In the early 1900s, Hungarian composer Béla Bartok redefined classical music by introducing a style that showcased a genius for synthesis, blending Carpathian folk influences with the classical music of the era. Of course, some armchair critics mistook it for compliant eclecticism. In a somewhat similar manner, the modern-day Bartok of extreme metal, Tamás Kátai of THY CATAFALQUE, is a master of crafting an eclectic sound that breaks down all genre barriers, blending avant-garde metal with elements of jazz, folk, electronica, and pop music. Following the success of 2020’s critically acclaimed “Naiv,” this Hungarian posse now return with another esoteric monument – the new studio album, “Vadak,” released on June 25th, 2021, via Season of Mist. Meaning “wildlings” in Hungarian, the album title is a deliberate clue to the exotic and feral essence of “Vadak.” Extreme metal layered with the liberated rhythmic patterns and meter changes of Hungarian folk music along with serene jazz plateaus offers the best of both worlds. By turns raining down fire and brimstone and providing moments of ethereal beauty, the new THY CATAFALQUE album may be eclectic, yes, but it is the eclecticism of the awe-inspiring kind.
The album is a genuine musical adventure that kicks off with an off-kilter synth arpeggio that resonates with the air of KRAFTWERK and the mid-1990s goa-trance classics. The album opener, “Szarvas,” gears up on the black-metal aesthetics pretty soon, though, making it pretty damn hard to rave to this track. When the chorus comes along, the ominous chanting triggers an instant flashback of another esoteric band from the Balkans, the Slovenian avant-garde group, LAIBACH. I have no idea what the song’s lyrics are about – they are in Hungarian – but the choral vocals certainly sound like the typical rising chant of the war dogs in the not-so-far-off distance on the brink of battle. The title of the song literally refers to a mammal of the deer family, so I don’t really have a clue.
Plunging deeper into the sonic wilderness of THY CATAFALQUE, we come across fantastic sonic beasts of different kinds.“Gömböc,” for instance, infuses metal aesthetics with that of the late-1990s electronica outfits such as APOLLO 440, whereas the 3-minute instrumental, “A Kupolaváros Titka,” steamrolls forward with an infectious 7/8-groove that resonates with a strong jazz vibe rather than metal forebodings; the following track, “Kiscsikó (Irénke Dala),” is another instrumental, driven by a galloping country swing. Tracks such as “Köszöntsd a Hajnalt” and “Vadak (Az Átváltozás Rítusai)” feature strong Eastern European folk motifs and the elfin siren vocals by Martina Veronika Horváth and the dialogue of piano and cello on the album closer, “Zúsmara,” provides a perfect sonic backdrop for Hórvath‘s haunting voice to bring proper, epic closure to the album.
A brief glance on the list of guest musicians alone is revealing; as far as I know, it is business as rather unusual for a metal album to feature instruments such as saxophones, trombones, trumpets, and tablas – let alone Armenian duduk, whatever that is. The list of recording locations is equally impressive, ranging from studios in Eastern Europe to recording facilities in the United States, Russia, Brazil, and Argentina. The album puts forth an unrivaled, elegant mix of different flavors in nothing short of a spectacular and exciting way. This is what globalization should sound like.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Köszöntsd a Hajnalt
- Az Energiamegmaradás Törvénye
- A Kupolaváros Titka
- Kiscsikó (Irénke Dala)
- Vadak (Az Átváltozás Rítusai)
Tamás Kátai – guitars, bass, synths, programming, vocals
Martina Veronika Hórvath – vocals on track 1, 2, 9, and 10
Breno Machado – lead guitar on track 1, 2, 5, and 9
Gábor Dudás – vocals on track 1
Andrei Oltean ”Solomonar” – redpipes on track 2
Gábor Veres – vocals on track 5
Julia Pfiffner – female voice on track 6
Patricio Böttcher – saxophone on track 6
Carolina Díez – acoustic guitar on track 7
Artem Koryapin – alto and tenor saxophone, trombone, and trumpet on track 7
András Vörös – vocals on track 8
Dadan Bogdanovic – saxophone, trombone, and trumpet on track 8
Sean Pádraig – Armenian duduk and riq on track 8
Loay Makhoul – tabla, dumbek, and riq on track 8
Péter Jelasity – saxophone on track 9
Chris Lyons – violin on track 9
Artem Litovichenko – cello on track 10
Season of Mist