There are a few bands in the extreme music universe that are particularly difficult to draw comparison to. Thy Catafalque is certainly one of them. With a back catalog spanning nearly two decades, Tamas Katai has developed a musical vocabulary all his own. Merging the sounds of electronic music, Hungarian folk, avant-garde strangeness and extreme metal into an expansive sonic template, Thy Catafalque are one of the rare bands in extreme music that defy immediate comparison. 2015’s excellent Meta was, in my estimation, the closest the project has come to fitting into a more traditional (though still fundamentally avant-garde) sonic approach to extreme metal. But where that album leaned toward the fast and at times obscenely heavy, the project’s eighth full-length record, Geometria, feels like a type of continuation of the vision established by Meta presented in 70MM. This is Thy Catafalque on cinemascope, expanding its horizons to include a stunningly wide panorama of musical textures. It’s a glorious follow-up to one of the band’s best records.
While essentially a one-man project (with Katai serving as the sole permanent member), Thy Catafalque has always displayed a distinct strength at picking excellent collaborators. This tendency is nowhere more clear than on Geometria, which includes guest contributions that fundamentally shape the sound and tone of the record. Martina Veronika Horvath (Nulah) in particular shines throughout the record, lending her haunting, beautiful voice to various tracks throughout the record. Her presence felt right off the bat during album opener “Hajnali Csillag”, which also includes the stunning violin work of Misha Doumnov. Here, Katai and Horvath create a fantastic vocal dynamic that complements the expansive nature of the instrumental components of the track. On top of the excellent vocal arrangements, Katai’s work behind the kit is equally impressive, utilizing cymbal-heavy jazz rhythms that give the track a slightly off-kilter tone, another subtle detail hidden in Katai’s meticulous and expansive compositional style. It’s a gorgeous opening to an album that becomes no less fantastic as it continues.
For those who loved Meta, this record’s opening track may leave something to be desired in regards to sonic heft. But you need not worry. Subsequent track “Szamojed Fresko” is a ferocious ripper, heralding back to Meta’s heftiest and most intense moments. The guitars rage and pummel with categorically brutal rage, while Katai’s vocals, electronically distorted, add a menacing, almost sci-fi oriented edge. It’s a true banger that is as heavy as anything in the band’s discography, and should please anyone craving the gargantuan heaviness of Meta. But even in its heralding back to previous material, Geometria never feels like anything other than a work possessed of its own unique vision. Through all of the cosmic-level gnarliness that “Szamojed” provides, an electronic undercurrent flows throughout the track, which is picked up directly in “Toltes”, featuring electronic and synth elements that could honestly fit right into a neo-noir film soundtrack. Horvath’s vocals and Doumnov’s violin once again grace us with their presence, adding a rich, organic dynamic to the synthetic proceedings. Not to be outdone in the variety department, “Gote” includes some fantastic saxophone and trumpet (as well as fretless bass) work that adds compelling texture to an otherwise batshit track that follows in the footsteps of the Captain Crunch-at-war vibe of Igorrr without ever feeling like it is out of control or random. “Sarember” brings back the heaviness, along with one of Katai’s most dynamic vocal performances on the record. Black metal undertones mesh with a propulsive, catchy beat that keeps the track from dissolving into total darkness as the whole endeavor builds and erupts into a gloriously dramatic and epic finale. The remainder of the record follows the general sonic patterns established here, evolving, shifting, and expanding itself in ways that feel distinctly Thy Catafalque. It’s on the whole a glorious menagerie of sound.
As is tradition, a new Thy Catafalque album won’t come without its fair share of criticisms. It is most certainly a softer and more sonically diverse album than many fans of extreme metal may hope for from the man who dropped Meta on us a few years ago, but Katai has never played to expectations, and he most certainly doesn’t here. Those who have appreciated the project’s evolution will find plenty to enjoy here, and those who haven’t hopped on the Thy Catafalque train won’t find their minds changed by Geometria. It’s an album made for fans of the band’s previous work, and sits within that dynamic with confidence and comfort. But far from a simple and repetitive regurgitation of previous tropes, Geometria confidently carves out an expansive and singular niche in Thy Catafalque’s discography that is as worthy of celebration as the project’s best records. A notable and thoroughly engaging achievement from an artist who consistently defies comparison.
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Geometria will be released May 4th on Season of Mist and is available for pre-order in physical and digital formats through the band’s Bandcamp page.