the most, here. They are a splendid contrast to Tom's portentously dark, spoken word growls, and in the process of creating a heavy pseduo gothic metal vibe, end up also creating a really, really memorable vocal pattern. Those hauntingly clean, siren-like backing vocals (from Slajh) are again used to wonderful effect in the album's bookending piece, "Waiting," working like a charm as they offset Tom's dueling, sing-speak vocal whispers, and drawing the listener into a trance with its terrifically morose, dark, and sludgy soundscape. And the hell of it is, the tune also features a Gregorian chant-like vocal refrain that helps to make the arrangements even more unforgettable.
Another one of the album's other more memorable moments is found elsewhere, in track three, "Altar Of Deceit," which finds a few lonely keyboard keys being replaced by an up-tempo (but nevertheless always still restrained and kinda doomy-sounding) dirge where an ominous, doom-heavy guitar lick and thumping drum beat do battle against some of Tom's most brutal, dissonant, and rabid-sounding vocals. But the ensuing song, "Breathing," is not too shabby, either. It opens on a purely doom metal-derived note before suddenly adopting a rapid-fire, blast beat-esque drum fill that proceeds to launch the listener into a disorienting whirlwind of blistering thrash riffage, dexterous drumming, and growly, guttural vocals. As such, this number actually has as much in common with the death metal genre as with anything else -- at least until the mid-point, at least, when the song drops in another sudden curveball. See, from about the two and-a-half minute mark on out, "Breathing" becomes a more-controlled chugger that actually evokes some power metal stuff (yes, you read that right!). And a scorching, frenetic guitar solo (which would also be home on many-a-power metal record) tops the whole thing off, before leading back to its death metal-leaning ways in the outro.
A much more subdued and serene vibe is created by "Aurorae," with its softly-plucked strings, harmonic leads, and restrained, non-threatening drum beat. As such, this track might feel like just a short little interlude piece, but it is actually much more than that -- it is more like a fully involved, and thoroughly fleshed-out song with some undeniably powerful and memorable overtones. And it flows perfectly into "Demon Pact," another menacingly dark, heavy, and almost purely doomy exploration adorned a brutal, prominent, and propulsive bass line. And it is all underpinned by some whiney, high-pitched guitar sound effects and a rhythmically dramatic-sounding drum beat.
Moving along, "In The Sleep Of Death" is another extremely opaque and forebodingly doom-soaked number, this one repeating some more of those spiraling, trance-inducing guitar notes found in the above-described "Demon Pact," and augmenting them with strong, grumbling bass lines and thudding percussion. "Sleep..." is also of note from a vocal standpoint, as it mostly consists of the morbid, spoken variety, but also includes the use of some foreign-language singing, as well as some of Tom's most dissonant and extreme, black metal-influenced rasps and shrieks.
And wrapping up the set is one final song in "Black Snow," a piece that clocks in at twelve-and-a-half-minutes in length, thus making it the arguably biggest highlight of the album, and its indisputable pinnacle. Here, the guitars take turns pounding out momentous, doom-soaked power chords and spinning dramatic, melodic backing leads that end up sounding not unlike something a snake-charmer might play. Some more vocal variation finds its way into "Black Snow," too, as it does also include some shrill, unnerving black metal screams, anguished, death metal-tinged growling/bellowing, and a memorably repetitive, chanted refrain. And heck, it even goes so far as to include an honest-to-god chorus, and a pretty darn catchy one at that! And it all flows right back into the song's heavy roots by dropping a densely sludgy, chunky, churning stoner/shoegazing riff slice into the mix -- and it is easily the most memorable and devastating riff you will found in this effort's whole sixty-seven-and-a-half minute playing time!
True, as with any Triptykon release, one cannot help but compare this one to the works put out by predecessors Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. And admittedly, when doing so, the record does come up a tad short. And plus, it is also true that there are very few songs present, here, that are immediately accessible or even listenable. But as any metalhead worth his salt would tell you, that is not necessarily a bad thing. And if any of that implies that "Melana Chasmata" is a disappointment, it actually shouldn't. This, in fact, is nothing if not a pure, unmitigated success, and one mighty tasty (and therefore satisfying) progressive doom/black/advante-garde metal milkshake.